October 16-31, 2006
Volume 14 - Number 18
$1

Prolétaires de tous les pays, unissez-vous!
Otatoskewak ota kitaskinahk mamawestotan!
Workers of all lands, unite!

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CONTENTS
1. Universal programs - key to labour advance
2. Vancouver groups demand action on housing crisis
3. Nuclear hypocrisy - PV Editorial
4. Save the Wheat Board! - PV Editorial
5. Support for Six Nations of the Grand River
6. CPC demands peaceful and just resolution
7. HEU urges moratorium on health privatization
8. Communist Party calls 35th Convention
9. South Korea shuts down government employee union
10. Brazil: the battle is to win Lula's re-election
11. Brazilian Communists achieve positive results
12. Left candidate surges in Ecuador election race
13. 10,000 workers fired for union activities
14. U.S. ruling may bar millions from unions
15. US bosses make 262 times more than workers
16. The super-rich get richer
17. What's Left
Podcast of People's Voice Articles
Clarté (en français)

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Universal programs - key to labour advance

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Sam Hammond, chair of the Central Trade Union Commission of the Communist Party of Canada

IF ANYONE had told me in the 1950s that the absence of universal medicare could seriously threaten the trade union movement, I would have been very sceptical. However, hindsight is 20-20, and it is becoming clearer all the time that there is a direct link between universal publicly owned and operated social programs and the ability of the organized working class to defend itself against the present corporate agenda.

     Unfortunately, there is a glaring example of the reverse in the United States, where the attack at Delphi, throughout the big three automakers, and previously in the steel industry, is concentrated on medical and pension benefits even more than wages.

     Advances in technology, the shrinking membership of unions (down to about 13% in the U.S. in 2004) and an aging workforce have created an "inverted triangle" demographic, with retired workers outnumbering those employed and without voting rights. We in Canada have a much higher percentage of our working class organized (about 32%), but we shouldn't take much comfort in this, because our percentages have dropped, and we have our own triangle.

     An important difference is in social programs and public ownership. We both live in capitalist countries, and the differences are relative. Our social services are not exclusively publicly owned and operated non-profit, but much more so than in the U.S. That difference is a major factor in the class struggle.

     If we dissect the figures, it becomes apparent that the great majority of the American 13% and the Canadian 32% are actually government and service workers. In Canada the public service, education and medical workers have increased dramatically over the last fifty years, and unionized at a rate of perhaps 80% or more.

     At the same time, traditional industrial and transportation workers are less in numbers and less highly organized. This in no way lowers their pivotal role in the class struggle, because despite their smaller numbers, they can shut down the means of production. The capitalists are very much more aware of this than the trade union movement. Every victory for working people creates more public workers, and advances in technology demand more service workers to feed the beast and maintain the needs of industry.

     When Canadians won Medicare, we took away the ability of individual capitalist enterprises to blackmail us with our own health. Our children, old folks, our sick and needy, would no longer be in danger of paying with their lives to maintain a strike or sustain an unemployed family.

     Just imagine how much more powerful we could be with universal public childcare. How much safer and independent would we be if we won guaranteed pensions - publicly owned and operated - as we have in medicine. We have a small beginning, a foot in the door called the Canada Pension Plan. Pensions are a category that require a dedicated article, but the point can safely be made that they are a very important component of the current offensive against labour. Defined contribution plans with absolutely no guarantee of benefit levels are the latest nirvana of corporate think tanks.

     Canadian workers did the right thing when we mounted massive and sustained campaigns for medicare. So can we be a little smug?

     No! We did struggle for medicare, but it's also true that the socialist states were setting the pace in social programs, and anti-socialist prejudice was a little less here than in the US. Under the leadership of George Meany and Lane Kirkland, the AFL-CIO was obsessed more with anti-communism than with mass campaigning and organizing. The AFL-CIO leaders certainly had a major influence in Canada, and for sure the difference was slight. But that slight difference gave the left the ability to win, an edge that U.S. progressives lacked because they lived within the eye of the storm.

     But here we are, and the difference can be seen in the defence of living standards, in the struggle for economic gain, and most significantly in the struggle against concessionary bargaining and cutbacks.

     The UAW in the United States are experiencing a trauma, an organized attack by capital on their retirees and their entire working membership. The cutting edge of this attack is bankruptcy protection (or the threat of it), "justified" by the high cost of pensions and health care. The past five years have seen dangerous concessions. The Steelworkers Union allowed the loss of 60,000 pensions and medical packages as the big steelmakers absolutely bathed in bankruptcy protection, using it to rationalize and retool at the workers' expense.

     The difference in Canada, where the Steelworkers at Stelco refused to budge and emerged with some gains, is worth looking at. This was not all because of social programs, but when your ass is covered you can fight a lot more confidently.

     Part of our analyses also should contain another little gem: the struggle for social programs in the past has created a legacy - we won then and we can win again.

     Anti-communism is injected into the class struggle to disarm workers, recruit them to their oppressor's agenda and neutralize their ability use the most advanced ideology on their own behalf. It's like two armies going into battle with only one being armed. Even slight differences between American and Canadian unions can be the decisive factor in winning gains.

     If the fight for publicly owned and operated programs is vital to the working class and labour movement, then the protection of the public service workers that they create is also a key area of importance.

     Two very intense engagements of organized workers in the recent past should be viewed with this in mind. The Ontario teachers mounted a purely political strike against the Harris neanderthal Tories, and maintained magnificent solidarity for an entire week before the leadership started to crumble. Public support was growing and at least one large industrial union (the CAW) was threatening to take the strike into the industrial sector.

     The teachers in BC walked out for their contract and bargaining rights, and quickly found themselves in a political strike because of court intervention on behalf of the government. The teachers took the challenge, escalated their demands, remained solid as a rock from leadership to picket line. They emerged with massive public support, the beginnings of a spontaneous general strike and a victory of immense importance.

     In Ontario the central labour body, the Ontario Federation of Labour, did not call at any time for work stoppages to support the teachers. This was quite frankly a disgrace. The British Columbia Federation of Labour played a better role for over a week and then started to look for an exit. The key to victory was the strength of the teachers' leadership, the support of other public sector unions, rank and file support in private sector unions, and massive public backing for the teachers' demands.

