I Am Proud to Be a Chicagoan

Natural Resources Defense Council

I Am Proud to Be a Chicagoan  

By Henry Henderson      May 7, 2017

In this moment where the Trump administration seems adamant about abdicating their responsibilities to protect the nation and the world against the ravages of climate change, state and local action has become all the more essential.

And in this moment, I am proud to be a Chicagoan.

The city has been a clean energy leader for a long time. From its early development of a Climate Action Plan, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star Partner Award—the first given to a municipal government—for the incredible energy efficiency gains made through the Retrofit Chicago program. I am proud to say Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC has been a partner in Retrofit Chicago’s commercial building initiative for years, helping to transform massive buildings that make up the Loop’s glittering skyline into a carbon crunching tool to take on climate change. And Chicago was one of the first municipal governments to join the City Energy Project—which helped to develop a bevy of key energy efficiency policies to help ensure the Windy City continues to shrink its carbon footprint.

But a new website shows a different facet of Chicago’s leadership: ClimateChangeIsReal.org.

That site ensures that the climate data that the Trump Administration scrubbed from the EPA website remains available to the public and scientists around the world. As a seeming war on science moves forward in Washington, DC, Chicago ensures that decades of essential data can continue to inform the researchers seeking to understand and find solutions to climate change. Coming on the heels of Illinois’ groundbreaking and powerful Future Energy Jobs Act, this region brings a new level of meaning to the “think globally, act locally” mantra.

Henry Henderson is director of the Midwest program at Natural Resources Defense Council.

EcoWatch

EPA Fires Scientists

By Climate Nexus

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cleaned house on its scientific review board last week, dismissing at least five scientists on its 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors.

The scientists, including professors of natural resource sociology, told multiple outlets they were surprised to receive notices that they would not be asked to renew their tenure on the board, especially after being assured in January that they would retain their positions through the new administration.

A spokesperson for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the New York Times that the agency was considering filling the vacancies with representatives from industry the EPA regulates, in order to include members who “understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.”

Concerned current board members told the Times that the dismissals could be seen as a “test balloon” for further political moves against science.

Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University and one of those dismissed, said, the cuts “just came out of nowhere.”

“The role that science has played in the agency in the past, this step is a significant step in a different direction,” he said. “Anecdotally, based on what we know about the administrator, I think it will be science that will appear to be friendlier to industry, the fossil fuel industry, the chemical industry, and I think it will be science that marginalizes climate change science.”

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that the dismal of the scientists “is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda.”

What seems to be premature removals of members of this Board of Science Counselors when the board has come out in favor of the EPA strengthening its climate science, plus the severe cuts to research and development—you have to see all these things as interconnected.”

For a deeper dive: New York Times, Washington Post, Science, Greenwire, Politico Pro

EcoWatch

Elevated Cancer Rates Linked to Environmental Quality  

By Lorraine Chow

With the Trump administration slashing environmental regulations and House Republicans passing their controversial health care bill last week, this new study might put you on edge. Researchers have found a link between environmental quality and cancer incidence across the U.S.

“Our study is the first we are aware of to address the impact of cumulative environmental exposures on cancer incidence,” said Dr. Jyotsna Jagai of the University of Illinois, who led the research team.

For the study, the researchers cross-referenced the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program’s state cancer profiles with the Environmental Quality Index (EQI) and determined that the average cancer rate in roughly 2,700 counties was about 451 people in every 100,000 between 2006 and 2010.

But in counties with poor environmental quality, the researchers found a 10 percent higher incidence of cancer cases—or an average of 39 more cases per 100,000 people. The higher numbers were seen in both males and females, especially prostate and breast cancer.

The authors noted that prior studies on the environment’s effect on cancer usually focus on specific environmental factors, such as air, water, land quality, sociodemographic environment and built environment.

However, the current study examines how cancer development is dependent on the totality of exposures we face, including social stressors.

“This work helps support the idea that all of the exposures we experience affect our health, and underscores the potential for social and environmental improvements to positively impact health outcomes,” Dr. Jagai said.

“Therefore, we must consider the overall environment that one is exposed to in order to understand the potential risk for cancer development.”

The experts warned that recent legislative proposals could jeopardize research on the links between cancer and the environment. This includes measures attempting to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and efforts to nullify the federal collection of geospatial data, or the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017.

“H.R.861, which was introduced on February 3, 2017, to ‘terminate the Environmental Protection agency’—the source of the environmental data used in the study by Jagai [and colleagues]—will have severe repercussions on the scientific community’s ability to produce this type of valuable research,” Scarlett Lin Gomez, PhD, MPH, research scientist from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and colleagues wrote in a related editorial.

U.S. Steel Chemical Spill Exceeds Allowable Limit by 584 Times

By Lorraine Chow

A U.S. Steel plant in Portage, Indiana spilled nearly 300 pounds of a cancer-causing chemical into Burns Waterway last month, documents from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) revealed.

The release of hexavalent chromium was 584 times the daily maximum limit allowed under state law, the Times of Northwest Indiana reported, citing the documents. The plant is permitted to release only a maximum of 0.51 pounds daily.

The toxic industrial byproduct was made infamous by the environmental activist and 2000 movie of the same name, “Erin Brockovich. ”

The leak occurred between April 11 and April 12 and forced the closure of several Lake Michigan beaches and Indiana American Water’s intake in Ogden Dunes. Burns Waterway is a tributary that flows into Lake Michigan, a drinking water source for nearby Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

Following the spill, U.S. Steel has committed to sampling and monitoring lake water on a weekly basis to ensure it is safe through the swimming season, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson said. The discharge was reportedly caused by a pipe failure.

Sam Henderson, a staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, denounced the spill.

“If U.S. Steel had set up its system responsibly, it wouldn’t have been possible for a single mechanical failure to dump nearly 300 pounds of hexavalent chrome into Lake Michigan,” Henderson told the Times of Northwest Indiana.

“Spills like this show that U.S. Steel isn’t taking that responsibility seriously. Industry needs to step up.”

The chemical spill highlights concerns over the Trump’s administration’s proposed cuts to abolish the Integrated Risk Information System, the EPA office working on hexavalent chromium standards in drinking water. The cuts would also affect funding for scientific reviews of toxic chemicals and decrease the EPA’s enforcement of environmental laws.

Henderson noted that IDEM’s budget “has been slashed to the bone, and we see the consequences of that in accidents like these.” IDEM is Indiana’s agency charged with protecting the state’s environment and human health.

“Now we face the risk that EPA will be severely cut back as well,” Henderson said. “If those cuts go through, nobody will be minding the store. And if nobody’s minding the store, it’s inevitable that spills like this will become more common.”

Cindy Skrukrud, clean water program director for Sierra Club Illinois, added that U.S. Steel’s spill “illustrates the need we have for a robust EPA to prevent and respond to situations like this.”

“We cannot bear cuts to the EPA staff and to its programs that protect the Great Lakes from pollution and cleanup legacy contamination sites. We are all depending on the EPA as we seek answers to the remaining questions about the impacts of the spill on the aquatic life in Burns Waterway,” Skrukrud continued. “As potential penalties are considered, they should include funding for restoration projects in and near the impacted areal.”

U.S. Steel said last month it takes all incidents “very seriously” and are “fully committed to researching and taking corrective actions to prevent a future occurrence.”

The beaches and water intake reopened on April 17 after EPA water samples detected no levels of hexavalent chromium.

However, last month the National Park Service staff said they were concerned about the long-term potential impacts to beach users’ health, wildlife and other park resources.

“Lake currents and waves have the ability to move this hazardous material onto park beaches at a later date,” the park service said in a news release.

Officials said that periodic beach patrols will be looking for evidence of fish kills or other environmental damage.

 

Environmental Defense Fund

5 Life-Saving Environmental Rules Industry Just Ask Trump to Attack  

By Keith Gaby

The Trump administration has already cancelled or sought to undermine 23 rules that protect our health and environment—including limits on toxic waste coal companies dump in rivers and regulations promoting more fuel-efficient cars.

But the administration is hungry for more, so it’s asked companies, trade associations and lobbyists to suggest other rules they’d like the president to roll back.

Part of this wish-list process is being done in public and some, of course, is happening in private meetings. Rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has a whole “wish list” docket of its own, seem to be a particular target.

Here are five of the most brazen industry wishes submitted so far:

  1. Coal tar: Trade association wants to end health studies.

The Pavement Coatings and Technology Council—a trade association for the paving industry—doesn’t want research into the health dangers of the black top on which your children play foursquare.

It also doesn’t want the government to study the impact of coal tar on “freshwater sediment contamination, indoor air quality, ambient air quality and effects on aquatic species.”

  1. Leaky oil and gas drill sites: Trade groups don’t want to fix them.

Trade associations representing the oil and gas industry, including The Independent Petroleum Association of America, have filed comments attacking Clean Air Act standards requiring energy producers to take cost-effective steps to reduce methane and other air pollution.

  1. Roofing fumes: Companies want no restrictions.

The National Roofing Contractors Association, a trade group representing roofing companies, doesn’t want smog-forming chemicals restricted, saying such regulations “have been burdensome to our members.”

  1. Cancer-causing lubricants: Manufacturers say they should still be used.

No, not that kind of lubricant. The Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association complained that the newly established chemical safety law may require its members to find replacement products for materials known to cause cancer in humans.

  1. Toxic pesticide: Chemical manufacturer wants ban removed.

Don’t try to pronounce chlorpyrifos, just know this pesticide hurts kids’ health. That’s what the EPA had concluded last year, and proposed banning it after years of research showing that it causes developmental problems in children and that there are alternatives.

