Europe Is Up All Night

If a suspected terrorist sneezes in Europe, we see security camera footage repeated day and night with endless speculation and commentary on CNN, but there has been a virtual mainstream media blackout here in the United States of news about the French working class rising up over the past two weeks.

On March 31, thousands of French activists gathered at the Place de la République to protest French President François Hollande’s labor reforms, and they’ve been staying “up all night” ever since. The “Nuit Debout” protests are now spreading to Belgium, Britain, Spain and Germany.

Read More: Sonali Kolhatkar: Two Weeks Into a Major Uprising, French Activists Still Staying ‘Up All Night’ – Truthdig

Torture and Humiliation in Illinois

Abu Ghraib Comes Home

Menard Prison

An elite Illinois Department of Corrections tactical unit called “Orange Crush” traveled from prison to prison, humiliating and terrorizing hundreds of Illinois inmates, according to a class-action lawsuit now before a federal District Court. They forced prisoners to march naked in single-file, tight formations, causing men’s genitals to press against the buttocks of men in front of them. They called the exercise “nuts-to-butts.”

The Belleville News Democrat reports.

Members of the tactical unit begin the tactic by running onto a prison tier when female guards are sometimes also present, “whooping,” banging on metal tables and shouting to prisoners: “Get butt-naked.”

The guards do this, according to the lawsuit, while dressed in orange fatigues, wearing helmets, carrying clubs and chanting “Punish the inmate. Punish the inmate.”

The prisons cited in the lawsuit are Menard, Illinois River, Big Muddy and Lawrence. It alleges multiple violations of the Prison Rape Elimination Act national standards, along with beatings, stress positions and other abuses reminiscent of Abu Ghraib.

Let’s call this what it is: state-sanctioned torture. The perpetrators, including the officials of IDOC under whose direction they operated, should all be behind bars themselves.

Read More: Lawsuit: ‘Orange Crush’ guard unit terrorized, humiliated Southern Illinois inmates | Belleville News-Democrat

Hate Groups On The Rise


The number of extremist groups operating in the United States grew in 2015 according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations.

Much of this growth can be attributed to the shameful bigoted rhetoric of Donald Trump and other candidates within the GOP. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Republican party has become one of the leading national advocates for hatred.

Read More: SPLC’s Intelligence Report: Amid Year of Lethal Violence, Extremist Groups Expanded Ranks in 2015 | Southern Poverty Law Center

Click here to download the full report in PDF format.


Enter the Brownshirts

With GOP presidential candidates amping up the xenophobia, it was only a matter of time until bigots with firearms began to organize. Saturday saw armed protestors assemble at a Mosque in Irving, Texas.

The Dallas Morning News spoke to organizer David Wright.

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” Wright said, eyeing his 12-gauge. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

A protester with a bandana over his face showed off his AR-15 to traffic. A 20-year-old who wants to join the Army and ban Islam in the United States carried a Remington hunting rifle…

Read the Report: Armed protesters gather outside Islamic Center of Irving | | Dallas Morning News

More Than A Quarter of Republicans Would Close All Mosques

With the news that GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump is in favor of establishing a national database of Muslims in America drawing comparisons to Hitler, a new poll released by Public Policy Polling shows that Republicans are right in step with him.

Donald Trump floated the idea this week of shutting down all the mosques in the United States. 27% of Republican primary voters support that concept with 38% opposed, and 35% unsure on the issue. Among the top GOP hopefuls supporters of both Cruz (41/27) and Trump (37/27) support shutting down the mosques while backers of Carson (17/43), Rubio (25/37), and Bush (12/45) oppose doing so.

The latest poll confirms broad support in the GOP nationally for extreme views noted in a poll of Iowa two months ago.

Only 49% of Republicans think the religion of Islam should even be legal in the United States with 30% saying it shouldn’t be and 21% not sure. Among Trump voters there is almost even division with 38% thinking Islam should be allowed and 36% that it should not.

Decent Americans must stand up now, while there is still a Constitution to defend.