     Universal, publicly owned and operated social programs, and the workers who deliver them, are the biggest target of the neoliberal drive against the working class. Conversely, the need to defend these programs and to extend them to universal public education and childcare is the key to defending contracts and extending organization.

     Private healthcare, education, and childcare would give the employers back a club to beat us with. This must not happen. The failure of the public and private sector unions to forge stronger mutual assistance agreements that could shut down industrial enterprises if necessary is one of our larger problems. This should be a major debate in all the central labour conventions coming up in the next period of time.







Vancouver groups demand action on housing crisis

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

PV Vancouver Bureau

THE POLITICAL HONEYMOON is over for Vancouver City Council's right-wing NPA majority. Elected last November thanks to divisions in the centre-left forces which had governed here for the previous three years, Mayor Sam Sullivan and his five supporters on the eleven-member council have faced little heavy criticism. That changed this fall, when the true extent of the homeless crisis in Vancouver broke into the news.

     Anti-poverty activists warn that this crisis will worsen as the 2010 Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver accelerates the long-term gentrification of the city's desperately poor Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

     As reported in the previous issue of PV, the Pivot Legal Society has predicted that "Vancouver's homelessness crisis is about to get much worse unless immediate action is taken." Pivot has just published a new report, "Cracks in the Foundation: Solving the Housing Crisis in Canada's Poorest Neighbourhood," which projects that without dramatic action, homelessness in the Vancouver region will almost triple by 2010, from the current levels of about 1,200 to an estimated 3,200.

     Between 2003 and 2005, Vancouver saw a net loss of 415 housing units for low-income singles. But while 82 new rooms for low-income singles were opened between June 2005 and June 2006, the City lost another 400 units due to conversions, rent increases and closures. Only 270 units are scheduled to be built in Vancouver over the next three years, while if current trends continue, there will be a loss of another 1600 units of housing for low-income singles by 2010.

     "If we continue to lose low-cost housing in the Downtown Eastside at the current rate, we can expect to be coping with at least three times the number of people living on Vancouver's streets," states lead report author and lawyer David Eby. "We can't afford this kind of increase in homelessness. We are currently spending $51 million dollars per year to maintain people on the street. Government calculations show it would be much less expensive to simply build new supportive housing."

     There are many opportunities for action, says Eby. "We could start today by cleaning up instead of closing down low-cost housing. The city has the legal power to go into residential hotels and lodging houses, make the repairs itself and bill the landlord.  We need to maintain what we have, and take immediate steps to reach the city's housing goal of 800 low-income housing units per year."

     The report calls for market incentives to incorporate low-income housing into new developments, increased welfare shelter allowances, and sweeping changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.

     A wide range of community groups are mobilizing to back an upcoming direct action for housing called by the Anti-Poverty Committee (APC).

     On October 22, at 4 pm, demonstrators will march from Pigeon Park (the corner of Carrall and Hastings) to occupy a vacant building closed by the city's gentrification campaign. Supporters are urged to take part to help prevent a violent police response.

     During their 2005 civic election campaign, the APC says, Mayor Sam Sullivan and the NPA endorsed the Homelessness Action Plan which commits the city to purchase at least one SRO building a year and convert it into social housing. Since then, the city has seen the closure of a dozen hotels and the eviction of hundreds of tenants.

     While the APC remains highly sceptical of the Action Plan, it supports the demands raised during public consultations by homeless people, who called for immediate squatter rights, rent control, tent cities and less policing of poverty.

     In another development, the provincial government has announced plans to provide some low-income British Columbians with small monthly grants as a way of addressing the housing crisis. Critics say the plan evades the need to build more social housing, and that the grants will simply jack up rents, especially in areas where the shortage is most severe.







Nuclear hypocrisy - PV Editorial

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

As we go to press, reports of an underground nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have been met with understandable anxiety around the planet. Any expansion of the "nuclear club" complicates progress towards genuine non-proliferation and general comprehensive disarmament.

     However, we are compelled to point out the hypocrisy of the United States and other leading imperialist powers on this issue. After all, Israel became one of the most powerful nuclear states without a word of protest from Washington. By building a wall across the Korean Peninsula and maintaining a huge military force in the South for over half a century, the U.S. has stoked the fires of crisis. By combining overt military threats and economic sanctions against the DPRK, the U.S. is taking destabilizing measures which increase the danger of war in the Korean Peninsula, in the region, and even globally.

     While condemning the DPRK for its actions, the U.S. grants itself the pre-emptive right to launch nuclear war against non-nuclear states. In fact, the Bush administration has undermined the nuclear test ban treaty, the Kyoto Accord, and many international treaties and laws designed to turn the world away from the threat of war and environmental catastrophe.

     We urge the Harper government - which has given full support to the aggressive policies of U.S. imperialism - to reject moves to isolate the DPRK and heighten tensions. Diplomatic efforts must instead concentrate on removing all foreign troops from the Korean Peninsula, and other steps which can begin to create an atmosphere conducive to peace and harmony in the region. Not least, all nuclear powers must be compelled to act on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls for the elimination of all such weapons.







Save the Wheat Board! - PV Editorial
  
(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Here's a question for readers who are not farmers: what would you think if the federal government ripped up every collective bargaining agreement in the country, on the grounds that workers deserve the right to market their skills to a wider variety of employers? Our guess is that all hell would break loose.

     Yet that's exactly what is being done to prairie grain farmers. The minority Tory government is pressing to dismantle the single desk selling authority of the Canadian Wheat Board. This is being prepared without a vote by grain producers, in direct violation of Section 47.1 of the CWB Act.

     Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl - a "populist" when it suits his purposes - has done everything in his power to systematically destroy this vital institution with phony task forces, "round tables" and closed door meetings. Asked on Oct. 5 in the House of Commons if he will allow a vote on the future of the Wheat Board by 85,000 farmers, Strahl gave the usual Tory bafflegab about "following through on campaign promises" and "moving to marketing choice." Pressed for details, Strahl refused to answer the question, explaining that his government is "determined to have a strong, voluntary wheat board and a marketing choice... There is nothing to even have a plebiscite about."

     Once again, we see that the Harper Tories are little more than mouthpieces for the rich, in this case the largest grain farmers and the agribusiness monopolies. Without the Wheat Board to provide the best price to all producers, thousands of smaller farm operators and their families will be squeezed off the land in western Canada, with negative consequences for Canada's food security, and for communities across the region. We urge the labour movement to mobilize support for grain farmers in this crucial struggle - find out more and demand that the Tories back off their attack on the CWB!







