Archive for July, 2012

We’re the same feisty PSARA — only the name has changed

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Robby Stern and Will Parry

We’re still the same activist, feisty, out-front PSARA we’ve always been. That hasn’t changed. That’s not going to change.

All that’s changed, upon the unanimous recommendation of our Executive Board, and resoundingly ratified at our June 21 General Membership Meeting, is the name of our organization.

We’re now the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action. Note that the new name keeps our familiar and widely-respected PSARA initials.

The membership also ratified the changes needed to bring our By Laws into conformity with our new circumstances.

The change was made necessary when the national Alliance for Retired Americans determined that PSARA’s use of the name “Alliance for Retired Americans” and the associated logo was “in contravention of a licensing agreement between the Alliance for Retired Americans and the AFL-CIO, which holds the Trademark for the use of the name and logo.”

The national ARA advised us that the AFL-CIO has given permission to sub-license these marks to ARA’s state organizations (in our case, the Washington Alliance for Retired Americans) but that this sub-licensing does not extend to affiliates or subchapters of the state organization.

In a letter signed by ARA President Barbara Easterling and Executive Director Edward F. Coyle, detailed instructions are set forth for the establishment and operation of any “subchapter” affiliated with a state ARA. The letter specifies how any “subchapter” must be named and declares that “subchapters will NOT have the authority to set up a separate organization, collect money and solicit membership for the subchapter.” (Emphasis in original.)

The letter also states that “subchapters can NOT have their own separate program and/or activities — they must move in coordination on both timing and messaging with the WA State Alliance.” (Emphasis in original.)

The Executive Board determined that the restrictions on “subchapters” were inconsistent with the independence and progressive agenda that PSARA has established over our 12 years of existence. We have a cordial and supportive relationship with the Washington State ARA but we have maintained our own program, our own bank account and our valued relationship with PSARA members and allies. The Executive Board was unwilling give up our independence and make the changes necessary to become a “subchapter”. The PSARA membership at the June membership meeting adopted the recommendation of the Executive Board.

PSARA’s relations with the Washington State ARA have always been and will continue to be cooperative. We do not intend to let anything in the national ARA’s directive damage that relationship.

It is our intention to continue as an affiliate of the Washington State ARA as a community based organization with now more than 1,200 members. We will also continue our affiliation with other organizations with whom we are affiliated. We also may choose to affiliate with other organizations in the future if it will further our progressive goals .

PSARA and its predecessor organization, the Puget Sound Council of Senior Citizens, have a history of active participation in civic life going back to 1981. We proudly affiliated with the national ARA upon its founding in 2001. At that time, the national president of the ARA, George Kourpias, personally presented PSARA with our charter at a founding meeting.

We were stunned that after our twelve years of loyal affiliation with ARA and our exemplary support for its goals and those of the national AFL-CIO, that the ARA and the AFL-CIO would decide, in the midst of a critical election year, with the integrity of Social Security and Medicare on the line, to defend the sanctity of trade marks.

We are undertaking the legal and organizational steps made necessary by the ARA directive. But our focus remains on our mission. We fully intend to move on and to continue to build our organization and the progressive movement with which we are aligned.

Seattle Council votes support for ‘Care’ campaign

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Susie Levy

Seattle made history June 25, becoming the first U.S. city to formally endorse the national Caring Across Generations campaign.  More than a hundred supporters packed the City Council chambers to witness the unanimous vote.

Seattle caregiving advocates had launched their supporting campaign in February at a Care Congress at the Greenwood Community Senior Center.

Led by Casa Latina, Washington CAN, Service Employees Local 775 and PSARA, the Seattle Care Council brought the resolution to the offices of every City Council member.  To support the campaign, they collected over 3,000 postcards.

Council members Nick Licata and John O’Brien spent a day with SEIU caregivers and their clients to experience first hand the importance and the challenges of caregiving.

When the resolution was heard in committee June 13, Robby Stern of PSARA, Kassandra Gonzalez of Casa Latina, Jeannette Wenzl of Washington CAN and Sylvia Liang of SEIU 775 joined committee members at the table.  Moved by the personal stories told by the coalition leaders, Council members shared their own experiences with caregiving.

