POSITIVE PEACE

In a discussion thread at the New Haven Independent, one of the anti-union posters is invoking Martin Luther King and calling for “a peaceful solution.”

Fortunately, there’s a peaceful solution the Yale – New Haven Hospital could agree to tomorrow: card-check neutrality. Let’s keep in mind it was MLK who warned us against seeking “a negative peace which is the absence of tension” rather than “a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” He also said: “You see, no labor is really menial unless you’re not getting adequate wages…if you’re getting a good wage, as I know that through some unions they’ve brought it up…that isn’t menial labor. What makes it menial is the income, the wages.”

He wrote the first quote in jail in Birmingham. He said the second one at a rally for SEIU 1199 – his “favorite union” – in 1968.

VICTORY AT YALE – NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL

Tonight finally came the announcement of agreements between Yale – New Haven Hospital, Community Organized for Responsible Development, SEIU 1199, and the City of New Haven on how to build a Cancer Center whose benefits can be shared by the whole city. It’s a validation of of what we’ve been saying all along: everyone with a stake in this project deserves at seat at the table. Yale – New Haven Hospital can and will grow in a way that grows the city of New Haven as well. Everyone who framed this as a choice between support for cancer patients and support for community benefits was wrong. The community benefits agreement and labor conduct agreements signed today represent victory for everyone who believes in local democracy and progressive partnership. They mark the end of business as usual in New Haven, and they offer a chance to fashion a national model of responsible development and community partnership. In an era in which business’ political and economic power and ability to threaten exit too often translates into unilateral control over the conditions of development, the community benefits agreement model offers a tremendous tool for securing democracy on the local level and safeguarding the health, environmental, housing, and labor concerns of the communities on whom these businesses depend.

PIN THE TAIL ON THE ELITE

There’s a lot that could be said about Matt Bai’s NYT Mag profile of Mark Warner, which unsurprisingly says as much about Bai as about Warner. Bai’s faith in the conservatism of the average American, and the culpability of the uber-rich liberals in wrecking the Democrats’ appeal, will be familiar to anyone who read his chiding critique of Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s book for considering structural obstacles to Democratic resurgence when the problem was obviously those liberal Hollywood celebrities and crazed bloggers stopping the party from offering Americans what they actually want. What struck me most on reading the article was the way that Bai’s choice of anecdotes reinforces his narrative – which may also be a reflection of Warner sharing anecdotes that reinforce a similar one.

Bai notes Warner’s plans to reform Medicare and his “embrace of free trade,” as things which will antagonize that infernal liberal elite, even though, as his readers may recall from the 2004 election, the party’s coterie of fund-raisers and policy wonks and strategists and spin-meisters are not known for their support for including labor standards in trade agreements. Warner’s belief that eroding entitlements in the solution to global competition seems more likely to put him on a collision course with the low-income voters who depend on our social insurance net and who’ve borne the burden of neoliberal trade policy. But there’s no gesture towards such a confrontation in Bai’s piece; instead we get an anecdote about his being hectored by elitist liberals at a Bay Area dinner party:

Warner thought his liberal guests would be interested in his policies to improve Virginia schools and raise the standard of living in rural areas; instead, it seemed to him, they thought that they understood poverty and race in an intellectual way that he, as a red-state governor, could not…as some of the guests walked Warner to his car, one woman vowed to educate him on abortion rights. That was all he could take. “This is why America hates Democrats,” a frustrated Warner blurted out before driving away. (Still piqued a month later, Warner, speaking to The Los Angeles Times, summarized the attitude of the assembled guests about their plans to save the country: “You little Virginia Democrat, how can you understand the great opportunities we have?”)

To read this story, and Bai’s article, you would think the only people to the left of Mark Warner are Bay Area elitists with cash left over from their brie purchases to distort the primary process. Of course, Matt Bai isn’t the only elite journalist committed to a vision in which his self-styled centrism is the will of the masses and those to his left are an insular elite. Michael Crowley, in a TNR piece on the tensions between Steny Hoyer’s more TNR-friendly war position and Nancy Pelosi’s, chose to describe Pelosi’s inner circle this way:

In addition to her top confidant, the combative Miller, others with Pelosi’s ear include Rosa DeLauro of New Haven; Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto; and Jan Schakowsky, a fiery crusader from Chicago’s upscale Lakefront area. All are critical of the war.