Support for Six Nations of the Grand River

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Sam Hammond

THE HISTORIC STRUGGLE of the Six Nations of the Grand River to maintain their ownership and control of land resulted last February in the occupation of land sold during a legal dispute process by the federal government of Brian Mulroney.

     The Mulroney Tories sold the "Douglas Creek Estates" land to Henco Corporation. This land was part of a lease allowing a plank road to be built in colonial times. The "sale" of this legally disputed land was an act of contempt against the Six Nations and Canadian law, typical of Mulroney and completely in tune with British colonial arrogance that founded the Dominion of Canada.

     Mulroney and his robber cohorts must have pulled this off as a trial run to selling out the whole country. The unique concept of Canada paying corporate America to cart away our sovereignty and resources has historical precedence in the relationship between the Six Nations and 200 years of land plunder. This alone should make every Canadian who smarts under NAFTA a natural sympathiser and ally to the First Nations, and in this case the Six Nations people.

     The names of the original Five Nations Confederacy, and the sixth nation that joined later, are well known in Ontario and in their original homelands in the United States. The Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk and Cayuga peoples, joined later in the 17th century by the Tuscarora, formed a confederacy that is the oldest and still functioning form of democracy in North America.

     The Confederacy is governed by "The Great Law of Peace." Established long before the arrival of the Europeans, this sophisticated legal and social code was studied by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in their search for democratic forms for the new American Republic.

     Most of the Six Nations land in New York and Pennsylvania was lost during the American War of Independence, but there are still Six Nations people living in the United States and in other parts of Ontario and Quebec. The largest group by far is the Six Nations of the Grand River, situated near the southern Ontario cities and towns of Caledonia, Hagersville, Brantford, and Kitchener-Waterloo.

     The Confederacy entered into diplomatic relations with the Dutch in New York State in 1618. The nation-to-nation formal treaty which established the parties as allies - the Covenant Chain or the Two Row Wampum Treaty - was one of trade, military alliance and recognition of land use. The Confederacy did not seek to eject the newcomers, but recognized their presence and sought only fair trade and protection of Confederacy interests. That realistic, peaceful and humane view is historic and present in the present occupation and land claims.

     Later treaties were reached with the French colonists and finally with the British. In his scholarly work, The Origins of Canada, Marxist historian Stanley Ryerson described Six Nations diplomacy and negotiating skills as equal to any European state of the day.

     The Six Nations, again in equal nation-to-nation negotiations, were granted land in Ontario in 1784. Named after the British negotiator, the "Haldimand Tract" ceded to the Confederacy was 950,000 acres, six miles on each side of the Grand River from the mouth to the source.

     During the establishment of the Dominion of Canada, the Confederacy asserted their independence and exemption from the British North America Act and the Indian Act in a formal letter of protest to Sir John A. MacDonald. The Canadian government's new policy was to undermine the sovereignty of the Six Nations because they were no longer of military use or strength.

     In 1920, Duncan Campbell Scott, the deputy superintendent of Indian Affairs, speaking to a special committee of the House of Commons about amendments to the Indian Act, stated "I want to get rid of the Indian problem. That is my whole point. Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question."

     Col. C.E. Morgan, a former colonial administrator from South Africa and a Boer War veteran, was appointed by Scott as local Superintendent for the Six Nations in 1923. This assimilator of nations and culture developed a particularly antagonistic relationship to the proud and independent leadership of the Confederacy.

     By 1924 he had prepared a report that stressed the need to depose the "hereditary council." Scott secured an Order in Council abolishing the ancient system of government and giving details for the "democratic" election of a band council.

     The Confederacy did not recognise the abolishment of their form of government. Chief Deskeheh worked with Confederacy lawyers and supporters to gain recognition for Six Nations sovereignty. He travelled to England and presented his case to the original partner in the historic equal agreements, the British Government. In response, the Crown passed Section 141 of the Indian Act, preventing Indians from obtaining lawyers for prosecuting claims against the Crown without first obtaining the Crown's permission. Lawyer A.G. Chisolm was legally barred from representing the Confederacy, and Chief Deskeheh died in the United States, exiled from Canada and the Six Nations.

     Here are some excerpts from a Six Nations presentation to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs: "A request for a full accounting of all Six Nations monies derived from legitimate land sales as invested by the Crown has remained with the Auditor General of Canada since 1979.... (I)n 1847, Six Nations funds were used to finance the Law Society of Upper Canada with no record of return... December 20, 1860... Six Nations' funds were used to save the University of McGill College in Montreal... (N)ot only did the works of the Welland Canal Company (flood) 2000 acres of Six Nations Land, but the Crown invested Six Nations money in 1843 and 1865 to do so... (At) a nominal 10% interest rate compounded annually a debt totalling Eighty Two Billion, Two Hundred and Two Million, Seven Hundred and Fifty Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty One Dollars and Four Cents ($82,202,759,831.04)... payable to Six Nations." Seldom is theft so well documented.

     Now back to the present and the Douglas Creek Estates. Prior to the occupation, the Six Nations held a public information meeting to point out that the illegal sale of disputed land was in violation of treaty and dispute settlement mechanisms worked out with the federal government. It was not until the developers started the construction of a housing development that they occupied the land and shut down the building site. What else could they do? What was being sought in law, through jurisprudence, was being physically taken in front of their eyes. Reclamation would soon be impossible; innocent home buyers would be caught in a conflict they didn't make and the Six Nations didn't want.

     From the get-go, the occupation was peaceful, but the original police raids escalated a response of barricades and road closures. Since then the barricades have come down, but the longest occupation by native people in Canadian history continues peacefully. The government of Ontario bought the land from the developers and is holding it in trust. The government has also paid millions to local merchants in Caledonia for alleged lost income. This is a puzzle because there has never been any intimidation to prevent people from shopping. Perhaps the native people don't like shopping where merchants don't appreciate them.

     The self-appointed "Caledonia Citizens Committee" has tried to foment physical conflict by organizing confrontational protests at the occupation site. Initially they mustered a couple of hundred people, most from outside Caledonia, but their support seems to be on the wane.