That is, until Pruitt came along, and under pressure from the manufacturer, ignored his own scientists and rejected the proposed ban, saying it needs more study.

Why This Wish List Should Be Taken Seriously

The Trump administration seems to view all health and environmental safeguards as potentially suspicious. That’s in spite of strong data showing that environmental rules actually help the economy—by preventing illness, missed school days, worker absence, productivity problems and early death.

President Trump, who encountered these safeguards as impediments to building hotels faster and cheaper, promised to rid the government of 75 percent of rules that get in industry’s way.

With an EPA administrator more eager to please his boss than to protect Americans’ health, it’s now our job to fight back and protect our kids.

Keith Gaby is senior communications director for climate, health and political affairs at Environmental Defense Fund

 

DeSmog Blog

690,000 Contiguous Acres in Alaska May Soon Be Open to Fracking  

By Steve Horn

Hydraulic fracturing’s horizontal drilling technique has enabled industry to tap otherwise difficult-to-access oil and gas in shale basins throughout the U.S. and increasingly throughout the world. And now fracking, as it’s known, could soon arrive at a new frontier: Alaska.

As Bloomberg reported in March, Paul Basinski, a pioneer of fracking in Texas’ prolific Eagle Ford Shale, has led the push to explore fracking’s potential there, in what’s been dubbed “Project Icewine.” His company, Burgundy Xploration, is working on fracking in Alaska’s North Slope territory alongside the Australia-based company 88 Energy (formerly Tangiers Petroleum).

“The land sits over three underground bands of shale, from 3,000 to 20,000 feet below ground, that are the source rocks for the huge conventional oilfields to the north,” wrote Bloomberg. “The companies’ first well, Icewine 1, confirmed the presence of petroleum in the shale and found a geology that should be conducive to fracking.”

Why the name “Project Icewine”? “Everything we do is about wine,” Basinski told Alaska Public Radio.  “That’s why it’s called Icewine. Because it’s cold up here, and I like German ice wine.”

Geographical Terrain

A report by DJ Carmichael, an Australian stockbroker firm, notes that the Project Icewine oilfield is located in close proximity to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which flows from northern to southern Alaska and is co-owned by BP, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Drone footage, taken in 2016 by a company owned by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign manager, Steve Wackowski, shows a fracking test well being drilled for Icewine 1.

According to an Austrian Securities Exchange filing, in April of this year, 88 Energy and Burgundy Xploration began pre-drilling procedures for Icewine 2, a second fracking test well. In the filing, which also noted receipt of a Permit to Drill from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 88 Energy said it expects to begin “stimulation and production testing” in June or July.

When all is said and done, the two companies may soon have a plot of land 690,000 contiguous acres in size, according to the Securities Exchange filing. A May 3 Securities Exchange filing noted that 88 Energy is still on schedule for Icewine 2.

Tax Subsidies

In a February 2016 research note, the Australian investment company Patersons Securities Limited noted that the 88 Energy-Burgundy Xploration joint venture is the beneficiary of a tax subsidy system put in place by the Alaska Legislature.

“In an effort to encourage exploration activity in order to ultimately promote an increase in oil production in Alaska and maintain the financial viability of the [Trans-Alaska Pipeline System], the State Legislature passed the More Alaska Production Act in April 2013,” reads the research note. “The Act effectively eliminated the progressive production tax on oil production and replaced it with a flat rate of 35 percent. In addition, companies like 88E operating above 68 degrees North latitude would qualify for a combined cash rebate on exploration of 85 percent for all qualified expenditure until 31 December 2015, reducing to 75 percent for the period ending 30 June 2016, and 35 percent thereafter.”

The More Alaska Production Act was so controversial that it came up for a referendum during the 2014 election cycle. This effort to overturn the law was defeated 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent after industry power players such as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP spent roughly $13 million on an advertising blitz to fend off the ballot initiative.

In its 2013 annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, ConocoPhillips said the legislation has helped the company’s corporate bottom line.

“Following the April 2013 enactment of revised oil tax legislation, MAPA [More Alaska Production Act], we have increased our exploration and development investments and activities on the North Slope by adding rigs and progressing new development opportunities,” wrote the company. “We will continue to work with co-owners to identify additional opportunities to increase our investments in Alaska.”

Oil and Money

Fracking is a capital-intensive procedure, made all the more so given northern Alaska’s isolated geographical location and its Arctic drilling terrain.

Perhaps in a nod to this, the GOP-dominated Alaska Legislature attempted to offer $430 million worth of tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry in the fiscal year 2017 budget. That was vetoed by Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an Independent, meaning the industry only got its statutory limit of $30 million in subsidies.

Patrick Galvin, chief commercial officer for Great Bear Petroleum, formerly served as petroleum land manager for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and commissioner for the Alaska Department of Revenue. When Walker vetoed the $430 million proposed subsidy, Galvin publicly criticized him.

“What seems to have developed in this particular moment is the governor having to kind of take hostages in order to get the legislature to act on what he wants them to act on with regard to a fiscal plan,” Galvin told Alaska Public Radio. “It has an impact down the chain for all of the business that company wanted to do and they were expecting to get these payments and now they’re basically stuck waiting to see when the state will ultimately pay its bill.”

Galvin’s company also drilled fracking test wells earlier in the decade but has yet to commercialize the technique. Great Bear previously estimated it could frack 200,000 barrels of crude per day by 2020 and 600,000 barrels per day by 2056, though it appears a long way from reaching those aspirations.

Another tax subsidy fight in Alaska is currently underway over the proposed Alaska House Bill 111, which passed 21-19  in the Democratic-controlled House and awaits a Republican-controlled Senate vote. The state bill—opposed by Conoco Phillips, BP, Great Bear Petroleum and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association—would essentially undo the tax subsidy in place under the More Alaska Production Act, while also forcing the oil and gas industry to pay more taxes to fill the state’s coffers.

In the end, tapping Alaska’s shale resources via fracking, not unlike the attempts to drill for its Arctic oil, may come down to a simple issue of money. Whether enough cash will flow to the 49th state to make fracking a commercial-scale endeavor remains to be seen.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

 

Chicago Mayor Recoups Climate Change Data Deleted from EPA Website

By Cassie Kelly   May 7, 2017

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his own ideas about the Trump administration taking down important climate data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

This weekend, Emanuel posted the scrubbed data on the City of Chicago’s official website to preserve the “decades of research [the agency] has done to advance the fight against climate change. ” Emanuel said he plans to develop the site further in the coming weeks.

“While this information may not be readily available on the agency’s webpage right now, here in Chicago we know climate change is real and we will continue to take action to fight it,” Mayor Emanuel said.

The new page highlights NOAA records on global warming, basic information on what climate change is, the impact that it will have on things like farming and human health, and what citizens can do to reduce their emissions. It even has a section linking to the president’s Climate Action Plan, which as of right now, doesn’t lead anywhere but a blank page that says “stay tuned.”

The Trump Administration has shown it is not making climate action a priority and is leaning toward withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

“The Trump administration can attempt to erase decades of work from scientists and federal employees on the reality of climate change, but burying your head in the sand doesn’t erase the problem,” Emanuel said.

Fracking’s Dark Secret

Dr. David Suzuki   May 7, 2017

We’ve long known extracting oil and gas comes with negative consequences, and rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, increases the problems and adds new ones—excessive water use and contamination, earthquakes, destruction of habitat and agricultural lands and methane emissions among them.

As fossil fuel reserves become depleted, thanks to our voracious and wasteful habits, extraction becomes more extreme and difficult. Oil sands mining, deep sea drilling and fracking are employed because easily accessible supplies are becoming increasingly scarce. The costs and consequences are even higher than with conventional sources and methods.

Fracking involves drilling deep into the Earth, and injecting a high-pressure stream of water, sand and chemicals to break apart shale and release gas or oil. In British Columbia, politicians tout liquefied natural gas as an economic panacea, a product we can export around the world to create jobs and prosperity at home. More than 80 percent of BC’s natural gas is fracked, and as fracking increases, the percentage rises.

Of the many problems with the industry, methane emissions from fracked and conventional operations are among the most serious. Methane is at least 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas over the short term. Researchers estimate it’s responsible for 25 percent of already observed climatic changes. One difference between methane and CO2: Methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time—around a decade, compared to many decades or centuries for CO2.

Methane’s relatively short lifespan means reducing the amount entering the atmosphere will have major and rapid results. Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to address climate change. The technology to do so already exists. It’s absurd that the industry is leaking the very resource it wants to sell.

Methane comes from a number of sources, including animal agriculture and natural emissions. Global warming itself means methane once trapped in frozen ground or ice is escaping into the air.

The oil and gas industry is one of the major emitters. A field study by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University found methane pollution from BC’s oil and gas industry is at least 2.5 times higher than BC government estimates.

In 2015 and 2016, foundation researchers joined St. Francis Xavier University’s Flux Lab under the supervision of David Risk, an expert in measurement, detection and repair of fugitive emissions. Using gas-detection instruments mounted on a “sniffer truck,” they traveled more than 8,000 kilometers in northeastern BC. They found methane emissions from BC’s Montney region alone are greater than what the provincial government has estimated for the entire industry! (Montney represents about 55 percent of BC’s oil and gas production). David Suzuki Foundation senior scientist John Werring followed up on and corroborated that research by measuring point-source methane emissions from more than 170 oil and gas sites.

The research, available in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, found Montney operations leak and intentionally release more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually—equivalent to burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal or putting more than two million cars on the road. Half of all well and processing sites in the region are releasing methane.