The resolution notes that as baby boomers age, the need for affordable and accessible home and community-based care will continue to grow.  At the same time, many of those providing care will lack the supports they need.  The resolution proposes to transform the care industry by:

  • Creating two million new, good quality jobs in home care.
  • Developing training and career advancement models and a path to legal status for care workers.
  • Making home and community-based services accessible and affordable to all who need them, so that our elders and family members with disabilities can stay in their homes and continue to be a part of our communities.  Adding a long-term care benefit to Medicare would be an important way to achieve this goal.

The resolution directs the Seattle Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) to promote the campaign with local, regional, state and federal governments, including the National League of Cities.  The coalition now has the formal support of Seattle and its lobbyists as the campaign is carried to Olympia and Washington, D.C.

“The active support of our PSARA members helped make his historic achievement possible.” President Robby Stern said. “From signing and circulating postcards to helping pack city hall, our voices have helped move this campaign forward.”

(Susie Levy is an organizer for Washington Community Action Network and a PSARA member.)

Two Wonderful Leaders

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Robby Stern

PSARA is incredibly fortunate to have Maureen Bo, Administrative Vice President, and Edie Koch, Treasurer, as leaders of our organization.

A former teacher of English and Spanish; Maureen was an office secretary for Office and Professional Employees Local 8 for 12 years; a shop steward and board member for 6 years. and business manage, the union’s top ranking officer, for 17 years. A tough minded negotiator and clear thinker, she has brought her abundant skills to PSARA.  She not only plays a leading role in formulating PSARA/s policies and programs, she also coordinates and organizes many of our activities. She performs the complicated job of Administrative Vice President with passion and a generous spirit.

Edie is a retired registered nurse,  She serves as treasurer of Seattle Senior Housing Advocates, as a board member of the Washington Health Security Coalition, and as a member of the Older Women’s League. She is active in helping to guide PSARA on health care reform issues. She  is helping to develop PSARA’s newand exciting economic justice education program.  On top of all that, Edie devotes hours and hours to keeping PSARA financially sound, keeping our membership rolls up to date, sending out reminders when annual dues are late, and more.

These two terrific women devote enormous amounts of volunteer time to PSARA and our members. Next time you get the chance, please thank them for their extraordinary commitment and devoted service to PSARA and our members, and for their leadership in helping us fight for a better world.

Wanted: Summer Soldiers

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

No, not the kind Tom Paine’s phrase made infamous – not the kind ready to desert the fight when the weather turns icy.

We’re talking about you – our members. We need your help to achieve our 2012 goal of 275 new members.  The year 2012 is half gone – in mid-June we’ve signed up just 84.

Do the math, Sisters and Brothers.  We need to double that pace, starting now – and we need to sustain it right on through autumn and the holiday season.

Gift memberships count. People of all ages that you sign up count. Any breathing human being counts who’s ready to come across with fifteen bucks for the best non-award winning newsletter in the state – maybe in the Northwest.

PSARA is getting a new name:  Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement ActionLet’s translate the word “action” into new members.

We’ve got a base of 1200 wonderful members.  It’s time to pump some juice into that old slogan:  “Every member get a member.”

Time to get off the couch, or the lawn chair, or the beach blanket.

Time to shoulder our muskets. Time to be summer soldiers.

— Will Parry

What would Florence do?

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Chris Barton, RN, BSN

As we celebrated National Nurses’ Week and the critical role that nurses play, we also recognized the 192nd birthday of Florence Nightingale.

Florence, the mother of modern nursing, was known as “the lady with the lamp” for her late night rounds among her patients.

Today’s rounds may not require a lamp, but they do require an endless checklist of patient needs, often dictated by business priorities instead of by the actual needs of our patients. Recently I’ve begun to wonder what Florence would do if she were transported to one of our hospitals today.  How would she appraise our increasingly difficult struggle to provide safe and quality care to our patients?

Would she be horrified to know that hospital-acquired infections are one of the leading causes of death in this country?

One hundred and fifty years ago, Florence was a strong force in changing hospital practices to prevent such needless deaths.  When she served as a nurse in the Crimean War, she was astonished to find that ten times more soldiers died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds.  In those days, medicine was scarce.  Hygiene practices were inconsistent at best, and often non-existent.

So what would Florence think of the fact that, 150 years later, patient safety continues to be the most critical issue facing nurses?  That deaths related to preventable hospital errors take the lives of “Wemore than 100,000 patients each year?