     There is also an organization called Community Friends For Peace and Understanding With Six Nations (which this writer proudly supports). Community Friends has support from many labour activists, including members from CEP, Steel, CAW and CUPE. Formal labour support is on the agenda and there will be meetings and educational sessions. Solidarity House in Hamilton will hold a fundraising dinner in mid-November, and will provide drop-off facilities for donations of food, blankets, etc. for the approaching winter.

     The Community Friends held a public meeting of about 120 people at a high school in Caledonia on September 30. This very positive meeting was addressed by Jan Watson, a Caledonia resident and activist in the Community Friends, and Rolph Gerstenberger, president of Local 1005 Steelworkers at Stelco in Hamilton.

     The occupation continues, support is growing, but winter and tough weather are looming. While the government of Ontario treads water and the police attempt to balance between the courts and public awareness (remember Ipperwash?), the real culprits in this affair sit smug, silent and untouched. The Harper Feds are using the same corporate contempt that defines their foreign policy more and more as domestic policy. But Harper cannot hide behind the media wordsmiths and image makers for too long. The stench of colonialism, racism and cultural destruction, honed and refined from the British Royalty, lingers over Douglas Creek and every other Indigenous struggle for rights and justice in the Canadian State.







CPC demands peaceful and just resolution

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Resolution passed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada, October 1, 2006

    The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada declares, on behalf of the Communist Party and all of its members, solidarity and support for the just claims of the Six Nations of the Grand River in their dispute with the Government of Canada over reclamation of the Douglas Creek Estates land tract. The Douglas Creek Estates and other disputed parcels of the original "Haldimand Tract", ceded to the Six Nations in equal nation-to-nation treaty negotiations in 1784 with the British Crown, treaties inherited by the Government of Canada in 1867, are the rightful property of the Six Nations Confederacy.

     The shameful history of the government of Canada in its dealings with indigenous people, the illegal expropriation and theft of lands and revenues, and the forceful imposition of the "Indian Act" upon sovereign nations are violations of human rights, international law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

     The responsibility for this conflict rests squarely on the Government of Canada and its sale of legally disputed land in defiance of Treaty obligations and Canadian Law. This conflict is not the responsibility of the Six Nations people, or the people of the Town of Caledonia, or even the government of Ontario. It is the responsibility of the federal government and ultimately Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

     The Communist Party calls on all Canadian citizens who value justice to support the people of the Six Nations and to stand with them in solidarity. The Communist Party of Canada pledges support for the Six Nations and instructs its members in southern Ontario to do their utmost to provide material support for Six Nations and support for solidarity groups working to assist Six Nations.

     The Communist Party demands that all levels of government, the police and the courts dedicate themselves to a peaceful and just resolution to this conflict and reject the use of violence or force.







HEU urges moratorium on health privatization

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

PV Vancouver Bureau

THE HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES' UNION has urged B.C.'s Liberal government to prove that it hasn't already determined the outcome of its year-long "Conversation on Health Care."

     A poll released by the union at its Oct. 2-6 convention in Richmond indicates public skepticism about the government's plans. Only 23 per cent of those polled believe Premier Campbell would listen to British Columbians about ways to improve health care, while 65 per cent said the premier has already made up his mind.

     HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy told 500 delegates on Oct. 3 that health care workers can offer solutions to improve health care and encouraged HEU members to participate in the government consultation. But Darcy said she understands why many question government's claim that its only agenda is to listen to British Columbians.

     "They've privatized hospital services and seniors' care further and faster than any other province," said Darcy. "We've got more private clinics, and privately-financed hospitals and care homes are the only ones being built."

     Darcy urged the government to declare a moratorium on any further privatization of health services and infrastructure.

     "And open up the books," she added, "so that the public can have a genuine, informed debate about the future of health care in B.C. "Disclose the full details and true costs of health privatization to date - like the contracting out of thousands of day surgeries and the privatization of hospital cleaning and patient meals."

     The previous HEU convention, in the fall of 2004, was marked by stormy debates over the outcome of the union's strike action earlier that year, which saw the Liberals impose 15% wage cuts on hospital workers. The government attack included a drive to contract out many hospital services to transnational corporations, especially Aramark, Compass and Sodexho.

     Since then, delegates were told, the union has organized about 5,500 new members at 153 worksites, and some of the lost ground has been regained in the latest collective agreement. But leadership and delegates both agreed that the 40,000-plus member union still has a tough struggle ahead.

     One focus of debate was a set of controversial proposals to change the union's regional structure and representation. The convention voted to redefine HEU's Provincial Executive, deleting the 4th and 5th vice-presidents and two member-at-large positions, and replacing them with four additional regional vice-presidents.

     The shift aims to provide some regions with more representation and a stronger voice. The regions were redrawn to follow the geographical boundaries the province government's health authorities: Vancouver Coastal, Fraser, Interior, Northern and Vancouver Island. Delegates also made changes that provide locals with more flexibility around executive elections, budgets and membership meetings.







Communist Party calls 35th Convention

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)


The 35th Convention of the Communist Party of Canada will take place in February, 2007. Meeting in Toronto over the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 weekend, the party's Central Committee adopted a resolution on the international situation and the turn to the right by the Harper Tory federal government. The Draft Resolution will be the main focus of debate for three months leading up to the CPC's Central Convention, scheduled for the first weekend of February in Toronto.

     The Draft Resolution warns that "the deteriorating global situation not only foreshadows more wars, more oppression, more poverty and misery for the mass of humanity. It also takes place in the context of a deepening environmental crisis that becomes ever more critical and urgent." But in the face of unpredictable and disastrous consequences of global warming, such as rising ocean levels and dramatic climate shifts, imperialism continues to launch new wars with the aim of controlling energy and other resources."

     The Bush Administration, warns the Draft Resolution, has launched the most expansive and costly military buildup in history to advance its ambitions and to punish nations and states which refuse to succumb to its dictates.

     The response of the Communists everywhere, the CC said, is to strengthen the world peace movement. The resolution calls for a broadly-based, democratic and anti-imperialist front, capable of challenging the agenda of transnational finance capital, and of winning alternative policies.

     In Canada, the Central Committee said, the minority Harper Tory government has become the instrument of a more aggressive attack on the rights and interests of working people. Despite the current "economic boom," the gap between rich and poor is widening. Over a million Canadian workers remain unemployed, and some five million more are in the category of "working poor." Corporate profits are at a record high of 14.6% of Canada's gross domestic product, compared to a twenty-five year average of 10%, while one-fifth of Canadian children live below the poverty line.