This research shows that the oil and gas sector is the largest source of climate pollution in BC, surpassing commercial transportation—and it contradicts claims that natural gas or LNG is a clean fuel or that it’s useful to help us transition from other fossil fuels.

Given these results and other studies—including one in Alberta that found the amount of methane leaking from Alberta operations in one year could heat 200,000 homes—it’s time for all levels of government to get industrial methane emissions under control.

Beyond existing commitments to reduce methane emissions by 45 percent, governments must work to eliminate them from this sector by 2030, with strong regulations, monitoring and oversight. We need better leak detection and repair, improved reporting and enforcement and methods to capture emissions rather than burning them.

Climate change is a serious issue, and methane emissions are a significant contributor. Getting them under control is a quick, cost-effective way to help address the problem. What’s stopping us?

 

Wind Industry Just Chalked Up Strongest First Quarter in 8 years

American Wind Energy Association    May 7, 2017

America’s wind power workforce installed 908 utility-scale turbines in the first quarter of 2017, totaling 2,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity. This is the wind industry’s strongest start in eight years, according to a new report released Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

“We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, in releasing the U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2017 Market Report. “Each new modern wind turbine supports 44 years of full-time employment over its lifespan, so the turbines we installed in just these three months represent nearly 40,000 job years for American workers.”

The early burst of activity reflects how 500 factories in America’s wind power supply chain and more than 100,000 wind workers are putting stable, multi-year federal policy to work. The industry is now in year three of a five-year phase-down of the Production Tax Credit, and Navigant Consulting recently forecast a strong 2017 for wind power, similar to 2015 and 2016.

New wind turbine installations in the first quarter spanned the U.S. from Rhode Island and North Carolina to Oregon and Hawaii. Great Plains states Texas (724 MW) and Kansas (481 MW) led the pack.

Texas continues as the overall national leader for wind power capacity, with 21,000 MW installed, enough to power more than five million average homes. North Carolina became the 41st state to harness wind power, bringing online the first wind farm to be built in the Southeast in 12 years.

Horace Pritchard, one of nearly 60 landowners associated with the North Carolina project, explained what it means to him and his neighbors: “Farms have been growing corn, soybeans and wheat for a long time here, and the wind farm revenue means a lot of families are protected from pricing swings, floods or droughts going forward. We’re just adding another locally-grown crop to our fields, with very little ground taken out of production, and the improved roads really help with access. So it’s a great fit here.”

Expanding wind farms continue to benefit rural America, since more than 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural communities. According to AWEA’s recently released 2016 Annual Report, wind now pays more than $245 million per year in land-lease payments to local landowners, many of them farmers and ranchers.

Along with rural benefits, American wind manufacturing facilities remain busy in the first quarter as projects continue to be built. With 4,466 MW in new construction and advanced development announcements recorded in the first quarter, the near-term pipeline has reached 20,977 MW of wind capacity. That’s about as much as the entire Texas wind fleet’s existing capacity.

Demand remained strong in the first quarter. There were 1,781 MW signed in long-term contracts for wind energy, the most in a first quarter since 2013. Utilities and Fortune 500 brands frequently use these long-term contracts, called Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), to purchase wind energy. Home Depot and Intuit, maker of TurboTax, both signed up for wind power this quarter, joining a host of Fortune 500 companies like GM, Walmart, and Microsoft that are buying wind energy for its low, stable cost.

In addition to leading brands, low-cost wind power reliably supplies a growing number of cities, universities, and other organizations—including the Department of Defense. This quarter, a Texas wind farm came online to supply a PPA with the U.S. Army. Powering a military facility demonstrates that wind power is ready to reliably serve our most vital electricity needs, boosting American energy security in more ways than one.

Indiana Governor Deals Death Blow to State’s Solar Industry

EcoWatch

Indiana Governor Deals Death Blow to State’s Solar Industry

By Jeremy Deaton and Laura A. Shepard  May 3, 2017

In Indiana, solar employs nearly three times as many people as natural gas, according to the Department of Energy. You might think, given the numbers, that legislators would want to protect the state’s nascent solar industry.

You would be wrong.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed a bill Tuesday that shreds incentives for rooftop solar, delivering a blow to solar installers and their customers.

Currently, if rooftop solar owners generate more electricity than they use, the power utility will buy the excess power at the retail rate—around 11¢ per kilowatt-hour. This practice is known as net metering. Under the new law, the utility would buy the excess power at a little more than the wholesale rate—around 4¢ per kwh.

The bill is an improvement on a previous version that would have required rooftop solar owners to sell all of the power they produce at the wholesale rate and buy it back at the retail rate—effectively treating homeowners both as power plants and consumers. But, the new version restricts solar in other important ways:

  • It ends net metering for new customers after 2022.
  • It ends net metering for existing customers who replace or expand their solar system after 2017.
  • It empowers utilities, with the approval of the regulatory commission, to charge rooftop solar owners an additional fee for “energy delivery costs.”

Additionally, the bill may be interpreted to end net metering for homeowners who lease their panels or subscribe to a shared solar array—what’s known as community solar.

“It’s somewhat ambiguous in the current legislative text, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the intent of the language,” said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute. “This bill is obviously an attempt to derail the rapid growth of rooftop and community solar in Indiana.”

Students at Purdue University installed solar panels on this Lafayette home. Purdue University

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the public vehemently opposed the bill. “Ask Republicans, ‘What kind of feedback are you getting from your constituents?’ They’ll tell us that they have gotten dozens and dozens of calls opposing the bill, but zero supporting the bill.”

Still, Indiana legislators have been trying to stifle the growth of solar for years. A 2015 bill would have radically scaled back net metering, but advocates defeated the legislation. This time, they weren’t so lucky.

“A lot of representatives that I know didn’t listen to the people and that’s a bummer,” said Paul Steury, a solar installer at Indiana firm Photon Electric. Steury said the law strips away incentives for rooftop solar, which could put a dent in sales. “I feel solar is the future, and we need to think more about the future.”

Clean energy has also become a significant source of jobs in Indiana. While coal is the biggest source of electricity in the state, renewables employ far more people. Coal power generation employs roughly as many people as solar. The wind industry employs more workers than either power source, in large part through manufacturing and construction.

Employment numbers for power generation in Indiana. Department of Energy

But utilities see a threat from rooftop solar, which lets customers buy less power from the grid. Utilities contend that net metering is unfair to ratepayers who don’t own solar panels. Rooftop solar owners get to sell their surplus power to the grid without paying for transmission lines or other infrastructure needed to deliver that power to homes and businesses in the community.

But proponents of rooftop solar say it’s a net win for the grid. Owners absorb the infrastructure cost of generation, through the panels and installation, and they deliver their surplus power to customers nearby, minimizing the volume of electricity lost in transmission.

Perhaps the biggest benefit for the grid is that solar output peaks in the middle of the day, when demand for electricity is at its highest. When demand spikes, grid operators turn to small, gas-fired power plants that sell the most expensive electricity. Rooftop solar offers a cheaper, cleaner alternative.

Indiana solar jobs by county. SEIA

Among customers, net metering is exceptionally popular. “We definitely pay a lot less,” said Indiana rooftop solar owner Lanette Erby. “I would say that our bills are coming in at about 60 to 80 percent less than what they were, and that was over the winter obviously, when we’re using a lot more electricity to heat and do things like that.”

“We’re currently on an inverter with the electric company, but obviously if the net metering bill were to go through, we would be purchasing battery back ups. That’s where we’re at,” said Erby. “The same kind of legislation killed the solar industry in a couple of other states … which is terrible because it’s creating so many jobs.”

In 2015, Nevada changed its rate structure so that utilities would pay rooftop solar owners at the wholesale rate—as opposed to the retail rate—for their surplus power. That same year, Arizona levied a $50 monthly charge on rooftop solar customers, purportedly to cover transmission costs. In November, Florida voters narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment that would have severely restricted rooftop solar. Advocates say policies like these pose a distinct threat to solar jobs.

In his 2017 state of the state address, Gov. Holcomb committed to creating jobs and supporting small businesses, which he called “the heart and soul” of Indiana’s economy. He said of the new measure, “this legislation ensures those who currently have interests in small solar operations will not be affected for decades.” But advocates see the law as a clear threat to solar installers, many of which, like Photon Electric, are small businesses.

Erby said the measure marks a departure from a “truly free market.” She added, “We are actually considering moving out of state. My parents want some help back in Pennsylvania and the laws are a little more lax there.”

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

May Day 2017….International Workers Day

May 1, 2017       John Hanno

    May Day 2017….International Workers Day

Many parts of the world recognize May Day, as International Workers Day. For us in Chicago, May Day represents the very beginning of immigrant workers solidarity and the fight for better working conditions. On May Day 1886, more than 200,000 U.S. workers engaged in a nationwide strike for an eight-hour work day. The Chicago protests took place over several days. On May 3rd, a strike at the McCormick Reaper plant turned violent. On May 4th, a proposed non-violent meeting turned into what was to become known as the Haymarket Riot and Massacre. This peaceful rally was in support of workers throughout the nation, striking for an eight-hour work day and for several workers who had been killed the day before. When the police attempted to break up the meeting, someone threw a bomb. The blast from the bomb and the following gunfire set off the rioting and caused the deaths of seven police officers, four civilians and scores of people were injured.

Eight anarchists were subsequently convicted of conspiracy. Seven were sentenced to death and one received a 15 year prison term. 4 of those were hung, 2 had their sentences commuted to life by the Illinois Governor and one committed suicide.