Now I’ve had the pleasure over the past four years of discovering all kinds of things for which New Haven should be nationally known. But it isn’t. Probably, as many TNR readers recognize Lakefront as New Haven. So Crowley could as helpfully written about “Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto, Jan Schakowsky of Lakefront, and Rosa DeLauro, whose New Haven, CT district represents a largely low-income constituency.” I’m curious why he decided instead to specify how “upscale” Lakefront is. But maybe that just makes me part of the reason people hate Democrats.

MIKE MORAND ON THE CANCER CENTER PROJECT

“There are a lot of values here, and they’re not necessarily contradictory.”

– Yale Associate VP Mike Morand, Dwight Hall Debate, Tuesday night

I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s why the accusation that some of us are soft on cancer for wanting to see the largest development in the city’s history done responsibly is such a baseless and irresponsible one.

After several months of widening tension between John Sweeney and union leaders calling for a more aggressive, broader-based organizing vision more like the one that’s been winning in from Los Angeles to New Haven, Andy Stern and Bruce Raynor yesterday explicitly ruled out another term with Sweeney at the helm of the AFL-CIO as an acceptable vehicle for change:

Asserting that sweeping change was needed to revive the labor movement, the union leader, Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, said Mr. Sweeney was not the person to bring about bold change. “We need to make far-reaching changes and have a leader committed to such changes, and that leader is not John Sweeney,” said Mr. Stern, whose union represents more than 1.7 million workers…Yesterday, Mr. Stern joined the leaders of four other major unions – the Teamsters, the laborers, the food and commercial workers, and the hotel, restaurant and apparel workers union, Unite Here – in endorsing a platform that calls for overhauling the A.F.L.-C.I.O. The platform proposes nearly tripling the amount that the 13-million-member federation spends on unionization efforts…

In an interview, Mr. Stern indicated that his union would stay in the A.F.L.-C.I.O. if labor leaders elected a challenger committed to broad changes to help unions grow…Saying he is the best candidate to push labor forward and unite it, Mr. Sweeney has said he has no intention of being pressured into retiring. “At a moment when workers are under severe attack, it’s time to work together as never before to build and strengthen our movement,” he said in a statement. “It’s certainly no time for ultimatums.” Mr. Stern said he would support John W. Wilhelm, president of Unite Here’s hospitality division, if he challenged Mr. Sweeney. But Mr. Wilhelm has voiced doubts about running because unions with only 35 percent of the federation’s membership support him. Several Wilhelm supporters said that if he declined to run, they would support Terence O’Sullivan, the laborers’ president.

With over 55 percent of the vote, the Yale student body has elected Steven Syverud, the most progressive Yale College Council candidate in my time at Yale, its new President. Steven has the broad vision for the YCC which many of us have found lacking during much of our time here. He understands that the Yale student body stands to benefit most when its elected leaders prioritize standing firm for our priorities over avoiding making Yale’s administration uncomfortable.

This year I had the great opportunity to work with Steven as he crafted a YCC resolution strongly echoing the UOC’s platform for financial aid reform and to see him ensure that it won unanimous support from the Council. Steven stood with the UOC throughout the financial aid fight to this point, and he shares our commitment to continuing to push for further comprehensive change. Steven also shares our commitment to bringing university leaders and GESO leaders to the negotiating table and to pursuing much-needed reforms to better support our teachers and our learning. And Steven has long supported increasing Yale’s monetary contribution to New Haven and achieving a more progressive partnership between our city and our university.

Last night, the Ward One Democratic Committee, a group of exceptionally committed and informed students, endorsed Rebecca Livengood’s candidacy for Alderwoman and her vision for progressive partnership and broadened citizenship. It’s unfortunate that so much of the news of this campaign over the past few weeks has been dominated by an organized campaign to discredit the integrity of the committee and its members; hopefully we can have a more issue-oriented campaign going forward. Whether or not her opponent, Dan Weeks, or others choose to run in the primary or general election, there’s a great deal of work ahead in registering and mobilizing students and engaging a broader and deeper conversation about how all of us in Ward One can better realize our values in our city. Rebecca’s experience organizing students to take part in the decisions which affect them, building coalitions which unite citizens from across campus and across the city around issues of common concern, and leveraging pressure on entrenched power to achieve progressive change make her uniquely qualified to take on the work ahead.