     Although most Canadians reject key Tory policies, such as privatizing health care, scrapping the Kyoto Accord, and closer integration with the United States. But "with the full backing of the corporate elite" and reactionary fundamentalist forces, the resolution says, the Conservatives aim to fundamentally transform the Canadian state, by downsizing and gutting social programs while building up the military.

     Unfortunately, the resolution warns, the main parties in Parliament have only put up weak opposition to the Tories. The most significant resistance against right-wing policies will come in the extra-parliamentary arena of workplaces and communities, through bigger mobilizations of the labour and democratic movements. The October 28 "Troops Out Now" rallies backed by the Canadian Labour Congress, the anti-war movements, and a wide range of other forces, will be an important step ahead in this process.

     But the Resolution notes that the next election will be perhaps the most critical since the "free trade" campaign of 1988, when the Mulroney Tories won a majority and imposed a sellout deal rejected by almost two-thirds of voters. The Communist Party will nominate candidates in all major cities, running on a "people before profits" platform and calling for the defeat of the Tories.

     In the longer run, the Resolution says, a much larger and more effective Communist Party is needed to help build a powerful movement to defend Canadian sovereignty and block the corporate agenda. The Resolution outlines plans to focus the work of the CPC on several key issues in the coming period, such as the fight to save Medicare and other social programs, and to mobilize against Canada's role in the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan.

     Today's struggles, the Resolution stresses, must be connected with the goal of a fundamental transformation of Canada, ultimately leading towards socialism. The Communist Party, it points out, has always played a vital role in building these struggles, starting with early campaigns such as the organizing of workers into industrial unions and the first movements for Medicare.

     The Central Committee meeting adopted several special resolutions on urgent immediate issues: solidarity with the Six Nations struggle for reclamation of its lands at Caledonia; support for western farmers resisting the Harper government's move to arbitrarily eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board; and a call for all-out mobilizations for peace on October 28.

     A banquet and social during the CC meeting celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Communist Party, paying tribute to many party veterans in attendance.







South Korea shuts down government employee union

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

By Kimball Cariou

IN A VICIOUS ATTACK on the rights of workers, South Korea has virtually outlawed the Korean Government Employees Union, sending riot police to shut down the KGEU's offices around the country.

     Established in March 2002, the KGEU has 140,000 members, but has faced severe repression. Last January, the Korean government passed legislation requiring the union to register as a legal entity, but the KGEU refused, saying that the terms of the law would limit its freedom of assembly and freedom to strike.

     Starting on Sept. 22, the government began shutting down about 140 offices of the KGEU. Police were sent to forcibly close the offices, and forty-nine union members were arrested in the initial wave of closures.

     In the Yeongdeungpo district, police forcibly pulled the unionists out of their local office, arresting seven demonstrators, including Jeong Jong-gwon, chairperson of Seoul committee of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). Similar closures and arrests took place in many other KGEU offices.

     An official of the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs said, "The public servants' union hasn't registered as a legal entity, disregarding the law enacted this year. As we can't associate with unlawful organizations, we will continue to urge those union members to withdraw from the union after shutting down the union offices."

     In response, the KGEU, supported by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the nation's two largest umbrella labor groups, declared that it would strongly resist the government measure. "The government tries to destroy our union, using the same methods as the past military dictatorships. We will strongly resist the authorities and fight to recover our union offices," said Kwon Seung-bok, head of the KGEU, who had been on a hunger strike for 11 days when the closures began.

     Civic organizations urged the government to stop suppressing the union. Over 200 legal experts, including lawyers and jurists, held a press conference in front of the Central Government Complex in Seoul, reproaching the government for its measures toward the union. The group said that bodies such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) also urged the government to solve the problem through dialogue.

     In a statement, the DLP said, "The government is interfering in labour rights by forcing us out of our offices for the sole reason of not registering as a legal entity, when our actions have been just."

     But the crackdown has continued despite these protests. At 5:10 am on the morning of October 3, a national holiday marking the foundation of the South Korean state, the KGEU Chuncheon Chapter's office was attacked by the riot police. More than 60 members from the KGEU and solidarity organizations resisted the attack, as riot police armed with fire-fighting dust, hammers, claw hammers and steel pipes swept into the union office from all directions. Windows and doors to the office were all broken. The takeover was completed by 6:20 am.

     Another attack on a KGEU local office took place in Samcheok on the same day. At 11:45 am, riot police armed with axes, hammers, fire hoses and even a fire engine and ladder truck, began to be deployed around the union office. At 2:20 pm, the first barricade set up by union members was broken through, and 20 minutes later the union office was taken over. Two protesters were arrested, and the police even tried to arrest journalists. A KGEU member's wife suffered a concussion during the attack.

     There were some cases of successful resistance. On Sept. 29, the defenders of the KGEU Gangwon Hwacheon Chapter office held off an attack for eight hours, until the police were pulled back. An agreement was reached for an Oct. 2 meeting between the governor of Gangwon province and the union. But at dawn that day, 350 riot policemen were deployed and swept onto the union office.







Brazil: the battle is to win Lula's Re-election

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

On October 1, the first round of Brazil's election took place. President Lula, candidate of the left-centre "People's Force" coalition, which includes his Workers' Party, the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), and other forces, won 46.6 million first round votes, or 48.6% of the total, leading in most states of Brazil's east and north. The right-wing candidate, Geraldo Alckmin of the Social Democratic Party (PDSB), took 39.9 million votes, or 41.6%, and will be on the ballot for the second round on Oct. 29. Heloisa Helena, candidate of a leftist coalition opposed to Lula, placed third with 6.6 million votes, or 6.9%.

     Renato Rabelo, the national President of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), analyzed the results in the following interview (abridged).

Question: How do you analyze the partial results of the presidential elections, according to which President Lula has almost 50% of the votes, thus leading to a runoff?

Renato Rabelo: First of all, it is necessary to highlight President Lula's strength in face of such a violent attack. Since last year, the right-wing opposition and the media developed an intense campaign to wear out and knock down the government. President Lula not only resisted the offensive, but consolidated his vote in broad sectors of society. In the past two weeks, with the explosion of a new political crisis, the right wing and the media reinforced even more its coup-like discourse. There has never been such hatred by the conservative elites towards any other government in Brazil. The offensive, already brutal, became even worse.