What would she think of a healthcare system whose hospitals are dominated by a corporate approach that subordinates patient care to market share, fancy lobbies, and the bottom line?

Our patients today aren’t coming in from Crimean War battlefields.  Our modern hospital stays shouldn’t require a battle to get patients’ needs met.  Our patients should leave the hospital having received care that ensures their recovery, not a return to the hospital.  As nurses, we should be able to live up to our creed to do no harm.

I believe that Florence would be heartened to see thousands of nurses working together in activism, policy and legislation — all designed to put our patients first.  She’d be encouraged that nurses have a collective voice in our union contracts to work directly with our employers to negotiate over our workplace and patient care conditions.

What would Florence co?  I think the lady with the lamp would say, “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we can do it.

“When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life.”

We know Florence as the original patient safety advocate, working in far more primitive conditions than those in today’s high-tech hospitals.  If she were with us today, she’d be confident that together we can take on the challenges ahead to ensure safe and quality care for our patients.

Dems wobbly on Simpson-Bowles

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Will Parry

Watch out for Simpson-Bowles.

The so-called “deficit reduction plan” cooked up by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles is a sneak attack on Social Security and Medicare that calls for severe cuts in Social Security benefits, for raising the retirement age to 69, and for saddling the millions who rely on   Medicare with higher costs for their health care.

And this scheme is getting mushy semi-endorsements from major Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

There is a real risk that in pursuit of a “grand bargain” on the budget, a bipartisan deal will be struck based on Simpson-Bowles.

Earlier this year, after Pelosi said she would vote for Simpson-Bowles, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold challenged her in an e-mail sent to supporters.

“Any Democratic endorsement of benefit cuts capitulates on bedrock progressive values and makes it easier for corporate Democrats to join with corporate Republicans to destroy these programs,” Feingold wrote.

Interviewing Pelosi later, George Stephanopoulas cited Feingold’s e-mail and asked if she agreed.  Pelosi evaded answering directly. She weaved and bobbed without ever confronting the impact of the plan on Social Security and Medicare.

“She did engage in subtle beltway signaling,” Trudy Lieberman wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review, “allowing her words to convey that the Dems who mattered were now on board to pass the Simpson-Bowles plan.”

Simpson, a notoriously intemperate former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Bowles, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and a former Morgan Stanley director, co-chaired the 18-member bipartisan commission charged with developing a deficit reduction plan.   The commission earned the sardonic monicker of the “Catfood Commission” for its proposals to impoverish Social Security recipients.

The plan the co-chairs came up with couldn’t get the required 14 votes, so there is no commission proposal.  Nevertheless, Simpson-Bowles has moved to the national agenda.

And the compromising posture of Democratic leaders is ominous.

“When President Obama seems willing to talk about cutting Social Security,” wrote Cliff Schecter in the Progressive Populist, “when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refuses to rule it out, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer seems like a lion on the Serengeti eyeing a giraffe, this just sends a signal that it is ok for others to go even further which bodes very badly for the future.”

Lifting the cap on income subject to payroll taxes will make Social Security solvent for decades, Schecter writes, “but that option is not on Washington’s table, nor has it been discussed much in the press.”

Every member of Congress should be challenged to support that simple, straightforward step to preserve Social Security.   The people must get “Scrap the Cap” on the national agenda.

Some lessons from Wisconsin

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Mike Andrew

“We wanted a different outcome,” said AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka about the failed attempt to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, “but Wisconsin forced the governor to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people. Their resolve has inspired a nation to follow their lead and stand up for the values of hard work, unity, and decency that we believe in.”

The June 5 special election in Wisconsin disappointed working people and our friends all over the country. But if we really are going to “stand up for the values of hard work, unity, and decency” now, and especially in the November election when so much is at stake, disappointment is not enough.

We will need to draw the right lessons from the Wisconsin experience, and then get to work to change the way we operate.

So why did Scott Walker defeat the recall by a handy 53% to 46% margin?

The most obvious factor contributing to Walker’s win was money, what Trumka called “a flood of secret corporate cash distorting our democracy.”

Walker raised and spent $30.5 million dollars, two-thirds of it from out-of-state sources. His Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, raised only $4 million, with 74% of that total coming from Wisconsin donors.