The site of the Haymarket Square riot on North Desplaines Street, was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992 and the defendant’s burial site in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Workers congregate at the square every year to pay tribute to our brothers and sisters who fought and died for the workers rights, just working conditions and living wages some of us still enjoy today. But organized labor participation is at it’s lowest point in more than 4 decades. Workers and their living wage jobs, in red states throughout the nation, are again under siege by Republi-con controlled legislatures and governors and plutocrats like Trump, the Koch brothers and other billionaires bent on stepping up the anti-labor campaign President Regan and the Republi-con’s launched against America’s middle class in the 1970’s. Their single minded obsession with attacking union rights like collective bargaining and passing “right to work” for less laws will not “Make America Great Again.” It will take America back to the middle of the 1800’s.

Trump often criticized President Obama for sluggish GDP growth. Trump has repeatedly lied to his voters, claiming that under his leadership, the economy would see 3, 4 or even 5% GDP growth. But the U.S. economy grew at just a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year, which is the Trump administration’s first quarter. The experts blame anemic auto sales for the slowdown. Who does Trump and the billionaires think can afford these products and services if they continue to attack what’s left of the middle class?

Most American workers, especially union and organized labor, government workers, teachers, immigrant farm workers and minimum wage workers, in their sights and under attack, will not feel like dancing around the May Pole today.  John Hanno

 

Haymarket affair, From Wikipedia,

“Haymarket Affair”  May 4, 1886, Chicago, Illinois

Strikes, protests and demonstrations for an eight-hour work day.

Principle parties: Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. The Chicago Police Department.

Lead figures: August Spies, Albert R. Parsons, Samuel Fielden,

Carter Harrison Sr. and John Bonfield.

Casualties and arrests:

4 dead, 70 plus injured and 100 plus arrested for the demonstrators.

7 deaths and 60 injured police.

The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour day and in reaction to the killing of several workers the previous day by the police. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; scores of others were wounded.

In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy. The evidence was that one of the defendants may have built the bomb, but none of those on trial had thrown it. Seven were sentenced to death and one to a term of 15 years in prison. The death sentences of two of the defendants were commuted by Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby to terms of life in prison, and another committed suicide in jail rather than face the gallows. The other four were hanged on November 11, 1887. In 1893, Illinois’ new governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

The Haymarket affair is generally considered significant as the origin of international May Day observances for workers. The site of the incident was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1992, and a public sculpture was dedicated there in 2004. In addition, the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument at the defendants’ burial site in nearby Forest Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

“No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today. Although the rally is included in American history textbooks, very few present the event accurately or point out its significance,” according to labor studies professor William J. Adelman.

Background

Following the Civil War, particularly following the Depression of 1873-79, there was a rapid expansion of industrial production in the United States. Chicago was a major industrial center and tens of thousands of German and Bohemian immigrants were employed at about $1.50 a day. American workers worked on average slightly over 60 hours, during a six-day work week. The city became a center for many attempts to organize labor’s demands for better working conditions. Employers responded with anti-union measures, such as firing and blacklisting union members, locking out workers, recruiting strikebreakers; employing spies, thugs, and private security forces and exacerbating ethnic tensions in order to divide the workers. Mainstream newspapers supported business interests, and were opposed by the labor and immigrant press. During the economic slowdown between 1882 and 1886, socialist and anarchist organizations were active. Membership of the Knights of Labor, which rejected socialism and radicalism, but supported the 8-hour work day, grew from 70,000 in 1884 to over 700,000 by 1886. In Chicago, the anarchist movement of several thousand, mostly immigrant, workers centered about the German-language newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung (“Workers’ Times”), edited by August Spies. Other anarchists operated a militant revolutionary force with an armed section that was equipped with guns and explosives. Its revolutionary strategy centered around the belief that successful operations against the police and the seizure of major industrial centers would result in massive public support by workers, start a revolution, destroy capitalism, and establish a socialist economy.

May Day parade and strikes

In October 1884, a convention held by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions unanimously set May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard. As the chosen date approached, U.S. labor unions prepared for a general strike in support of the eight-hour day.

On Saturday, May 1, thousands of workers went on strike and rallies were held throughout the United States, with the cry, “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” Estimates of the number of striking workers across the U.S. range from 300,000 to half a million. In New York City the number of demonstrators was estimated at 10,000 and in Detroit at 11,000. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, some 10,000 workers turned out. In Chicago, the movement’s center, an estimated 30,000-to-40,000 workers had gone on strike and there were perhaps twice as many people out on the streets participating in various demonstrations and marches, as, for example, a march by 10,000 men employed in the Chicago lumber yards. Though participants in these events added up to 80,000, it is disputed whether there was a march of that number down Michigan Avenue led by anarchist Albert Parsons, founder of the International Working People’s Association [IWPA], his wife Lucy and their children.

The first flier calling for a rally in the Haymarket on May 4. (left) and the revised flier for the rally. (right)

The words “Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!” were removed from the revised flier.

On May 3, striking workers in Chicago met near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant. Union molders at the plant had been locked out since early February and the predominantly Irish-American workers at McCormick had come under attack from Pinkerton guards during an earlier strike action in 1885. This event, along with the eight-hour militancy of McCormick workers, had gained the strikers some respect and notoriety around the city. By the time of the 1886 general strike, strikebreakers entering the McCormick plant were under protection from a garrison of 400 police officers. Although half of the replacement workers defected to the general strike on May 1, McCormick workers continued to harass strikebreakers as they crossed the picket lines.

Speaking to a rally outside the plant on May 3, August Spies advised the striking workers to “hold together, to stand by their union, or they would not succeed.” Well-planned and coordinated, the general strike to this point had remained largely nonviolent. When the end-of-the-workday bell sounded, however, a group of workers surged to the gates to confront the strikebreakers. Despite calls for calm by Spies, the police fired on the crowd. Two McCormick workers were killed (although some newspaper accounts said there were six fatalities). Spies would later testify, “I was very indignant. I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.”

Outraged by this act of police violence, local anarchists quickly printed and distributed fliers calling for a rally the following day at Haymarket Square (also called the Haymarket), which was then a bustling commercial center near the corner of Randolph Street and Desplaines Street. Printed in German and English, the fliers claimed that the police had murdered the strikers on behalf of business interests and urged workers to seek justice. The first batch of fliers contain the words Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force! When Spies saw the line, he said he would not speak at the rally unless the words were removed from the flier. All but a few hundred of the fliers were destroyed, and new fliers were printed without the offending words. More than 20,000 copies of the revised flier were distributed.

Rally at Haymarket Square

The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies, Albert Parsons, and Samuel Fielden spoke to a crowd estimated variously between 600 and 3,000 while standing in an open wagon adjacent to the square on Des Plaines Street. A large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby.

Paul Avrich, a historian specializing in the study of anarchism, quotes Spies as saying:

There seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called ‘law and order.’ However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.

Following Spies’ speech, the crowd was addressed by Parsons, the Alabama-born editor of the radical English-language weekly The Alarm. The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Parsons spoke for almost an hour before standing down in favor of the last speaker of the evening, the British socialist Samuel Fielden, who delivered a brief ten-minute address. Many of the crowd had already left as the weather was deteriorating.

A New York Times article, with the dateline May 4, and headlined “Rioting and Bloodshed in the Streets of Chicago … Twelve Policemen Dead or Dying”, reported that Fielden spoke for 20 minutes, alleging that his words grew “wilder and more violent as he proceeded”. Another New York Times article, headlined “Anarchy’s Red Hand” and dated May 6, opens with: “The villainous teachings of the Anarchists bore bloody fruit in Chicago tonight and before daylight at least a dozen stalwart men will have laid down their lives as a tribute to the doctrine of Herr Johann Most.” It referred to the strikers as a “mob” and used quotation marks around the term “workingmen.”

Bombing and gunfire

At about 10:30 pm, just as Fielden was finishing his speech, police arrived en masse, marching in formation towards the speakers’ wagon, and ordered the rally to disperse. Fielden insisted that the meeting was peaceful. Police Inspector John Bonfield, proclaimed:

I command you [addressing the speaker] in the name of the law to desist and you [addressing the crowd] to disperse.

A home-made bomb with a brittle metal casing filled with dynamite and ignited by a fuse was thrown into the path of the advancing police. Its fuse briefly sputtered, then the bomb exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan with flying metal fragments and mortally wounding six other officers.

Witnesses maintained that immediately after the bomb blast there was an exchange of gunshots between police and demonstrators. Accounts vary widely as to who fired first and whether any of the crowd fired at the police. Historian Paul Avrich maintains that the police fired on the fleeing demonstrators, reloaded and then fired again, killing four and wounding as many as 70 people. What is not disputed is that in less than five minutes the square was empty except for the casualties. According to the May 4 New York Times demonstrators began firing at the police, who then returned fire. In his report on the incident, Inspector Bonfield wrote that he “gave the order to cease firing, fearing that some of our men, in the darkness might fire into each other”. An anonymous police official told the Chicago Tribune, “A very large number of the police were wounded by each other’s revolvers. … It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other.”

In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. Another policeman died two years after the incident from complications related to injuries received on that day. About 60 policemen were wounded in the incident. They were carried, along with some other wounded people, into a nearby police station. Police captain Michael Schaack later wrote that the number of wounded workers was “largely in excess of that on the side of the police”. The Chicago Herald described a scene of “wild carnage” and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilians lay in the streets. It is unclear how many civilians were wounded since many were afraid to seek medical attention, fearing arrest. They found aid where they could.