Last Martin Luther King Day, after a march to the New Haven Savings Bank to threaten a boycott, students, workers, and community members gathered in the Woolsey Rotunda to speak out about the meaning of the day and the path to making “Jobs and Freedom” a reality in New Haven and in this country. Here (because mine is the only one I have a copy of) is what I said:

Never in this country has the symbol of Dr. King been so popular and so ubiquitous; never in this country has the vision he struggled for faced such tremendous opposition. In this morning’s New York Times, a Reagan archivist argues that Reagan and King were soulmates – that though their politics differed, their values were the same. Such a claim goes beyond cynicism – it is nihilism. It demonstrates a choice to forget who Reagan was – that he kicked off his Presidential campaign in a city in which civil rights activists were murdered and he called for states’ rights and excoriated welfare queens as a threat to our society. But as troublingly, it demonstrates a choice to forget who King was. There was a time when the FBI called King the most dangerous Negro in America. It’s time King was dangerous again.

On Thursday the President of United States made a last minute visit to lay a wreath on King’s grave, and in so doing foisted on the American people the bill for a trip followed by a $2,000 a plate fundraiser. Hundreds of people turned out to protest, and the administration decided to salvage its photo op at Dr. King’s grave by obscuring the view of the social protest, the non-violent resistance, going on behind. And they did it with rows of buses. The searing image of Dr. King’s birthday, 2004, is that of Blacks, Whites, and Latinos mobilized in protest on the other side of buses. What did Dr. King’s last living birthday look like? According to Jesse Jackson, “Perhaps what he did on that day would be instructive to us…he pulled together the coalition – black, white, Jewish, Hispanic, Native American, labor – to work on the Poor People’s Campaign. The object was to demand a job or an income for all Americans. He was driven by a moral imperative to include all and leave no one behind.”

“It is crimminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income,” King preached in Memphis soon before his death, standing with striking sanitation workers. “One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job diseases are rampant.” Today in New Haven, service workers who make hospitals function and graduate student researchers who make medical research happen both find themselves unable to pay for health insurance for themselves and their families.

Dr. King declared that “Negroes will no longer spend our money where we cannot get substantial jobs.” Today this bind remains salient, as does its twin: even as too many are locked out of substantial work in the institutions their business and their taxes fund, too many are forced to work manufacturing products they cannot themselves afford to buy. Wal-Mart employees cannot afford discount Wal-Mart clothing. University employees here in New Haven cannot afford to send their children to college.

One year after the Voting Rights Act and two after the Civil Rights Act, King argued that these “legislative and judicial victories did very little to improve” the ghetto or “penetrate the lower depths of Negro deprivation.” Thirty-six years ago, on his last birthday, Dr. King declared “we have an underclass, that is a reality – an underclass that is not a working class…thousands and thousands of Negroes working on full-time jobs with part-time income…to work on two and three jobs to make ends meet.” The solution, he said the next month, was “a redistribution of economic power.”

“The problem of transforming the ghetto,” Dr. King wrote, “is a problem of power–confrontation of the forces of power demanding change and the forces of power dedicated to preserving the status quo. Now power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change. Walter Reuther defined power one day. He said, ‘Power is the ability of a labor union like the UAW to make the most powerful corporation in the world, General Motors, say, ‘Yes’ when it wants to say ‘No.’ That’s power.”

It’s not enough to glorify the symbol of the fallen King. We must rededicate ourselves to his vision of social, economic, and democratic change. It is not enough for our leaders to lay wreaths on the man’s grave. We must hold them accountable for a status quo which has deprived too many Americans of all races of the right to freedom from want, of the right to a voice in the decisions which determine their future. It is not enough for the President of this great University to recount that he cried on hearing Dr. King’s “I have a dream”
speech. Yale, as King confidante Rev. James Lawson declared here this summer, must commit itself to becoming fully human.

“A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will thingify them,” Dr. King warned, “make them things…And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. What I am saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you must be born again!'”

Tremendous turnout last night at the CORD (Community Organized for Responsible Development) convention. A real diverse group from across the city (although Yale administrators were noticably absent). And awesome energy. The co-chairs of each of the six issue committees, many of whom had no experience with community organizing as of this summer, each spoke powerfully to their issue and the larger struggle for a seat at the table with Yale – New Haven Hospital. The months of organizing – including 800 canvassing conversations – which went into building a platform as a community for a Community Benefits Agreement paid off powerfully last night, as it will continue to over the coming months. And the strength of that organizing was indicated as well by the presence of a majority of New Haven’s aldermen and state representatives, each of whom committed publically with hundreds of constituents bearing witness to stand with us in demanding that the Hospital’s growth take place with in a manner which grows opportunity and justice in the community as well. As Reverend Champagne preached last night, “We deserve jobs at that Hospital. And not only cleaning the floors, but sitting in offices as well.”