The simple fact is that Scott Walker spent 88% of the money to get 53% of the vote. Another way of saying that is, Walker spent $23 for each vote he received, while Barrett spent only $3.47 per vote.

But the reality is even worse, because the $34.5 billion spent by the two campaigns does not include so-called independent expenditures and issue ads paid for primarily by out-of-state billionaires. The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Joe Rickets spent heavily to support Walker, as did business groups, and the National Rifle Association.

Once all this additional spending is included, total spending in this race could be more than double the $34.5 billion number, with Walker and his business allies outspending Barrett by an even wider margin.

The record spending was yet another consequence of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which invalidated Wisconsin laws prohibiting independent expenditure campaigns by corporations and unions.

To cope with the flood of corporate money, the three largest public sector unions, the NEA, AFSCME, and SEIU, channeled at least $2 million from their treasuries and super PACs to two Wisconsin-based independent expenditure groups.

The AFT, UFCW, UAW, and the Teamsters also dipped into their treasuries for the Wisconsin recall.

Even the largest unions cannot play a money game and win, however, and they certainly could not keep pace with Walker’s super-rich backers.

For working people and our unions to have a chance, we have to rely on mass mobilization to overcome the money advantage of the other side.

Central labor councils in Wisconsin and around the country, including here in the Puget Sound region, mobilized get-out-the-vote phonebankers who tirelessly worked shifts calling Wisconsin voters to drive as big a vote as possible.

“Young and old, union and non-union, people came in every day to do whatever they could to help. Thousands volunteered, often for two shifts in a row,” one volunteer said.

While no one can fault the thousands of volunteers who worked on the Wisconsin recall campaign, they may have been working a strategy that hampered the goal of removing Walker rather than helping.

Focusing on turning out votes from so-called “likely voters” means reaching only a narrow slice of the electorate. It means that voters identified as “unlikely” are largely ignored, particularly the working poor who are sometimes union members themselves, and would certainly be allies of unions.

Finally, to win an election in the face of big money, we need a message that resonates with voters because it speaks to their real experiences and needs, and a candidate who will carry that message.

Tom Barrett, unfortunately, did not fit the bill.

Although Walker’s attack on workers’ collective bargaining rights was the thing that set the whole recall campaign in motion, Barrett hardly mentioned collective bargaining. He said little or nothing about balancing the state budget by taxing the wealthy and corporations, or the need to invest in education, social services, and infrastructure. Despite high unemployment, there was little or no talk of the need to create jobs.

Barrett was also unpopular with many public sector workers because of his own cuts and other austerity measures as Mayor of Milwaukee.

As a result, some 38% of union members voted for Walker, exit polls showed. The same polls showed that 54% of self-identified independent voters supported Walker, and that even 52% of voters who said their financial situation had gotten worse under Walker voted for him.

Walmart campaign moves forward

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Mike Andrew

The Making Change at Walmart campaign took another step forward at a June 22 conference at the Machinist’s Hall.

OURWalmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), the Walmart employees’ organization, and UFCW 21 invited their community partners – including PSARA – to discuss the future course of the campaign in the Puget Sound area.

According to presentations at the conference, the greater Seattle area has definitely been slated for Walmart expansion.

The Promenade at 23rdand Jackson, Belltown, and Capitol Hill in Seattle, and a location in Skyway have all been identified as possible sites for new stores.

In addition to looking for new locations, Walmart has adopted a new expansion strategy, according to UFCW researchers.

Their “new profile” stores are now a modest 35 thousand to 65 thousand square feet, instead of the monster “big box” stores of the past, and urban core locations are now being targeted instead of suburban or rural strip mall locations.

In addition to the money Walmart customarily spends on advertising its stores, the corporation has invested huge sums in donations to local candidates, hoping to ease their entry into target markets. They have also donated heavily to non-profits in hopes of improving their corporate image.

The result has been to capture a growing market share in targeted cities. In Denver, for example, Walmart has taken an astounding 20% market share in groceries.

The result of Walmart’s entry into one of their target markets is that union stores are driven out or forced to cut wages and benefits to compete. Researchers estimate that the net wage loss from a single Walmart store might amount to $17 million.

Not only does that mean a significant loss in pay for retail workers – who could be paid as much as $3-$4 per hour less than in a unionized store – but it also means that workers have fewer dollars to spend in the surrounding community, so neighboring businesses suffer as well.