Aftermath and red scare

A harsh anti-union clampdown followed the Haymarket incident. There was a massive outpouring of community and business support for the police and many thousands of dollars were donated to funds for their medical care and to assist their efforts. The entire labor and immigrant community, particularly Germans and Bohemians, came under suspicion. Police raids were carried out on homes and offices of suspected anarchists. Scores of suspects, many only remotely related to the Haymarket affair, were arrested. Casting legal requirements such as search warrants aside, Chicago police squads subjected the labor activists of Chicago to an eight-week shakedown, ransacking their meeting halls and places of business. The emphasis was on the speakers at the Haymarket rally and the newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung. A small group of anarchists were discovered to have been engaged in making bombs on the same day as the incident, including round ones like the one used in Haymarket Square.

Newspaper reports declared that anarchist agitators were to blame for the “riot”, a view adopted by an alarmed public. As time passed, press reports and illustrations of the incident became more elaborate. Coverage was national, then international. Among property owners, the press, and other elements of society, a consensus developed that suppression of anarchist agitation was necessary. While for their part, union organizations such as The Knights of Labor and craft unions were quick to disassociate themselves from the anarchist movement and to repudiate violent tactics as self-defeating. Many workers, on the other hand, believed that men of the Pinkerton agency were responsible because of the agency’s tactic of secretly infiltrating labor groups and its sometimes violent methods of strike breaking.

Legal proceedings

Investigation

The police assumed that an anarchist had thrown the bomb as part of a planned conspiracy; their problem was how to prove it. On the morning of May 5, they raided the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, arresting its editor August Spies, and his brother (who was not charged). Also arrested were editorial assistant Michael Schwab and Adolph Fischer, a typesetter. A search of the premises resulted in the discovery of the “Revenge Poster” and other evidence considered incriminating by the prosecution.

On May 7 police searched the premises of Louis Lingg where they found a number of bombs and bomb-making materials. Lingg’s landlord William Seliger was also arrested but cooperated with police and identified Lingg as a bomb maker and was not charged. An associate of Spies, Balthazar Rau, suspected as the bomber, was traced to Omaha and brought back to Chicago. After interrogation, Rau offered to cooperate with police. He alleged that the defendants had experimented with dynamite bombs and accused them of having published what he said was a code word, “Ruhe” (“peace”), in the Arbeiter-Zeitung as a call to arms at Haymarket Square.

Defendants

Rudolf Schnaubelt, the police’s lead suspect as the bomb thrower, was arrested twice early on and released. By May 14, when it became apparent he had played a significant role in the event, he had fled the country. William Seliger, who had turned state’s evidence and testified for the prosecution, was not charged. On June 4, 1886, seven other suspects, however, were indicted by the grand jury and stood trial for being accessories to the murder of Degan. Of these, only two had been present when the bomb exploded. Newspaper editor August Spies and Samuel Fielden had spoken at the peaceful rally and were stepping down from the speaker’s wagon in compliance with police orders to disperse just before the bomb went off. Two others had been present at the beginning of the rally but had left and were at Zepf’s Hall, an anarchist rendezvous, at the time of the explosion. They were: Arbeiter-Zeitung typesetter Adolph Fischer and the well-known activist Albert Parsons, who had spoken for an hour at the Haymarket rally before going to Zepf’s. Parsons, who believed that the evidence against them all was weak, subsequently voluntarily turned himself in, in solidarity with the accused. A third man, Spies’s assistant editor Michael Schwab (who was the brother-in-law of Schnaubelt) was arrested since he was speaking at another rally at the time of the bombing (he was also later pardoned). Not directly tied to the Haymarket rally, but arrested because they were notorious for their militant radicalism were George Engel (who was at home playing cards on that day), and Lousi Lingg, the hot-headed bomb maker denounced by his associate, Seliger. Another defendant who had not been present that day was Oscar Neebe, an American-born citizen of German descent who was associated with the Arbeiter-Zeitung and had attempted to revive it in the aftermath of the Haymarket riot.

Of the eight defendants, five – Spies, Fischer, Engel, Lingg and Schwab – were German-born immigrants; a sixth, Neebe, was a U.S.-born citizen of German descent. Only the remaining two, Parsons and Fielden, born in the U.S. and England, respectively, were of British heritage.

Trial

The trial, Illinois vs. August Spies et al., began on June 21, 1886, and went on until August 11. The trial was conducted in an atmosphere of extreme prejudice by both public and media toward the defendants. It was presided over by Judge Joseph Gary. Judge Gary displayed open hostility to the defendants, consistently ruled for the prosecution, and failed to maintain decorum. A motion to try the defendants separately was denied. The defense counsel included Sigmund Zeisler, William Perkins Black, William Foster, and Moses Salomon. Selection of the jury was extraordinarily difficult, lasting three weeks, and nearly one thousand people called. All union members and anyone who expressed sympathy toward socialism were dismissed. In the end a jury of 12 was seated, most of whom confessed prejudice towards the defendants. Despite their professions of prejudice Judge Gary seated those who declared that despite their prejudices they would acquit if the evidence supported it, refusing to dismiss for prejudice. Eventually the peremptory challenges of the defense were exhausted. Frustrated by the hundreds of jurors who were being dismissed, a bailiff was appointed who selected jurors rather than calling them at random. The bailiff proved prejudiced himself and selected jurors who seemed likely to convict based on their social position and attitudes toward the defendants. The prosecution, led by Julius Grinnell, argued that since the defendants had not actively discouraged the person who had thrown the bomb, they were therefore equally responsible as conspirators. The jury heard the testimony of 118 people, including 54 members of the Chicago Police Department and the defendants Fielden, Schwab, Spies and Parsons. Albert Parsons’ brother claimed there was evidence linking the Pinkertons to the bomb. This reflected a widespread belief among the strikers.

Exhibit 129a from the Haymarket trial: Chemists testified that the bombs found in Lingg’s apartment, including this one, resembled the chemical signature of shrapnel from the Haymarket bomb.

Police investigators under Captain Michael Schaack had a lead fragment removed from a policeman’s wounds chemically analyzed. They reported that the lead used in the casing matched the casings of bombs found in Lingg’s home. A metal nut and fragments of the casing taken from the wound also roughly matched bombs made by Lingg. Schaack concluded, on the basis of interviews, that the anarchists had been experimenting for years with dynamite and other explosives, refining the design of their bombs before coming up with the effective one used at the Haymarket.

At the last minute, when it was discovered that instructions for manslaughter had not been included in the submitted instructions, the jury was called back, and the instructions were given.

Verdict and contemporary reactions

The jury returned guilty verdicts for all eight defendants. Before being sentenced, Neebe told the court that Schaack’s officers were among the city’s worst gangs, ransacking houses and stealing money and watches. Schaack laughed and Neebe retorted, “You need not laugh about it, Captain Schaack. You are one of them. You are an anarchist, as you understand it. You are all anarchists, in this sense of the word, I must say.” Judge Gary sentenced seven of the defendants to death by hanging and Neebe to 15 years in prison. The sentencing provoked outrage from labor and workers’ movements and their supporters, resulting in protests around the world, and elevating the defendants to the status of martyrs, especially abroad. Portrayals of the anarchists as bloodthirsty foreign fanatics in the press along with the 1889 publication of Captain Schaack’s sensational account, Anarchy and Anarchism, on the other hand, inspired widespread public fear and revulsion against the strikers and general anti-immigrant feeling, polarizing public opinion.

In an article datelined May 4, entitled “Anarchy’s Red Hand”, The New York Times had described the incident as the “bloody fruit” of “the villainous teachings of the Anarchists.” The Chicago Times described the defendants as “arch counselors of riot, pillage, incendiarism and murder”; other reporters described them as “bloody brutes”, “red ruffians”, “dynamarchists”, “bloody monsters”, “cowards”, “cutthroats”, “thieves”, “assassins”, and “fiends”. The journalist George Frederic Parsons wrote a piece for The Atlantic Monthly in which he identified the fears of middle-class Americans concerning labor radicalism, and asserted that the workers had only themselves to blame for their troubles. Edward Aveling remarked, “If these men are ultimately hanged, it will be the Chicago Tribune that has done it.” Schaack, who had led the investigation, was dismissed from the police force for allegedly having fabricated evidence in the case but was reinstated in 1892.

Appeals

The case was appealed in 1887 to the Supreme Court of Illinois, then to the United States Supreme Court where the defendants were represented by John Randolph Tucker, Roger Atkinson Pryor, General Benjamin F. Butler and William P. Black. and The petition for certiorari was denied.

Commutations and suicide

After the appeals had been exhausted, Illinois Governor Richard James Oglesby commuted Fielden’s and Schwab’s sentences to life in prison on November 10, 1887. On the eve of his scheduled execution, Lingg committed suicide in his cell with a smuggled blasting cap which he reportedly held in his mouth like a cigar (the blast blew off half his face and he survived in agony for six hours).

Executions

The next day (November 11, 1887) four defendants—Engel, Fischer, Parsons, and Spies—were taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods. They sang the Marseillaise, then the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons, who attempted to see them for the last time, were arrested and searched for bombs (none were found). According to witnesses, in the moments before the men were hanged, Spies shouted, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” In their last words, Engel and Fischer called out, “Hurrah for anarchism!” Parsons then requested to speak, but he was cut off when the signal was given to open the trap door. Witnesses reported that the condemned men did not die immediately when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the spectators visibly shaken.