     The conservative-liberal opposition showed that it does not tolerate democracy. It has made clear that it would not accept President Lula's victory, that it would do everything to take the decision to a runoff. Even worse: it announced that it would not tolerate President Lula's reelection, that it would try to prevent him of taking office. In case that coup did not work, it announced that it would bet everything on an impeachment in the second mandate.

     The media's role was one of the most disgusting in our history. Independent journalist Luis Nassif wrote, "there has been a real competition in the media to see who would knock President Lula down first."

     Despite that setup from the opposition and media, President Lula almost won an absolute majority. That should be highlighted at this point. That is our patrimony, our capital in the runoff battle. The neoliberal right wing avoided programmatic debates and comparisons between President Lula's government and that of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

     As for the corruption issue, it is necessary to explain that there has never been so much investigation of illicit acts as in Lula's administration. While Fernando Henrique Cardoso hid the privatization frauds, the purchase of votes for his reelection, the favouring of bankers, Lula's government claimed several bodies, such as the Federal Police, in order to make the greatest operation to fight corruption.

Question: And now how will the presidential election's runoff battle will be conducted?

Renato Rabelo: If the neoliberal right wing already acted that way to make the runoff possible, imagine what it will do in the next 30 days. They will use all legal and illegal mechanisms to prevent the victory of the progressive forces. The media will do everything to poison the population; the opposition will do everything to create a coup-like environment of terror.

     In such a scenario, it is necessary to politicize society. It is necessary to show even to the middle classes, that Geraldo Alckmin's victory would represent retaking privatizations, cuts in public investments in social areas, the end of the Latin-American integration process, a new approach to the FTAA, the criminalization of social movements.

     Second, it is necessary to broaden the alliances and gather all truly patriotic, democratic and left-wing forces. Whoever is really on the left will not remain passive in face of the risk of a neoliberal counterblow, the danger of the criminalization of social movements, the privatizations and the FTAA. Alckmin represents the most retrograde and authoritarian right wing, he represents ultraliberal sectors that are excited at the possibility of returning to the central government. At this decisive hour, divergences must be put aside in order to defeat the greater enemy.      Thirdly, and this is key, it is necessary to put all the militancy in the streets. It will be necessary to form a great coalition to explain what is in danger in the elections. The main battle is for the defeat of Alckmin, and to win President Lula's reelection. Now is the time to measure who is really aware and engaged, who thinks about Brazil's future. Nobody can weaken. The militant forces have a lot of work in the next days. It will be decisive in guaranteeing the victory of popular democratic forces.

Question: Lastly, how do you evaluate the PCdoB's performance in the elections?

Renato Rabelo: The PCdoB is an integral part of the project of President Lula's reelection, and dedicated all its energy to achieve that goal. In that sense, the party was not immune to the brutal offensive of the right. A first evaluation shows that despite those difficulties, the PCdoB obtained a positive result, unknown in recent history. Though it is still a defensive moment for the communist movement, as we face difficulties to gain visibility, the PCdoB keeps gathering forces.

     But for communist militants the battle is not over yet. The party spearheaded the campaign for President Lula's reelection. It knows that a defeat will have severe effects on the workers' struggle and on the existence of the party itself. If the neoliberal right wing returns to power, it will be even more aggressive. It will not spare the social movements, and it will launch a highly anti-democratic political reform.

     The communists do not run away from the struggle and historic responsibilities. They will have a decisive role to ensure victory in the runoff.







The super-rich get richer

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

"Profiteers on the Loose" Column

Forbes magazine's annual list of the 400 richest people in the United States, shows that all 400 are billionaires, from Bill Gates (worth $53 billion) down to the bottom, Los Angeles semiconductor magnate Sehat Sutardja ($1 billion).

     As many observers have noted, the list shows the speed with which wealth is now gained - and lost - by the richest people on the planet.

     Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson (No. 3, $20.5 billion) has made $1 million per hour over the past two years. Google Inc. founders Sergey Brin (No. 12, $14.1 billion) and Larry Page (No. 13, $14 billion) have each made $13 million per day over the past two years.

     Forbes has been publishing the - which relies on research and estimates and rounds net worth to the nearest $100 million - since 1982. The inaugural list contained only 13 billionaires. Even after the technology crash at the beginning of the century, a three-year war and a jumpy economy, the wealth accumulation among the richest Americans has risen to historic proportions.

     "It is a really big deal that it's all billionaires," said Forbes associate editor Matthew Miller, who edited the list and led the team that spent a year compiling it. "It shows economic growth and, as this magazine is a fan of capitalism, it shows progress."

     The list of D.C. billionaires is topped by Danaher Corp. founder Mitchell P. Rales (No. 107, $2.6 billion), followed by his brother, Steven M. Rales (No. 117, $2.5 billion), new Washington Nationals owner and real estate mogul Theodore N. Lerner (No. 242, $1.5 billion), and Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson (No. 374, $1 billion). McLean candy czar Forrest E. Mars Jr. is Virginia's top billionaire (No. 21, $10.5 billion), while Richard E. Marriott is Maryland's wealthiest man (No. 197, $1.8 billion).

     Wealth is accumulating so fast that numbers begin to lose their meaning. A stack of one billion $1 bills would reach a height of 80 miles.

     "I think it's very bad," said Dean Baker, a macroeconomist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. "If the U.S. had experienced really extraordinary growth, then maybe that would be the reason" for all the billionaires. Baker pointed out that U.S. economic growth in the past 25 years - the period that hatched this crop of billionaires - is actually slower than in the preceding quarter-century, which produced only 13 billionaires.

     "If these people pull away so much wealth," he said, "that means everyone else has less."

     The growth in the number of billionaires has been significantly aided by cuts in U.S. tax rates that allow the wealthy to keep more of their money, said Harvard University economics professor Larry Katz. Today's marginal tax rate for the richest Americans is 35 percent, down from more than 60 percent 25 years ago.

     We could do a lot more with the tax system and with policies ... to help out those who are less fortunate," Katz said. On the other hand, "not every dollar that goes to a rich person is taken away from someone else."

