By Robby Stern
On Saturday, December 6, I attended a march that was primarily organized through social media and was led by students from the University of Washington and the Black Student Union at Garfield High School. The theme was “Black Lives Matter.” Speeches stressed that significant steps must be taken to address the treatment of African Americans in our communities by the police. Also highlighted was the growing economic inequality in our country that has hit hardest in the African American community and is being keenly felt by people of color throughout our country.
It was a sad irony that an article had appeared in the Seattle Times that morning about a 23-year-old African American woman who had been intoxicated and involved in some kind of domestic skirmish. A Seattle police officer had arrested and handcuffed her, and as he was pushing her into his police car, she kicked at him. The officer then proceeded to slug her in the eye, while she was handcuffed, doing significant and possibly long-term damage to the woman. The City Attorney had recommended that felony assault charges be brought against the officer, but the County Prosecutor announced that no charges would be brought.
The killings of, among others, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice, are murders that should be prosecuted. At the same time, it was inspiring to witness the young leaders and the huge presence of young people at the rally and march at Garfield. A new crop of smart, talented, and spirited young progressive leaders is emerging, and we can look forward to following their leadership.
While marching, I was talking with Steve Ludwig, a PSARA member and a friend from Seattle SDS in the 1960s. I was remembering with Steve how we had come to understand the Marxist concept of the capitalist need for a “reserve army of labor.” As militant opponents of the Vietnam War, we also developed an understanding that many of the soldiers who were drafted to fight on the front lines were drafted from the “reserve army of labor.” This reserve labor force was needed to fight the imperial wars, to serve as a threat to employed workers who are demanding higher wages and working conditions, and also to be available when the cyclical economic system required more workers.
What has changed since that era is the deindustrialization of our country as a result of trade agreements and the movement of production to low wage and often repressive countries. There is still the need for a “reserve army of labor,” but there are also now whole layers of humanity in our country who are no longer needed by the plutocrats to serve in the traditional role of the “reserve army…” They are essentially turned over to the police forces and private security forces and prisons of our country to control. The prisons are filled with these human beings, often people of color, who are deemed expendable by our vicious, predatory economic system. The killings and the brutality by the police and the mass incarcerations are fundamentally a result of this economic system (which is also poisoning our environment and threatening the very existence of our planet). These plutocrats use racism to divide us.
PSARA will work in solidarity with those who are challenging this inhumane approach to human life.
Changes in PSARA
PSARA has experienced a significant increase in our membership. Additionally, we are occupying a leading role in the fight for retirement security in our region and even nationally, and have also become an important voice in a variety of important progressive issues. We continue to do this work primarily with committed volunteers. However, revenue has not kept up with our growing expenses.
Several decisions were made at our December membership meeting that our members who were not present should know about.
1. We added a new Vice President position. We now have an Administrative Vice President (Maureen Bo), a Membership Vice President (Susan Levy) (the new position), and an Outreach Vice President position that will be shared by Vivian Lee and Mildred Ollee. The decision to add a Membership Vice President was made to lighten the work load on the officers.
2. Members attending the December meeting voted unanimously to increase the annual dues. The change takes effect in January, 2015, and will impact individual members when the dues most of you pay annually expire. The new dues structure is:
Annual dues – $20
Living lightly – $15 (or whatever you can afford)
Supporting – $50
Sponsoring – $100 (or more)
3. We are in the process of creating a 501c3, the PSARA Education Fund, which will be responsible for paying the costs of producing The Retiree Advocate. If you itemize your deductions and wish to take an IRS deduction for your dues or contributions for the Retiree Advocate, you can write your checks to the PSARA Education Fund beginning January, 2015.
The officers and executive board of PSARA are deeply appreciative of the support and volunteer efforts of many of our members. Together we are working to make our world a little better place for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to follow. We are engaged in a worthy task.
I wish all of you a healthy and fulfilling 2015!!