Identity of the bomber

Notwithstanding the convictions for conspiracy, no actual bomber was ever brought to trial, “and no lawyerly explanation could ever make a conspiracy trial without the main perpetrator in the conspiracy seem completely legitimate.” Historians such as James Joll and Timothy Messer-Kruse say the evidence points to Rudolph Schnaubelt, brother-in-law of Schwab, as the likely perpetrator. Howard Zinn, in A People’s History of the United States also pointed towards Schnaubelt, suggesting he was a provocateur, posing as an anarchist, who threw the bomb so police would have a pretext to arrest leaders of Chicago’s anarchist movement. However, Paul Avrich disputes this claim as being “sheer speculation and utterly without foundation.” Avrich argues that Schnaubelt’s appearance did not match the description of the bomber and that his behavior was inconsistent with either being the culprit or a mole.

Documents

An extensive collection of documents relating to the Haymarket affair and the legal proceedings related to it, The Haymarket Affair Digital Collection, has been created by the Chicago Historical Society.

Pardon and historical characterization

The Altgeld Monument, by Borglum, was erected by the Illinois Legislature in Lincoln Park, Chicago in 1915.

Among supporters of the labor movement in the United States and abroad and others, the trial was widely believed to have been unfair, and even a serious miscarriage of justice. Prominent people such as novelist William Dean Howells; celebrated attorney Clarence Darrow; poet and playwright Oscar Wilde; and playwright George Benard Shaw strongly condemned it. On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, the progressive governor of Illinois, himself a German immigrant, signed pardons for Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab, calling them victims of “hysteria, packed juries, and a biased judge” and noting that the state “has never discovered who it was that threw the bomb which killed the policeman, and the evidence does not show any connection whatsoever between the defendants and the man who threw it.” Altgeld also faulted the city of Chicago for failing to hold Pinkerton guards responsible for repeated use of lethal violence against striking workers. Altgeld’s actions concerning labor were used to defeat his reelection.

Soon after the trial, anarchist Dyer Lum wrote a history of the trial critical of the prosecution. In 1888, George McLean, and in 1889, police captain Michael Shack, wrote accounts from the opposite perspective. Awaiting sentencing, each of the defendants wrote their own autobiographies (edited and published by Philip Foner in 1969), and later activist Lucy Parsons published a biography of her condemned husband Albert Parsons. Fifty years after the event, Henry Davis wrote a history, which preceded another scholarly treatment by Paul Avrich in 1984, and a “social history” of the era by Bruce C. Nelson in 1988. In 2006, labor historian James Green wrote a popular history.

Christopher Thale writes in the Encyclopedia of Chicago that lacking credible evidence regarding the bombing, “…the prosecution focused on the writings and speeches of the defendants.” He further notes that the conspiracy charge was legally unprecedented, the Judge was “partisan,” and all the jurors admitted prejudice against the defendants. Historian Carl Smith writes, “The visceral feelings of fear and anger surrounding the trial ruled out anything but the pretense of justice right from the outset.” Smith notes that scholars have long considered the trial a “notorious” “miscarriage of justice.” In a review somewhat more critical of the defendants, historian Jon Teaford concludes that “[t]he tragedy of Haymarket is the American justice system did not protect the damn fools who most needed that protection… It is the damn fools who talk too much and too wildly who are most in need of protection from the state.” In 2011, labor historian Tomothy Messer-Kruse published a history. Based on his examination of the trial transcripts and other archival material, he concludes there is abundant evidence connecting defendants to advocacy of violence and preparations for it. He argues that Chicago’s anarchists were indeed “part of an international terrorist network and did hatch a conspiracy to attack police with bombs and guns that May Day weekend”; and he calls the evidence establishing the guilt of “most of the defendants” “overwhelming.” Moreover, Messer-Kruse opines that the trial was fair “by the standards of the age” and the jury representative. According to him, “The tragic end of the story was the product not of prosecutorial eagerness to see the anarchists hang, but largely due to a combination of the incompetence of the defendant’s lawyers and their willingness to use the trial to vindicate anarchism rather than to save the necks of their clients.

During the late 20th century, scholars doing research into the Haymarket affair were surprised to learn that much of the primary source documentation relating to the incident (beside materials concerning the trial) was not in Chicago, but had been transferred to then-communist East Berlin.

Effects on the labor movement and May Day

The Haymarket affair was a setback for the American labor movement and its fight for the eight-hour day. Yet it also can be seen as strengthening its resistance, especially in Chicago, where, as historian Nathan Fine points out, trade union activities continued to show signs of growth and vitality, culminating later in 1886 with the establishment of the Labor Party of Chicago.

Fine observes:

[T]he fact is that despite police repression, newspaper incitement to hysteria, and organization of the possessing classes, which followed the throwing of the bomb on May 4, the Chicago wage earners only united their forces and stiffened their resistance. The conservative and radical central bodies – there were two each of the trade unions and two also of the Knights of Labor — the socialists and the anarchists, the single taxers and the reformers, the native born…and the foreign born Germans, Bohemians, and Scandinavians, all got together for the first time on the political field in the summer following the Haymarket affair…. [T]he Knights of Labor doubled its membership, reaching 40,000 in the fall of 1886. On Labor Day the number of Chicago workers in parade led the country.

On the first anniversary of the event, May 4, 1887, the New York Tribune published an interview with Senator Leland Stanford, in which he addressed the consensus that “the conflict between capital and labor is intensifying” and articulated the vision advocated by the Knights of Labor for an industrial system of worker-owned co-operatives, another among the strategies pursued to advance the conditions of laborers. The interview was republished as a pamphlet to include the bill Stanford introduced in the Senate to foster co-operatives.

Popular pressure continued for the establishment of the 8-hour day. At the convention of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1888, the union decided to campaign for the shorter workday again. May 1, 1890, was agreed upon as the date on which workers would strike for an eight-hour work day.

In 1889, AFL president Samuel Gompers wrote to the first congress of the Second International, which was meeting in Paris. He informed the world’s socialists of the AFL’s plans and proposed an international fight for a universal eight-hour work day. In response to Gompers’s letter, the Second International adopted a resolution calling for “a great international demonstration” on a single date so workers everywhere could demand the eight-hour work day. In light of the Americans’ plan, the International adopted May 1, 1890 as the date for this demonstration.

A secondary purpose behind the adoption of the resolution by the Second International was to honor the memory of the Haymarket martyrs and other workers who had been killed in association with the strikes on May 1, 1886. Historian Philip Foner writes “[t]here is little doubt that everyone associated with the resolution passed by the Paris Congress knew of the May 1 demonstrations and strikes for the eight-hour day in 1886 in the United States … and the events associated with the Haymarket tragedy.”

The first international May Day was a spectacular success. The front page of the New York World on May 2, 1890, was devoted to coverage of the event. Two of its headlines were “Parade of Jubilant Workingmen in All the Trade Centers of the Civilized World” and “Everywhere the Workmen Join in Demands for a Normal Day.” The Times of London listed two dozen European cities in which demonstrations had taken place, noting there had been rallies in Cuba, Peru and Chile. Commemoration of May Day became an annual event the following year.

The association of May Day with the Haymarket martyrs has remained strong in Mexico. Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was in Mexico on May 1, 1921, and wrote of the “day of ‘fiestas'” that marked “the killing of the workers in Chicago for demanding the eight-hour day”. In 1929 The New York Times referred to the May Day parade in Mexico City as “the annual demonstration glorifying the memory of those who were killed in Chicago in 1887.” The New York Times described the 1936 demonstration as a commemoration of “the death of the martyrs in Chicago.” In 1939 Oscar Neebe’s grandson attended the May Day parade in Mexico City and was shown, as his host told him, “how the world shows respect to your grandfather”.

The influence of the Haymarket affair was not limited to the celebration of May Day. Emma Goldman, the activist and political theorist, was attracted to anarchism after reading about the incident and the executions, which she later described as “the events that had inspired my spiritual birth and growth.” She considered the Haymarket martyrs to be “the most decisive influence in my existence”. Her associate, Alexander Berkman also described the Haymarket anarchists as “a potent and vital inspiration.” Others whose commitment to anarchism, or revolutionary socialism, crystallized as a result of the Haymarket affair included Voltairine de Cleyre and “Big Bill” Haywood, a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Goldman wrote to historian Max Nettlau that the Haymarket affair had awakened the social consciousness of “hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people”.

Suspected bombers

While admitting none of the defendants were involved in the bombing, the prosecution made the argument that Lingg had built the bomb and two prosecution witnesses (Harry Gilmer and Malvern Thompson) tried to imply the bomb thrower was helped by Spies, Fischer and Schwab. The defendants claimed they had no knowledge of the bomber at all.

Several activists, including Dyer Lum (a close associate of the defendants who wrote an account of the case in 1891), Voltairine de Cleyre and Robert Reitzel, later hinted they knew who the bomber was. Writers and other commentators have speculated about many possible suspects:

Rudolph Schnaubelt was indicted but fled the country. From this photograph, a prosecution witness identified Schnaubelt as the bomber.