     One-third of the Forbes 400 is concentrated in two places: California, which has 89 billionaires, and New York City, with 44. The billionaire-free states are West Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, Maine, Delaware, Mississippi, Iowa, New Mexico, Kentucky and North Dakota. (South Dakota has one.) Even Wyoming, the least populous state, has a billionaire - Christy Walton (No. 7, $15.6 billion), one of eight Wal-Mart family members on the list, four of whom are in the top 10.

     (With background material from the Washington Post.)






 
What's Left

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

VICTORIA, BC

Housing for all - rally at Union of BC Municipalities 2006 convention, Monday, Oct. 23, 12 Noon, Victoria Conference Centre, 720 Douglas St. Contact Ad Hoc Committee to End Homelessness 250-920-9091.

VANCOUVER, BC


StopWar.ca meetings - to plan anti-war actions and Oct. 28 rally to demand troops out of Afghanistan, 5:30 pm, Oct. 25, Maritime Labour Centre, 111 Victoria Drive. See stopwar.ca for info.

"We Must Kill the Bandits," -
Documentary film by Kevin Pina on the occupation of Haiti, followed by discussion, Friday, Oct. 13, 7 pm, SFU Harbour Centre, Fletcher Room 515 W. Hastings St. Fundraiser for Haiti Info Project, $5 donation.

Day of Solidarity with Bolivia - Tue., Oct. 17, 8:30 pm, Room 1400, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings St., local premiere of Fusil, Metralla, El Pueblo No Se Calla, documentary on the 2003 social upheavals in Bolivia. For info, contact Bolivia Campaign BC, 604-715-4097.

Living Wage Coalition/Supersize My Pay - meeting 7:30 pm, Thurs., Oct. 19, Dogwood Centre, 706 Clark Dr., call 778-231-4636.

Culture and the Struggle for Human Rights - Necessary Voices forum, with speaker Michael Parenti, Thursday Oct. 26, 7:30 pm, Italian Cultural Centre, 3075 Slocan St. To register, call 604-877-7575.

One Breath, One Life - concert for human rights, with Larissa Maestro, Sat., Oct. 28, 7 pm, Capri Hall, 3925 Fraser St. Tickets $15 advance ($20 door), contact BC Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Left Film Night - 7 pm, Sunday, Oct. 29 at the Dogwood Centre, 706 Clark Drive, film TBA in next issue, call 604-255-2041 for details.

October Revolution Banquet - afternoon program followed by dinner, Sat., Nov. 4, at the Chilean Co-op, 3390 School Ave. For times and details, call BC Ctee. CPC 604-254-9838.

TORONTO, ON

Ontario Health Coalition Assembly - Ontario Health Coalition Assembly, Sat., Oct. 14, registration 9 am, 519 Community Centre, 518 Church St., Contact the OHC at 416-441-2502.

Shifting forces in Latin America - one-day conference, Sunday, Oct. 15, 10 am - 5:30 pm, Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St. Sponsored by Common Frontiers-Canada, Centre for Research on Latin America, Toronto & York Region Labour Council and others.

Anti-Poverty Rally - 10 am - 2 pm, Tue., Oct. 17, Queen's Park (North of College and University), rally to mark International Day to Eradicate Poverty! Contact: John Argue, OCSJ Coordinator, 416-441-3714, http://www.ocsj.ca/aap.php.

Social Justice: From Rhetoric to Action - Sat., Oct. 21, 10 am - 4 pm, York University (Keele Campus), rooms TBA. Speakers from Canadian Arab Federation, ZNET, Fair Vote Canada, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and others. Pre-registration required, $5 fee accepted at the door. Email students@socialjustice.org to register, or call the Centre for Social Justice, 416-927-0777.

Iraq, Afghanistan, and Canadian Hypocrisy in the Business of War - slide show with Richard Sanders of Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, Tue., Oct. 24, 7:30 pm, St. Andrew's United, 117 Bloor Street East.

Defending Medicare - panel forum, Friday, Dec. 1, 7 pm. St. Andrew's (King & Simcoe), with Maude Barlow, Naomi Klein, and Natalie Mehra. Info: Ontario Health Coalition, 416-441-2502.

WINNIPEG, MB

Why Are Our Troops in Afghanistan? - Town Hall discussions (all 7-9 pm): Oct. 17 at Vincent Massey High School, 975 Dowker: Oct. 18 at St. John's High, 401 Church; Oct. 19 at Louis Riel Library, 1168 Dakota; Oct. 20 at John Black United Church (Henderson at Roberta). Info: Peace Alliance Winnipeg 233-7116. 








Brazilian Communists achieve positive results
 
(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

Analysis of the Brazilian election campaign by the Political  Commission of the Communist Party of  Brazil

In the first round of elections for the Presidency, the House of Representatives, State Legislative Assembles and one-third of the Federal Senate, held on October 1, the outcome was positive. The presidential and ten state government elections will conclude with runoff votes on October 29.

This was the PCdoB's first campaign as a party supporting the federal government. The struggle to elect communist candidates was linked to the choice facing the country in the next four years: furthering the changes implemented by Lula, or drawing back to neoliberalism with the Social Democratic Party (PDSB) candidate Geraldo Alckmin. The struggle is being fought in an atmosphere of successive crises and an intense offensive  by the conservative opposition forces - PDSB and PFL (Party of the Liberal Front), aided by media monopolies - trying to retake power.

The Communist Party and its candidates spearheaded the struggle to reelect Lula in order to further the changes and fight the neoliberal forces. For the first time time since it became legal in 1985, the Party made efforts to elect representatives in the Senate, succeeding with Inacio Arruda in the State of Ceara, a significant victory. Moreover, it won a notable number of votes for Senate in the Federal District, in Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco. The communist candidates of the Senate obtained 6,364,019 ballots, 7.53% of the total votes in the country.

The Party elected 23 MPs in 12 states, obtaining more than 2% of votes for the Federal Parliament. The Party elected house of Representatives members in the following states: Rio Grande do Sul, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia (2), Pernambuco, Ceara, Piaui, Maranhio, Amazonas, Amapa and Acre. The result in Ceara stands out, with the election of one Senator, one federal representative and one state representative.

However, the Party suffered setbacks in other states, especially Sao Paulo, where, despite the reelection of Aldo Rebelo, it lost one position in the House of Representatives, as well as two representatives in the local Legislative Assembly. The PCdoB elected 12 State Legislative Assembly representatives, compared to 17 in 2002.