Sanders and the Second Bill of Rights

In September of 2012, I wrote about FDR’s 1944 State of the Union Address which proposed a “Second Bill of Rights.”

I wonder what might happen if President Obama were to make these rights the foundation of his bid for re-election. Would the American people rally to such a program? Would we recognize that political rights alone cannot ensure liberty and justice for all? Would we recognize that today our freedom is most threatened, not by the government, but by the tyranny of the marketplace? Would we recognize, at long last, that there is no democracy without economic democracy?

Today, at Georgetown University, Bernie Sanders appears to have taken up the challenge, putting Roosevelt’s speech at the center of his own campaign.

Sander’s speech begins about one hour and eight minutes into the video.

You can read the full text of the speech here.

I can’t say that I agree with everything Senator Sanders said in this speech, but it is certainly refreshing, even heartening, to hear a presidential candidate make such a vigorous defense of Social Democracy in this era where political discourse in the United States seems limited to the range between Neoliberalism and Fascism.

I wonder what will happen next.

Pope Francis’ Historic Speech to America

Pope Francis made history today by becoming the first Pope ever to address a joint session of the United States Congress. He mentioned four great Americans from the past, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, saying that each of them helped build a better future for the people of the U.S.

The full text of the Holy Father’s speech to Congress is available at the link below. There’s also an audio version available on the site.

Read and Listen: Pope Francis makes historic address to U.S. Congress | Vatican Radio

The High Cost of Low Wages


The Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley has produced the first report to examine the cost to the 50 states of public assistance programs for working families. It turns out that we spend nearly $153 billion dollars a year to subsidize the low wages at McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and the like.

Read More: The High Public Cost of Low Wages | UC Berkeley Labor Center

Download a PDF of the Briefing.


Chicago May Day 2015


May Day Celebration – Noon to 1: 30 PM Haymarket Memorial, Corner of DesPlaines & Randolph

May Day 2015 March, Rally, and Noise Demonstration – 2:30 PM Union Park

Illinois Labor History Society Annual Membership Meeting – 5 to 7 PM Chicago Federation of Musicians, 656 Randolph Street, Haymarket Square

The Joe Hill Roadshow – 9 PM Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia Avenue, Chicago

Solidarity with our ILWU Brothers and Sisters

A dispute between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association has drawn the attention of President Obama, who has now sent Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to meet with the sides. It is not yet known what specific message was conveyed to the negotiators. Some have speculated that the Obama Administration is threatening to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to reopen the ports in the event of either a strike or a lockout.

A Department of Labor press release on the matter stated the following. “On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Perez made clear that the dispute has led to a very negative impact on the U.S. economy, and further delay risks tens of thousands of jobs and will cost American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.” It also said that the two sides must come to “immediate agreement to prevent further damage to our economy and further pain for American workers and their employers.”

This sort of talk seems a far cry from Obama’s campaign rhetoric, where he pledged to “put on a comfortable pair of shoes” himself and “walk on that picket line with you, as President of the United States of America.”

The PMA, an association of the owners of the 29 ports on the West Coast, has stepped up a media campaign to draw attention to the harm that the dispute may be doing to the larger U.S. economy. The President of the ILWU, Robert McEllrath, fired back two weeks ago, accusing the PMA of distorting the facts, threatening to close the ports and bargaining in the media instead of at the table.

“What the ILWU heard yesterday is a man who makes about one million dollars a year telling the working class that we have more than our share,” said McEllrath. “Intensifying the rhetoric at this stage of bargaining, when we are just a few issues from reaching an agreement, is totally unnecessary and counterproductive.”

The PMA on Wednesday distributed letters directly to workers at major ports from Los Angeles to Washington state that detailed what they called their last, best and final contract offer, apparently in hopes that the rank-and-file will pressure union negotiators to make concessions.

As the situation unfolds, we may get an opportunity to see whether or not the Obama Administration truly stands with the workers.

For nearly a century, the West Coast longshore and warehouse workers have stood, time and again, on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and justice. They deserve our attention, our respect and our support.