Frequent readers (thanks, Dad) know that I’m an advocate of broad-based progressive moments as the only effective instrument of progressive change. In particular, I’ve used this space to argue that in support of moves within the labor movement towards a broader conception of what it means to sdvocate for the interests of workers, be it native and immigrant workers standing together in the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides, partnership between healthcare workers and patients calling for universal coverage, or SEIU’s strong stance against the Federal Marriage Ammendment as an assault on the rights of its members. As was declared at the first union event I ever attended in New Haven, in response to President Levin’s intimations that Yale’s unions have a broader agenda, “You bet we have a broader agenda.” I’ve also criticized those movements locally and nationally when the broader agenda has proved not as broad as one would hope.

This is a debate that must take place in every progressive movement committed to winning over the next years. The environmentalist movement, as Randy Shaw argued compellingly in his Activist Handbook, is a prime example as well. Looks like former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach agrees:

For example, I’ve been trying to tell my friends at the Sierra Club that the most important battle for the Sierra Club and the next two years might be over public education. That is the battle line over collective activity, interdependence, the values we care about — much more so than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That’s a skirmish along the way that’s not strategic. It’s way off to the side.

Via Ralph Taylor at Nathan’s site, who also points back to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger’s “The Death of Environmentalism”:

The truth is that for the vast majority of Americans, the environment never makes it into their top ten list of things to worry about. Protecting the environment is indeed supported by a large majority — it’s just not supported very strongly. Once you understand this, it’s much easier to understand why it’s been so easy for anti-environmental interests to gut 30 years of environmental protections…Whereas neocons make proposals using their core values as a strategy for building a political majority, liberals, especially environmentalists, try to win on one issue at a time….The serial losses on Rio, Kyoto, CAFE, and McCain-Lieberman were not framed in ways that increase the environmental community’s power through each successive defeat. That’s because, when those proposals were crafted, environmentalists weren’t thinking about what we get out of each defeat. We were only thinking about what we get out of them if they succeed. It’s this mentality that must be overthrown if we are to craft proposals that generate the power we need to succeed at a legislative level.

…There is no better example of how environmental categories sabotage environmental politics than CAFE. When it was crafted in 1975, it was done so as a way to save the American auto industry, not to save the environment. That was the right framing then and has been the right framing ever since. Yet the environmental movement, in all of its literal-sclerosis, not only felt the need to brand CAFE as an “environmental” proposal, it failed to find a solution that also worked for industry and labor. By thinking only of their own narrowly defined interests, environmental groups don’t concern themselves with the needs of either unions or the industry. As a consequence, we miss major opportunities for alliance building. Consider the fact that the biggest threat to the American auto industry appears to have nothing to do with “the environment.” The high cost of health care for its retired employees is a big part of what hurts the competitiveness of American companies…Because Japan has national health care, its auto companies aren’t stuck with the bill for its retirees. And yet if you were to propose that environmental groups should have a strategy for lowering the costs of health care for the auto industry, perhaps in exchange for higher mileage standards, you’d likely be laughed out of the room, or scolded by your colleagues because, “Health care is not an environmental issue.”…Let’s go for the massive expansion of wind in the Midwest — make it part of the farm bill and not the energy bill. Let’s highlight the jobs and farmers behind it. But bring about this sea-change in the way the environmental movement thinks and operates isn’t going to be easy. For nearly every environmental leader we spoke to, the job creation benefits of things like retrofitting every home and building in America were, at best, afterthoughts.

We all have a lot of work to do.

More troubling moments from Levin’s open forum Wednesday night:

On the Board of Aldermen’s call for community benefits agreements: “Unconstitutional…we’ve been doing it already, and I don’t think it’s their place…”

On Yale’s underreporting of rape statistics: “If we were not in compliance with the law, I’m sure we are now.”

On financial aid: “We have not quite made the aggressive moves of Harvard and Princeton.” He went on the claim that because we’re competitive with those schools in admissions, there must not be too much of a problem.

He argued that lowering the family contribution for low-income students would lead parents to be less interested in their children’s education.

He attributed the lack of diversity amongst Yale’s faculty to minority students unwillingness to enter the academy because they won’t earn as much there

He refused the idea that there are any problems with the NLRB process for union recognition.