As a whole, the favourable result for communists in the first round gives leverage to the Party's effort to reelect Lula and the allied candidates in state administrations in the runoff.







Left candidate surges in Ecuador election race

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

PV Vancouver Bureau

Ecuador could become the next Latin American country to move towards stronger national sovereignty and a more radical economic policy. If trends in the latest polls continue, Rafael Correa, the Alliance Country candidate, may win Ecuador's Oct. 15 presidential campaign, to the dismay of U.S right-wingers who compare him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Associated Press reports that "On a recent afternoon Rafael Correa spoke to thousands of Indians in their native Quichua, reminding them that he lived among them two decades ago as a volunteer teacher and development worker, and brandishing a belt as he spoke out against the politicians who have long oppressed them Dale Correa! - Give them the belt! the crowd responded, a play on the candidate's name.

Correa has pledged to cut foreign debt payments and renegotiate contracts with foreign oil firms to benefit Ecuador's poor majority.

By early October, Correa had about 35-37% backing in various polls, and a lead of seven to sixteen points over his closest challenger, Leon Roldos, a centrist former vice president. Another eleven candidates are in the race. If no candidate wins more than half the vote - or at least 40 percent with a 10-percentage point advantage over the nearest challenger - a runoff will be held on Nov. 26.

Ecuador has had seven presidents in the last ten years, three of whom were forced from office. In this context, Correa is seen as something of an outsider. Until recently a professor at Quito's San Francisco University, Correa earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 2001.

He was a political unknown in April 2005, when he was forced to resigned after four months when he failed to consult the president before publicly lambasting the World Bank for denying Ecuador a $100 million loan. Describing himself as a man of "Christian leftist" ideals, Correa told foreign correspondents on Oct. 1 that "my political, economic and social thinking is nourished by the sacred writings and social doctrine of the church."

He opposes resuming talks on the U.S.-driven Free Trade Area of the Americas, and says he would not extend a treaty scheduled to expire in 2009 that lets the U.S. military use Manta air base for drug-surveillance flights.

Correa says he will cut ties to international lending institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has threatened a moratorium on foreign debt payments unless foreign bondholders agree to lower Ecuador's debt service by half. He pledges to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution to increase the executive branch's power.

According to a research note published by Merrill Lynch Bank, a first-round victory would be "the worst scenario for bonds, as it will not only put the least market-friendly candidate into office, but would also place the one with the strongest mandate. In fact, we believe that a showing above 40 percent in the first round would provide Correa with the perception he has a 'blank check" to call for a Constitutional Assembly, leading to fears of a potentially institutional 'revolution' a la Chavez."







10,000 workers fired for union activities
 
(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

More than 10,000 workers were fired around the world last year for union-related activities, according to the Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights Violations published by the International Confederation of Free Trade unions (ICFTU).

The survey also reveals that 1,700 were detained, more than 1,600 violently arrested, 9,000 arrested and 115 trade unionists were murdered for defending workers rights last year.

The most dangerous part of the world for trade unionists is Latin America. In Colombia, 70 union activists were murdered and 260 received death threats in 2005.

The report reveals disturbing trends for women, migrant workers, public sector workers and others, said ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder. "The death toll was slightly lower in 2005 than the previous year, but we are witnessing increasingly severe violence and hostility against working people who stand up for their rights," Ryder said.

The report is available on the ICFTU website at http://www.icftu.org/survey/







U.S. ruling may bar millions from unions

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted on Oct. 2 to crush longstanding Federal labour laws protecting workers' right to join a union. The NLRB ruled on three cases, collectively known as "Kentucky River", but it is their decision on Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. which could have a devastating impact on workers' right to join a union.

Under current U.S. federal labour laws, supervisors are prohibited from forming unions. The ruling could deny up to eight million workers the right to choose union representation, simply by manipulating titles and job descriptions.

Until now, the NLRB has always ruled that people who have the authority to hire, fire, discipline, evaluate, or promote employees are ineligible to join a union because they are supervisors. The Oct. 2 decision enables employers to make a supervisor out of any worker who has the authority to assign or direct another and uses independent judgment. The board also ruled that a worker can be classified as a supervisor if they spend as little as 10-15% of their time overseeing the work of others. Workers without any authority over working conditions, staffing levels, pay, or any other management power could lose their right to union representation.

The impact is likely to be particularly dramatic in the health care industry, in construction, and in other skilled occupations where it is common for higher skilled workers to play a role in directing the work of lower skilled employees. For example, registered nurses who tell nurses' aides to do certain things for particular patients and journeymen/building trades workers who work with apprentices and helpers on a crew could suddenly find themselves ineligible for union membership. Nurses, construction workers, newspaper and television employees, port workers and many others could be prohibited from forming unions. What's more, longtime union members could suddenly lose union representation when their contracts run out.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and AFT Healthcare issued a statement warning that the decisions will jeopardize health care: "If nurses and other skilled workers are considered supervisors and lose union protection, they would be extremely reluctant to speak out about patient care problems out of fear of being fired or disciplined."

The ramifications of this case are extremely serious. More than 60 cases currently pending at the NLRB could be directly impacted by this case, and countless others could follow.

(Source: AFL-CIO Blog - Jobs with Justice)







US bosses make 262 times more than workers

(The following article is from the October 16-31, 2006 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $25/year, or $12 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $25 US per year; other overseas readers - $25 US or $35 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 173 West Ave. North, Hamilton, ON, L8L 5C7.)

U.S. CEOs were paid on average 262 times more than average workers last year. A recent study released by the Economic Policy Institute estimated that top executives of major U.S. firms were paid an average of $10.98 million a year, including salary, bonuses, stock options and other compensation. That compared with average worker pay of $41,861.

The ratio of 262 to 1 was the second highest on record and the steepest since 2000, when the ratio was 300 to 1. "In 2005, a CEO earned more in one workday [there are 260 in a year] than an average worker earned in 52 weeks," the Washington-based institute said in its report.

The imbalance has been on a sharp increase in the past decades, despite modest annual changes.

"In 1965, U.S. CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than an average worker," said the report. "This ratio grew to 35 in 1978 and to 71 in 1989. The ratio surged in the 1990s and hit 200 at the end of the recovery in 2000. The fall in the stock market reduced CEO stock-related pay, causing CEO pay to moderate to 143 times that of an average worker in 2992."







 

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