A Walmart expansion into Seattle could cost a $15 million loss in labor income, and a $13 million loss in economic output, according to Puget Sound SAGE.

As OUR Walmart members revealed at the conference, Walmart management does not use their profits to improve working conditions. In fact, they said, they regularly have to contend with broken equipment and unsafe conditions.

The strategy for dealing with the challenge of Walmart’s new expansion strategy must be two-fold, the conference determined.

On one hand, to support Walmart workers in their demands to make a living wage and be treated with respect on the job.

On the other hand, to demand that Walmart be a good neighbor in communities where in establishes its store. That includes signing community benefit agreements to guarantee that Walmart will help strengthen – instead of undermining – local economies.

According to OURWalmart members, some 400 Walmart stores now have employees participating in the organization. While many employees are still afraid of management, they said, an increasing number are taking a stand for their rights as workers, and they believe this number will only increase with community support.

The organizations attending the June 22 meeting  determined to be part of an ongoing community coalition to ensure that Walmart becomes a good employer and a good neighbor.

Celebrating Woody on his 100th

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

By Will Parry

July 14 is Bastille Day and this year it’s something more. It’s the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie.

The centennial is the occasion for concerts and hootenannies in Woody’s birth town of Okemah, Oklahoma, and in many another town and city “from the redwood forests to the Gulfstream waters,” to quote from the homespun anthem everyone knows.

Woody deserves to be celebrated. He is the down-to-earth Walt Whitman of our working class. His musical and literary legacy includes some 400 recorded songs and the words to well over a thousand others. Besides the songs, he left us a tumultuous cascade of writings — poems, short stories, diaries, serious and humorous comments distilled from his hardscrabble life, and illustrated with his own pointed drawings.

He was musical from childhood. In his teen years in Pampa, Texas, he put together the Corn Cob Trio, and then the Pampa Junior Chamber of Commerce Band. For a time he sang hillbilly tunes for a Los Angeles radio audience largely made up of homesick Dust Bowl refugees.

In his mid-20s, Woody began to write protest songs, expressive of people’s suffering and struggles during the Depression and Dust Bowl years. He poured out songs — “I Ain’t Got No Home,” “Hard Travelin’,” Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad,” “Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues.”

During World War II, he wrote songs expressing his hatred of Hitler fascism. His guitar bore a sticker: “This machine kills fascists.” From his service in the Merchant Marine came “The Sinking of the Reuben James.”

At the height of his popularity he joined Pete Seeger in the Almanac Singers, a constellation of gifted performers from whose ranks came the Weavers, heralding the folk revival of the Fifties and Sixties.

In New York he met Seeger, Huddy Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, Josh White and other folk artists. With Leadbelly he busked in Harlem bars. With Moses Asch of Folkways Records he recorded hundreds of songs for t’he Library of Congress.

A lifelong wanderlust carried Woody to California, Texas, Florida, New York City, and the Pacific Northwest, hitchhiking town to town, earning meals or a night’s sleep with his tunes, or by painting signs on a storefront. Woody said he traveled Route 66 so often he “ran it up to 6,666.”

Woody left boxes overflowing with writings and songs that in the years since have been painstakingly sorted and catalogued by his daughter Nora. This rich legacy will soon be available to scholars and interested visitors at the Woody Guthrie center under construction in Tulsa.

Woody’s white hot creativity lasted little more than a single decade of his 55 years. Stuffering with an incurable neurological disease, Huntington’s Chorea, he entered a hospital in 1954 and died there in 1967.

The songs live on, touching us all. Every kind of song, from “Riding in My Car, Car” and “Clean-o” for girls and boys, to “Deportee,” the wrenching story of a plane crash that took the lives of nameless field workers being deported to Mexico. The songs kept coming, from the spirited “Roll on, Columbia” to “I Ain’t Got No Home in This World Any More,” bringing home the miseries of the Depression and the Dust Bowl years.

In 1941, my father took me to hear Woody and his sidekick Cisco Houston perform at the old Workers’ Alliance Hall on Seattle’s skid road. I don’t remember what songs Woody and Cisco sang that evening. I do remember the long, narrow hall, crowded with men in tin pants and work boots, the air blue and heavy with smoke from roll-your-own cigarets. For a kid barely out of his teens, it was an unforgettable introduction to the rough and rowdy reality of working class life.