  • Rudolph Schnaubelt (1863–1901) was an activist and the brother-in law of Michael Schwab. He was at the Haymarket when the bomb exploded. Schnaubelt was indicted with the other defendants but fled the city and later the country before he could be brought to trial. He was the detectives’ lead suspect, and state witness Gilmer testified he saw Schnaubelt throw the bomb, identifying him from a photograph in court. Schnaubelt later sent two letters from London disclaiming all responsibility, writing, “If I had really thrown this bomb, surely I would have nothing to be ashamed of, but in truth I never once thought of it.” He is the most generally accepted and widely known suspect and figured as the bomb thrower in The Bomb, Frank Harris’s 1908 fictionalization of the tragedy. Written from Schnaubelt’s point of view, the story opens with him confessing on his deathbed. However, Harris’s description was fictional and those who knew Schnaubelt vehemently criticized the book.
  • George Schwab was a German shoemaker who died in 1924. German anarchist Carl Nold claimed he learned Schwab was the bomber through correspondence with other activists but no proof ever emerged. Historian Paul Avrich also suspected him but noted that while Schwab was in Chicago, he had only arrived days before. This contradicted statements by others that the bomber was a well-known figure in Chicago.
  • George Meng (b. around 1840) was a German anarchist and teamster who owned a small farm outside of Chicago where he had settled in 1883 after emigrating from Bavaria. Like Parsons and Spies, he was a delegate at the Pittsburgh Congress and a member of the IWPA. Meng’s granddaughter, Adah Maurer, wrote Paul Avrich a letter in which she said that her mother, who was 15 at the time of the bombing, told her that her father was the bomber. Meng died sometime before 1907 in a saloon fire. Based on his correspondence with Maurer, Avrich concluded that there was a “strong possibility” that the little-known Meng may have been the bomber.
  • An agent provocateur was suggested by some members of the anarchist movement. Albert Parsons believed the bomber was a member of the police or the Pinkertons trying to undermine the labor movement. However, this contradicts the statements of several activists who said the bomber was one of their own. Lucy Parsons and Johann Most rejected this notion. Dyer Lum said it was “puerile” to ascribe “the Haymarket bomb to a Pinkerton.”
  • A disgruntled worker was widely suspected. When Adolph Fischer was asked if he knew who threw the bomb, he answered, “I suppose it was some excited workingman.” Oscar Neebe said it was a “crank.” Governor Altgeld speculated the bomb thrower might have been a disgruntled worker who was not associated with the defendants or the anarchist movement but had a personal grudge against the police. In his pardoning statement, Altgeld said the record of police brutality towards the workers had invited revenge adding, “Capt. Bonfield is the man who is really responsible for the deaths of the police officers.”
  • Klemana Schuetz was identified as the bomber by Franz Mayhoff, a New York anarchist and fraudster, who claimed in an affidavit that Schuetz had once admitted throwing the Haymarket bomb. August Wagener, Mayhoff’s attorney, sent a telegram from New York to defense attorney Captain William Black the day before the executions claiming knowledge of the bomber’s identity. Black tried to delay the execution with this telegram but Governor Oglesby refused. It was later learned that Schuetz was the primary witness against Mayhoff at his trial for insurance fraud, so Mayhoff’s affidavit has never been regarded as credible by historians.
  • Thomas Owen was a carpenter from Pennsylvania. Severely injured in an accident a week before the executions, Owen reportedly confessed to the bombing on his deathbed by saying, “I was at the Haymarket riot and am an anarchist and say that I threw a bomb in that riot.” He was an anarchist and apparently had been in Chicago at the time but other accounts note that long before his accident he had said he was at the Haymarket and saw the bomb thrower. Owen may have been trying to save the condemned men.
  • Reinold “Big” Krueger was killed by police either in the melee after the bombing or in a separate disturbance the next day and has been named as a suspect but there is no supporting evidence.
  • A mysterious outsider was reported by John Philip Deluse, a saloon keeper in Indianapolis who claimed he encountered a stranger in his saloon the day before the bombing. The man was carrying a satchel and on his way from New York to Chicago. According to Deluse, the stranger was interested in the labor situation in Chicago, repeatedly pointed to his satchel and said, “You will hear of some trouble there very soon.” Parsons used Deluse’s testimony to suggest the bomb thrower was sent by eastern capitalists. Nothing more was ever learned about Deluse’s claim.

Burial and monument

Lingg, Spies, Fischer, Engel, and Parsons were buried at the German Waldheim Cemetary (later merged with Forest Home Cemetery) in Forest Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Schwab and Neebe were also buried at Waldheim when they died, reuniting the “Martyrs.” In 1893, the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument by sculptor Albert Weinert was raised at Waldheim. Over a century later, it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior.

Throughout the 20th century, activists such as Emma Goldman chose to be buried near the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument graves.

In October 2016, a time capsule with materials relating to the Haymarket Affair was dug up in Waldheim Cemetery.

Haymarket memorials

In 1889, a commemorative nine-foot (2.7 meter) bronze statue of a Chicago policeman by sculptor Johannes Gelert was erected in the middle of Haymarket Square with private funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago. The statue was unveiled on May 30, 1889, by Frank Degan, the son of Officer Mathias Degan. On May 4, 1927, the 41st anniversary of the Haymarket affair, a streetcar jumped its tracks and crashed into the monument. The motorman said he was “sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised”. The city restored the statue in 1928 and moved it to Union Park. During the 1950s, construction of the Kennedy Expressway erased about half of the old, run-down market square, and in 1956, the statue was moved to a special platform built for it overlooking the freeway, near its original location.

The statue-less pedestal of the police monument on the 100th anniversary of the Haymarket affair in May 1986; the pedestal has since been removed.

The Haymarket statue was vandalized with black paint on May 4, 1968, the 82nd anniversary of the Haymarket affair, following a confrontation between police and demonstrators at a protest against the Vietnam War. On October 6, 1969, shortly before the “Days of Rage”  protests, the statue was destroyed when a bomb was placed between its legs. Weatherman took credit for the blast, which broke nearly 100 windows in the neighborhood and scattered pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway below. The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970, to be blown up yet again by Weatherman on October 6, 1970. The statue was rebuilt, again, and Mayor Richard J. Daley posted a 24‑hour police guard at the statue. This guard cost $67,440 per year. In 1972, it was moved to the lobby of the Central Police Headquarters, and in 1976 to the enclosed courtyard of the Chicago police academy. For another three decades the statue’s empty, graffiti-marked pedestal stood on its platform in the run-down remains of Haymarket Square where it was known as an anarchist landmark. On June 1, 2007, the statue was rededicated at Chicago Police Headquarters with a new pedestal, unveiled by Geraldine Doceka, Officer Mathias Degan’s great-granddaughter.

In 1992, the site of the speakers’ wagon was marked by a bronze plaque set into the sidewalk, reading:

“A decade of strife between labor and industry culminated here in a confrontation that resulted in the tragic death of both workers and policemen. On May 4, 1886, spectators at a labor rally had gathered around the mouth of Crane’s Alley. A contingent of police approaching on Des Plaines Street were met by a bomb thrown from just south of the alley. The resultant trial of eight activists gained worldwide attention for the labor movement, and initiated the tradition of ‘May Day’ labor rallies in many cities.”

Designated on March 25, 1992

Richard M. Daley, Mayor

On September 14, 2004, Daley and union leaders—including the president of Chicago’s police union—unveiled a monument by Chicago artist Mary Brogger, a fifteen-foot (4.5 m) speakers’ wagon sculpture echoing the wagon on which the labor leaders stood in Haymarket Square to champion the eight-hour day. The bronze sculpture, intended to be the centerpiece of a proposed “Labor Park”, is meant to symbolize both the rally at Haymarket and free speech. The planned site was to include an international commemoration wall, sidewalk plaques, a cultural pylon, a seating area, and banners, but construction has not yet begun.

As of 2016, a feature motion picture is being produced about the Haymarket affair, the events leading up to it, and its aftermath.

 

Rank and FileCA.

The history behind Canada’s National Day of Mourning

Posted on April 28, 2017 in Day of Mourning, Injured Workers

By Dorothy Wigmore

April 28 has many names. In Canada, it’s the Day of Mourning. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it’s Workers’ Memorial Day. The International Labour Organization calls it the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Marked around the world, there’s confusion about its origins, even in Canada.

Around 1983, the health and safety director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Colin Lambert, and his long-time friend and fellow activist, Ray Sentes, came up with the idea of a day to recognize workers killed and injured on the job.

As a steelworker and miner in Sudbury, Ontario, Lambert was instrumental in having mandatory coroners’ inquests for all miners’ deaths in Ontario. He also lamented the contrast between the lack of recognition for miners and other workers who died because of their work and the large public events for “fallen” police officers and firefighters.

Lambert “floated the idea” with CUPE’s national health and safety committee, talking about a special day of recognition for workers killed and injured on the job, to be held on May 1 (celebrated as May Day in Europe and elsewhere). The committee endorsed the idea. At its 1984 convention, union delegates supported the proposal. Soon after, some CUPE locals started negotiating events, such as lowered flags and moments of silence.

In 1984 and 1985, CUPE representatives took the idea to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) executive and its national health and safety committee. Local unions also sent resolutions to the CLC.

In February 1986, the CLC announced the first Day of Mourning, coinciding with the first day of its convention that year. Rather than May 1, they chose the date when the Ontario legislature passed the country’s first workers compensation law, in 1914. The convention passed a resolution supporting April 28 as a day to “mourn for the dead and fight for the living.”

In 1990, Lambert and CUPE pushed for innovative ways to recognize the day. April 28 could be a “year-round series of public events”, not just a Day of Mourning. We can attract “broad public recognition for the day by adopting a universal, unthreatening symbol of worker safety, the canary.”

“The canary’s an appropriate symbol,” Lambert said. “It shows that today workers are the canaries — they are front-line protection for all of us.” The canary also showed up in the CLC’s new poster for April 28.

Lambert and others saw the potential for a day of “preventive action for workers which will be recognized by society in general.” They called on CUPE locals to have activities in the week heading up to the 28th. They sent a package with a new poster — introducing the canary symbol — and a special issue of the health and safety newsletter. There also was a workplace inspection checklist and calls for locals to campaign for government recognition of the day, and to bargain or ask employers for a moment’s silence at 11 a.m. on April 28.

