Union-powered solidarity

The enormous Astrodome is home for thousands of Louisiana refugees, and many churches, civic centers, various shelters, even motels, hotels and apartment centers are providing safe havens also. Many generous folks are taking these people into their personal homes.

As we watched the horrible days unfolding, there were outcries from the victims and the public in general watching from the safety of their homes: What is happening? Why isn’t there help for these people? Where is the government help President Bush promised?

Our union is donating $5,000. Many of our members have donated their time and money to the Dome and other shelters.

The IBEW hall in Gulfport, Miss., has requested 300 electricians ASAP to bring extra tools, boots and work clothing for the members of that local who have lost everything. A business manager and an assistant are missing from two other locals in the region. All union halls in Houston are collecting donations from their members.

Not only Texas is opening the doors, but states everywhere. Families have been separated — babies and small children being sent in one direction, parents in another — in different states!

My own nephew and his family lost their home and all possessions. They lived in Slidell, La., located just north of New Orleans. They came to my sister’s home near Galveston bringing two neighbors, two relatives — all in all, nine people, eight dogs, and three cats came in a convoy. It took them 18 hours to go about 360 miles!

Pat Burnham

Houston TX

Pat Burnham is founder of WATT Women, a caucus of Houston IBEW women electricians.

Katrina, racism and art

I went to a book reading recently at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The author of “How to Rent-a-Negro,” Damali Ayo, was very funny, satirical and energetic in confronting racism and the personal indignities of it. Among other examples, she said, strangers are always coming up to her and touching her hair. She finally made up a T-shirt that says: Touch your own hair!

During the reading, she said most likely the president and first lady are desperate to “rent-a-Negro” because of the racist response to Katrina. Her comments on Hurricane Katrina were sharp in their focus on the criminal and deadly effects of the convergence of poverty and racism. “I know there are poor white people,” she said, but this country’s inability to even have an intelligent discussion about racism or reparations is why the poor Black citizens of New Orleans are being treated like, and being called, “animals,” “looters” and “refugees” (instead of citizens or evacuees).

Her book and her art have certainly opened up new possibilities for an intelligent dialogue and a re-examination of our perceptions of how far we have come as individuals and as a nation.

Rubén Alvear

Bronx NY

Katrina awakens whites?

Although Katrina came to our country in a somewhat undignified manner, she might still be a true Russian lady. Of course, that depends upon whether her rough visit affects the American people positively. She might awaken white people from racist attitudes, however subconscious. Even the mainstream media are paying more attention to our country’s economic injustice and how it exacerbates racism.

I have read that each enlisted person in the Soviet Union was required to salute each Soviet officer that she or he encountered and ask, “How do you serve?” In response, the officer was required to return the salute, and answer, “I serve the people!”

Not only does President Bush figuratively use only his middle finger to return our salute, he refuses to serve the people. Few can doubt that Bush would have provided aid much faster had those trapped by Katrina been sufficiently white or rich. He certainly moved fast enough after other hurricanes had injured predominantly white regions in Florida. His slow response to Katrina caused predominantly Black regions in the Gulf Coast to suffer extreme hardship, including too many needless deaths. Whether Bush is incompetent, ignorant, or both, we need to impeach him and his entire administration as soon as possible.

David W. Mallisk

Wappingers Falls NY

Katrina and Iraq

Al-Jazeera television openly put two and two together, linking the abysmal U.S. government response in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico to the presence of 40 percent of the National Guard in Iraq.

That angle graphically shows how imperialism, even by one’s own country, screws the working people.

The scale of this thing is massive, though I think the media are in fact underplaying its scope while doing round-the-clock coverage of minutiae of the thing.

I think the social and economic impact of Katrina will be enormous. It hits right at the reactionary Republican notion of “as little government as possible” and at the imperialist war. That’s a political angle that I think really needs to be emphasized.

Eric Mueller

Dallas TX

NWA fight is everyone’s fight

Thank you for your message of solidarity. Now is the time for all unions to close ranks. Many unions have come to AMFA’s [Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association] support, including the Longshoremen. The TWU has donated $260,000 to the fight.

Northwest is involved in flagrant union-busting. They have been secretly planning to bring in poorly trained “standard scab mechanics,” as you called them, for 18 months. Northwest executives told their board of directors that they expected to spend $107 million on the strike. According to independent news sources such as WCCO in Minneapolis, “It’s three times as much what it would take to cut a deal with the mechanics for two years.”

Northwest never intended to negotiate in good faith. The issues involved are not financial. We realize the economic conditions of the airline industry. AMFA offered to help Northwest Airlines financially. AMFA is protecting jobs. People do not realize that not only are we fighting for AMFA jobs, we are fighting for IAM [International Association of Machinists] jobs. In its last contract proposal, Northwest required AMFA mechanics to perform the work of IAM employees. We are striking over this. Yet I take issue with one point you made. You have repeated the often-used phrase that AMFA is a “raiding” union. How can this be? AMFA has no paid organizers. Please explain. All AMFA drives are conducted by grassroots organizing campaigns. AMFA is a true democracy. Any officer can be recalled by the membership. Perhaps you can correct this misrepresentation or tell me that I am wrong.

G.G. Hawkins

Via e-mail

G.G. Hawkins is a striking AMFA technician.