Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chip Johnson attacks City of Oakland workers on behalf of the 1%

Oakland city workers downtown yesterday
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Chip Johnson writes a twice-weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle and in this morning’s paper makes the case for the 1% in the dispute between the City of Oakland and its workers, members of SEIU Local 1021.

“Oakland Can’t Afford Raise Workers Want” Johnson’s headline announces. And what’s worse, asking for the city to pay for health and pension costs is pure “folly”.  Johnson makes the case for the 1% under the cloak of defending ordinary folk, “It’s not fair to ask citizens, including some who’ve lost as much or more than city workers to foot the bill”  Johnson writes. Despite not having a raise in almost 6 years, the Union is being unrealistic if not downright greedy because the workers don’t really understand how the “..economic crisis has affected the taxpayers who have to foot the bill.”, Johnson writes.

Johnson goes on to thrash Oakland’s Mayor who set the police on the Occupy Oakland  as weak and city government as, “..the weakest kneed municipal government in the Bay Area.”

Johnson’s ideological offensive against city workers will get an echo as it is true many other workers are worse off than city workers and have nowhere near the same benefits and many people have suffered great depravation due to the capitalist crisis and the bailout of the bankers and other coupon clippers by the US taxpayer.

It will get more of an echo than it need to because the labor officialdom directing this dispute does not have a real counter to Johnson’s phony defense of the citizens of Oakland.  In a dispute like this, the Union leadership should make it absolutely clear that the citizens of Oakland should not be made to pay for city worker's raises and benefits.  No taxes of workers or the middle class should be the slogan---“Make the rich pay.” The citizens of Oakland cannot afford these wars, cannot afford the billions spent spying on us, cannot afford to pay for the yachts that the coupon clippers like to float around in. This is what Johnson should be saying.

Not only that, there should be more city jobs and increased hiring.  A shorter workweek with no loss in pay is one way of getting that ball rolling.  As for public sector pensions, it should be made clear in disputes like these that the Union demands all workers receive these pensions.  As for health insurance, it is an insane situation to have to pay a middleman, an insurance company, a fee so that you can receive medical attention.  A national health system extended to all is crucial to improve a failed and hugely expensive (about 18% of GDP) US health system dominated by corporations and the coupon clippers that run them. Most bankruptcy for workers and mom and pops are caused by medical bills.

When I ran for Oakland City Council in 1996 it was made clear to me that the decisions that affect the workers and residents of this city are made behind the scenes by investors and moneymen and they are based on such issues as Pacific Rim trade and global economics.

Oakland city workers, no more than any other city, cannot defeat what amounts to the 1% and global capitalism alone. And this war cannot be won without countering the propagandists of the 1% like Chip Johnson.

We know there is plenty of money in society and we make it clear that we reject the idea that one section of the working class must pay to keep food in the mouths of others or a roof over their head. There are coupon clippers that earn $5 billion a year on investments; there is trillions being spent on predatory wars abroad making the world safe for capitalism and to keep labor cheap and cowed.  The four WalMart heirs have more wealth than almost 50 million Americans. This is where the money is, in the pockets and banks of people who do no productive work but live off the work of others who do.

Lastly, when Johnson attacks Oakland City Workers for their pay and benefits he is attacking all of us because it’s part of the 1%’s strategy to bring us all down to the lowest level. 

Yesterday’s strike was really just a protest organized by the Union leadership to let off a little steam.  They recognize that their members are angry and looking to fight back but one day strikes are not sufficient.

SEIU’s rank and file have to counter their leadership’s limited approach and ensure that the public is won to their side by making it clear they are fighting for the public not just themselves and do not expect other workers to foot the bill. In this way the community can be drawn in to the struggle and our collective strength increased.  Most importantly we must reject the propaganda that there is no money in society. There's plenty of money; how its allocated is the issue.

No to austerity
Jobs for all
For a $20 an hour minimum wage
Health care for all
End all wars and occupations
Organize the unorganized.
No taxes on workers or the middle class
Make the rich pay.

1 comment:

John Reimann said...

This might be trivializing things, but Chip Johnson is a perfect example of those who attack workers. I know a young woman who worked at the Peet's Coffee shop that Chip used to frequent. He was so abusive and disrespectful of the workers there that at one point he actually reduced this young woman to tears. The result was that management there actually had to bar Chip Johnson from coming in there!

I mean, come on - you have to be pretty abusive to get barred from a coffee shop!

Chip lives his politics out on a daily basis.