US Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders called on US trade unions to rise up and join his political revolution to defeat the Koch brothers during a speech in Nevada.
At the Nevada State AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, Sen. Sanders said: ‘Today, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the Koch brothers, the second wealthiest family in America, is prepared to spend some $900 million this election cycle – more than either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party is likely to spend.
‘Why? What do the Koch brothers want? Let me tell you. The Koch brothers and their billionaire allies don’t just want to cut Social Security, they want to eliminate Social Security. They don’t want to just cut Medicare, they want to eliminate Medicare; they don’t just want to cut healthcare at the VA, they want to eliminate the Veterans Administration.
‘They don’t want to just cut the Postal Service, they want to eliminate it; they’re not only opposed to increasing the minimum wage, they don’t believe in the concept of the minimum wage; they don’t want to just cut the estate tax, they want to abolish it.
‘In other words, the Koch brothers and the billionaire class want it all. They want to give Americans the “freedom” to live in poverty working for $3 or $4 an hour without healthcare, without childcare, without a pension, without the ability to send their kids to college, and without any hope that their children will have a higher standard of living than they do.
‘And they understand that the major obstacle standing in the way of their extreme, right-wing agenda is the trade union movement. That’s why they have fought so hard to eliminate unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and all over this country by ending collective bargaining rights.
‘And, that’s why I believe that we need to create a political revolution in this country of millions of workers, veterans, the elderly, the disabled, people of colour standing together and telling the billionaire class that enough is enough! Your greed is destroying this country. You cannot have it all! You cannot continue to get tax breaks while children in this country are going hungry. This country belongs to all of us, not just to a handful of millionaires and billionaires’.
Sen. Sanders is correct. For the Koch brothers to be defeated, unions are going to have to use their power. Unions don’t have the money to match the Kochs, but they have something more important. Union members are some of the best organisers in the country. The Kochs have the dollars, but unions have millions of members, and supporters and industrial and political power.
The Kochs and other right-wing billionaires were routed in 2012 because regular Americans went to the polls and voted. The ‘political revolution’ that Bernie Sanders is leading is a movement of the people. Sanders has not only tapped into the anger of ordinary American. Sanders is giving them an avenue for action, and the action that the Koch brothers fear the most is millions of Americans coming out to vote on Election Day.
However this will not be enough. The American workers require not just a political revolution – they require a social revolution where the bosses and bankers are expropriated and a planned socialist economy brought in to replace the anarchy of capitalist production.
• After nine African American churchgoers were shot to death in Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, longshoreman Leonard Riley Jr. was buoyed by the tremendous outpouring of sympathy and outrage.
‘I was so moved by people saying “This is appalling, horrific – all of the adjectives,” ’ he said. ‘And now this might be a historic opportunity to react in a way that we can get some change.’ Riley is a member of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422, a union long known for its efforts in the community.
The local is spearheading ‘Days of Grace’ on September 5th and 6th: a march in downtown Charleston and a strategy conference that will, Riley hopes, ‘galvanise all these good people against these policies that inflict tragedies on lives every day. We can transform all that expression of forgiveness and “we want to be one” into efforts to change policies.’
One of the local’s 800 members lost a son and an aunt in the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Another member is the brother of Walter Scott, the Black motorist who was shot in the back by a North Charleston policeman on 4 April.
After Scott was murdered, the local participated in protest rallies and sponsored community meetings at its hall. With the Black Lives Matter movement and other organisations, it formed a new coalition in North Charleston, the Civil Coalition for Reform, which is pressing for a citizens review board to check the police.
Local 1422 is not new to challenging racism. Its members, who load and unload ships at the Port of Charleston, are 99.8 percent Black. In 2000, the local was a prime mover of the effort to take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s Capitol building.
The movement included an NAACP-led economic boycott of the state and the cancellation of many sports events and conventions. Local 1422 hired buses and organised members to walk the 120-mile march route from Charleston to the state capital, Columbia.
The boycott ended after a compromise moved the flag to a somewhat less prominent spot on the Statehouse grounds. But in the wake of the Emanuel shootings, even South Carolina’s Republican governor finally said the flag had to go.
Kerry Taylor is a college history professor in Charleston and one of the organisers of the Days of Grace. When he heard that politicians were jumping to remove the flag, he said, ‘my initial response was, ‘I’m looking for something more substantive, something material.’
‘But this has been a key demand of the Black civil rights community in South Carolina for many, many years. To be on hand for the removal of the flag, that was powerful.’ Local 1422 rented a bus so Charlestonians could witness the taking down July 10. It was shortly afterward that Riley initiated the idea that became the Days of Grace. The whole purpose is not to stop at symbols. ‘Some might be placated,’ Taylor said, ‘but my hope is that it’s emboldening. Something from which we’re able to build momentum.’
The march and conference are organised around the legacy of minister and State Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was killed at Emanuel, with the goal of winning legislation he had sponsored and causes he espoused. These include an end to discriminatory policing and gun violence, $15 an hour and collective bargaining rights for all workers, expanded voting rights, Medicaid expansion, quality education, and ‘accuracy in our historical commemorations.’
South Carolina is one of the states whose governors have refused the expansion of Medicaid that is part of the Affordable Care Act. People are dying because they don’t have coverage,’ Riley said. ‘The governor gave in on the flag, but not on that.’
Taylor said the organising committee expects the march and conference to draw participants from outside South Carolina, including from the Southern Workers Assembly, Black Workers for Justice, and Fight for $15 networks. They are expecting groups of fast food workers from North Carolina and Georgia, ‘maybe as far as Richmond.’
Rev. Thomas Dixon, president of the Carolina Alliance for Fair Employment, stresses that the organising team is seeking multiracial attendance. I’m looking forward to lots of white allies,’ he said.
At the same time, he can’t agree with those who’ve said the U.S. is in a ‘post-racial era.’
Racism is alive and well, he says – and when people stopped talking about it, ‘it continued to fester till it exploded in a Dylann Roof – the Charleston shooter – and in our law enforcement and judicial systems.” Riley said he’d angered some people when he objected to simply organising shows of sympathy and commemoration.
‘If you love, let’s change the policies,’ he said. For the Days of Grace conference, ‘the most important thing is to extract strategies. Labor has a unique responsibility to answer this kind of social injustice because we can mobilise people,’ Riley said. ‘We have to come out of our comfortable place and do this work.’
Dixon, too, is looking for results. ‘We can’t keep wringing our hands talking about peace and love,’ he said. ‘We cannot have a kumbaya moment again—we need a kumbaya millennium.’
Longshore Local 1422 is spearheading ‘Days of Grace’ September 5 and 6: a march in downtown Charleston and a strategy conference. Themes include policing, wages, union rights, voting rights, and Medicaid. Community and labor activists rallied against police violence after Walter Scott’s death.