And over the ensuing seven decades the music of Woody Guthrie has been woven into the fabric of my life, heard on tape, sung by myself on the front porch or with friends around the campfire,

“Some day,” wrote Clifton Fadiman in The New York Times, “people are going to wake up to the fact that Woody Guthrie and the ten thousand songs that leap and tumble off the strings of his music box are a national possession like Yellowstone and Yosemite, and part of the best stuff this country has to show the world.”

And Don Rollins, writing in The Progressive Populist, quoted John Steinbeck: “Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.”

Mid-1930s to late 1970s: Moving toward shared prosperity

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Part 2 of a four-part series – Making the American Dream Real for Everyone

By Mark McDermott

At the outset of the 1930s, working people were enduring records levels of unemployment, widespread homelessness, hunger and loss of farms and homes. Millions lost their life savings in the collapse of the banking system. In the midst of an unparalleled economic crisis, working people had neither an economic or social safety net, nor the right to organize unions.

Yet by the late 1930s, our grandparents’ generation had won Social Security, unemployment insurance, public assistance for poor families, the minimum wage, overtime pay, the right to organize unions in the private sector, child labor and welfare protections, housing assistance programs, bank deposit security, strong controls over the financial industries, and assistance for struggling farmers. Although people of color and women were denied many of these rights and benefits, for millions it was a dream beginning to come true.

After 50 years of bitter defeats, how did we the people achieve these historic victories in the face of the worst depression in our national history? They were the fruit of mass organizing in workplaces and communities across the country, and growing unity among working people and the unemployed. Millions began to understand that, to win a better life for working people, employed and unemployed alike, racism, religious bigotry, sexism and anti-immigrant hostility had to be overcome. The newly-won right to form unions and the militant tactic of the sitdown strike — workers occupying their workplace — in effect the “Occupy Movement” of the 1930s – were instrumental in the building of a powerful labor movement.

These worker occupations of factories and other workplaces coupled with massive community support across much of the country doubled the size of the labor movement in less than five years. Newly won power in the workplace and widespread political organizing laid the foundation for our greatest period of shared prosperity over the next 40 years.

The end of World War II ushered in more than 30 years of strong economic growth that was shared more fairly than at any time in American history. By the end of she 1970s, poor, working class and middle class families saw their incomes double after inflation. Income growth for the wealthy grew more slowly thereby narrowing income inequality. People of color and women saw their incomes continue to lag behind whites and men but the gaps were narrowing.

After World War II Corporate America counterattacked,. The Taft-Hartley Act slowed and reversed the growth of the labor movement. At the same time, the corporations and their political allies launched the Red Scare (McCarthyism) to weaken the unions, intimidate people into political passivity and stop any new initiatives to expand the reforms of the 1930s. They were largely successful. One of the first major casualties was the defeat of President Truman’s National Health Care program. The 1960s saw another wave of widespread organizing for greater economic and social justice,: Civil rights, women’s rights, ending the Viet Nam war, environmental protections, and expanded rights for people with disabilities and for gays and lesbians. A major difference between the 1930s and the 1960s was that the labor movement was no longer leading these struggles and was deeply divided.

Yet there were new people’s victories — the passage of landmark legislation for civil rights, voting rights, equal pay, clean water, clean air, environmental protection, pension protections, affordable housing and anti-poverty programs. In less than 15 years, poverty was cut in half. On the other hand, badly needed labor law reform was defeated despite a Democratic president and strong majorities in Congress.

Substantial progress was coming to end. The social upheavals of the 1960s were marked by increased racial tensions, the Viet Nam war, clashes on the issue of abortion, and the new strengths of the women’s and gay and lesbian movements. These developments, coupled with three recessions during the 1970s, sowed deep divisions among working people and their historic allies. An increasingly aggressive corporate America supporting a resurgent right wing was poised to launch a decades-long counterattack to fundamentally shift the direction of the country. By the end of the 1970s, the counterattack was taking its toll, as both labor law reform and the Equal Rights Amendment for women were defeated.

What was the corporate strategy and how was it implemented? This is the subject of Part 3 of this series.

(Mark MCDermott is a member of the PSARA Execuive Board and the developer of an economic justice education program.)