Another reason to vote

The court decision granting President Bush an injunction in the dispute pitting some ten thousand members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) against the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) marks an evil and nasty shift in the administration of U.S. labor law.

For the first time in its 55-year history, a Taft-Hartley injunction was granted in a situation where employers had conspired with the government to create a “threat to the national health,” thereby giving Bush justification for seeking an injunction under terms of the Taft-Hartley Act.

Never since the late 1800s, have any workers been faced with the government pressure that has been heaped upon the West Coast dockworkers, who are locked in a struggle that could very well determine the very existence of their union. The arm-twisting began last summer with telephone calls from Homeland Secretary head Tom Ridge and the Department of Labor, warning ILWU President James Spinosa that the administration would view any strike as a threat to national security and would act to stop it, even threatening the use of military personnel to replace strikers.

The injunction is a certain recipe for further action against the ILWU, providing the PMA with a pretext for demanding stiff penalties if dockworkers work at a safe and bearable pace. But even without further government intervention, an 80-day cooling-off period allows shippers and retailers to not only meet the holiday rush, but also build stockpiles for future confrontation. Given the haste with which the White House moved in seeking an injunction – and the obvious hand-in-glove relationship between the waterfront employers and the White House – the PMA has no reason to negotiate, but need only to sit and wait, secure in the knowledge that the Bush administration will do its dirty work.

The struggle on the West Coast waterfront affects every worker and every union. Defeat for the ILWU could affect unions as profoundly as President Ronald Reagan’s smashing of the air traffic controllers union in 1982.


A real Senate race in New Jersey

The decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court to permit Frank Lautenberg’s name on the November ballot as the Democratic Senate candidate, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s opting not to intervene, are a victory for democracy and voting rights. This dramatically improves the chances that labor, African American and Latino voters will defeat Republican Douglas Forrester, a right-wing extremist with close ties to the National Rifle Association and other ultra-right groups. That in turn improves the odds of blocking the Republican effort to take back control of the U.S. Senate Nov. 5.

The Democrats hold a one-seat majority in the Senate. But several Senate races are too close to call. Winning the Senate race in New Jersey by exploiting the ethical lapses of Robert Torricelli was one of the GOP’s fondest hopes, thus their futile attempt to keep Torricelli’s name on the ballot. Now those hopes are dashed.

Lautenberg, a former three-term U.S. Senator, has come out swinging, hammering Forrester for being “out of touch” with the people. Flanked by gun control advocates, Lautenberg blasted Forrester for his callous comment that gun control could not have saved the lives of six innocent people murdered by a sniper in Maryland.

Suddenly on the defensive, Forrester denounced Lautenberg for his 1991 vote against the Gulf War resolution. Lautenberg should proclaim that vote as a badge of courage.

Voters now can focus on real issues: growing poverty and unemployment, lack of health care and prescription drugs under Medicare, police racial profiling, the runaway corporate crime wave, and yes, the danger of war. Forrester is a millionaire executive of Benecard, a prescription management corporation that steered people to the highest cost prescription drugs, typically 25 percent above the fair market price. He reaped millions in this price-fixing swindle targeted against senior citizens and others in ill health. Now it is Forrester’s turn to answer some questions about “ethics.”