CUPE members and others responded with enthusiasm. The British Columbia CUPE health and safety committee had a “Spot the Hazard” campaign for workplace inspections. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Federation of Labour and CUPE produced tags with the canary symbol and “Day of Mourning, April 28”. They sold them with members of the local professional football team and the Boys and Girls Club, with proceeds to the Club. In Windsor, Ontario, more than 300 people marched to the Ministry of Labour to lay a wreath and release black balloons inscribed with “We came here to work, not to die”.

The campaign for government recognition paid off. In February 1991, the Canadian government passed a private member’s bill, naming April 28 as the “Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace.” Provincial and municipal governments also recognize the day.

These efforts and many others inspired trade unions and health and safety activists and around the world. Monuments and plaques are some of the most common responses. There were so many by 2001 that Ed Thomas of Hamilton wrote a book about them [1]. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) put some of his pictures on a web page.

The campaign for recognition of the day has been successful. Now, what about the goals behind it?

This article was first published in the Occupational Health and Safety Section Newsletter, Spring 2010, of the American Public Health Association.

[1] E. Thomas, Dead But Not Forgotten: Monuments to Workers. Ed Thomas, 2001.

Time

The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers

Lily Rothman     May 01, 2015

Celebrations on May 1 have long had two, seemingly contradictory meanings. On one hand, May Day is known for maypoles, flowers and welcoming the spring. On the other hand, it’s a day of worker solidarity and protest; though the U.S. observes its official Labor Day in September, many countries will celebrate Labor Day on Friday.

How did that happen?

Like so many historical twists, by complete accident. As TIME explained in 1929, “To old-fashioned people, May Day means flowers, grass, picnics, children, clean frocks. To up-and-doing Socialists and Communists it means speechmaking, parading, bombs, brickbats, conscientious violence. This connotation dates back to May Day, 1886, when some 200,000 U. S. workmen engineered a nationwide strike for an eight-hour day.”

The May 1, 1886, labor action wasn’t just any strike—it was part of what became known as the Haymarket affair. On May 1 of that year, Chicago (along with other cities) was the site of a major union demonstration in support of the eight-hour workday. The Chicago protests were meant to be part of several days of action. On May 3, a strike at the McCormick Reaper plant in the city turned violent; the next day, a peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square became even more so. Here’s how TIME summed it up in 1938:

A few minutes after ten o’clock on the night of May 4, 1886, a storm began to blow up in Chicago. As the first drops of rain fell, a crowd in Haymarket Square, in the packing house district, began to break up. At eight o’clock there had been 3,000 persons on hand, listening to anarchists denounce the brutality of the police and demand the eight-hour day, but by ten there were only a few hundred. The mayor, who had waited around in expectation of trouble, went home, and went to bed. The last speaker was finishing his talk when a delegation of 180 policemen marched from the station a block away to break up what remained of the meeting. They stopped a short distance from the speaker’s wagon. As a captain ordered the meeting to disperse, and the speaker cried out that it was a peaceable gathering, a bomb exploded in the police ranks. It wounded 67 policemen, of whom seven died. The police opened fire, killing several men and wounding 200, and the Haymarket Tragedy became a part of U. S. history.

In 1889, the International Socialist Conference declared that, in commemoration of the Haymarket affair, May 1 would be an international holiday for labor, now known in many places as International Workers’ Day.

In the U.S., that holiday came in for particular contempt during the anti-communist fervor of the early Cold War. In July of 1958, President Eisenhower signed a resolution named May 1 “Loyalty Day” in an attempt to avoid any hint of solidarity with the “workers of the world” on May Day. The resolution declared that it would be “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.”

CNN

What is May Day, anyway?

AJ Willingham, CNN       May 2, 2016

Story highlights

  • May Day falls on May 1 every year
  • It is a holiday of summer celebration, but also marks International Worker’s Day

(CNN)To most people in the Northern Hemisphere, May Day conjures images of brightly colored twirling ribbons and promises of warm days ahead. That’s not the whole story, though: May Day is also a day of protests and riots that traces its modern roots back to a world-changing explosion in Chicago.

When is May Day?

May Day is May 1 every year. Easy to remember, right?

What is May Day?

Depending on where you are, it’s either a seasonal celebration or a day to celebrate workers’ rights, or maybe a little bit of both. Think of the latter use as a Labor Day, if you will, for the rest of the world.

How did it start?

This is a more complicated question. Originally, May Day was an ancient pagan holiday celebrating the start of summer. In Gaelic traditions, it is known as Beltaine (or the Anglicized “Beltane”). As time went on, different groups adapted the celebration to their specific cultures or beliefs. Europeans and Americans often celebrate in a more secular manner with diversions like maypole dancing and flower crowns. (That certainly lends a bit of cultural context to all the young women breezing around summer music festivals this time of year with giant daisies on their heads.)

Also of note: In May, the Southern Hemisphere is getting ready for winter, so May Day as a seasonal celebration is, for the most part, a Northern Hemisphere thing.

How did it become a day for labor rights?

May Day is also a labor holiday in many areas of the world, and that part of its history is a thornier story. May Day has shared a date with International Workers’ Day since the 1880s. At the time, labor movements around the world were fighting for fair work accommodations like eight-hour workdays and unions. The date was chosen because it aligned with the anniversary of the Haymarket affair in Chicago, where police killed four people at a peaceful protest after someone threw a bomb into the crowd.

The event had a huge impact on labor movements across the world.

So why are there sometimes riots and marches on May Day?

Because of its more recent history, International Workers’ Day/May Day is often a day of protest for labor unions around the world. The people come come out to rally, and sometimes their passionate demonstrations can turn violent. In 2014, Turkey attempted to ban labor rallies, citing security concerns. Across Europe, similar events have attracted heavy police presence.

Riots and protests occur in the United States, as well. One of the most notable is the Seattle May Day Marches, which, though intended to be peaceful, have broken out in violence in the past.

In a strange way, some of these demonstrations overlap with the more festive roots of May Day: The planned protests in Seattle include a rock concert, and the long-running May Day Parade in Minneapolis features both colorful, festive floats and revelers who wear satirical costumes related to the labor and political issues of the day.

Is this related to the “Mayday! Mayday!” distress call?

It’s actually not at all! “Mayday” the distress call comes from the French term m’aidez, which means “help me.”

Nothing wrong with a little French lesson to go along with the holiday’s history!

 

International Workers of the World

The Brief Origins of May Day

By Eric Chase – 1993.

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860’s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class. At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were “taken over” by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:

  • Workingmen to Arms!
  • War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
  • The wage system is the only cause of the World’s misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
  • One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
  • MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.

Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

The names of many – Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg – became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity, yet didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the “anarchist-dominated” Metal Workers’ Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.

Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made “no suggestion… for immediate use of force or violence toward any person…”

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.

Eight anarchists – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg – were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.

The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first “Red Scare” in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers’ Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.

Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice. We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.

Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:

THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

 

Washington Post            House Republicans just voted to change overtime rules for workers

By Jena McGregor May 2, 2017

On Tuesday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that Republicans have promoted since the Newt Gingrich era, one that would allow private-sector employees to exchange overtime pay for “compensatory time” off, electing to accrue extra hours off rather than extra pay in their wallets. The bill passed 229 to 197, largely along party lines.

The bill — which supporters say would add flexibility to hourly workers’ schedules while opponents worry it doesn’t do enough to protect employees — is not a new idea. It seeks to take a similar provision that has been available to government workers since 1985 and extend it to private-sector employees, making it legal for them to choose between an hour and a half of paid comp time and time-and-a-half pay when they work additional hours.

Similar bills have been introduced multiple times over the past two decades, passing the House three times before failing to pass the Senate. While its fate is unclear in the Senate this year, the White House said Tuesday it supports the bill, saying in a statement it would “help American workers balance the competing demands of family and work by giving them flexibility to earn paid time off.”

Under the proposed changes, eligible employees — if their employer decides to offer the option — would be able to voluntarily choose to receive comp time they can bank and use at a future date in lieu of immediate overtime pay in their paychecks. If they change their minds and want the pay after all, employees would have the option of “cashing out,” with the employer required to pay the overtime within 30 days.

Proponents of the bill suggest the change would improve flexibility for overtime-eligible employees — often lower-wage hourly workers who don’t have the same access to paid time off as their salaried counterparts — to take care of their families.

“Ask any parent just how precious their time is,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who introduced the bill, said during debate on the House floor Tuesday. The bill, she said, “provides flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to spend taking care of their family responsibilities.”

Some employer groups are big supporters. “It’s our strong belief that we ought to make this option available,” said Lisa Horn, director of Congressional affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, which represents employers, in an interview. “The bill has built-in protections to make sure employees aren’t coerced into choosing comp times.”

But opponents worry those protections aren’t strong enough. Though the bill includes language that bans employers from “directly or indirectly intimidating, threatening, or coercing or attempting to intimidate, threaten, or coerce an employee” to choose comp time over pay, many Democrats and advocates for workers say they are concerned that people will feel pressure to opt for the comp time and may not have the resources to seek legal help if they are coerced.

“Under current law, if an employee wants to work overtime, put the money in the bank where it can earn interest and use it to cover the cost of taking some time off later with the permission of the employer, he can do that today — without this bill,” said Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on the House floor Tuesday.

While employees have the choice of whether to take comp time or extra pay, opponents warn it is their bosses who makes the schedules that offer the extra hours many low-wage workers depend on.

“Whether it’s overt coercion, which language in the bill prohibits, or just a preference, there’s going to be strong incentives to giving overtime hours to workers choosing to take comp time,” said Vicki Shabo, vice president for the nonprofit advocacy group National Partnership for Women & Families.

She adds: “When you’re thinking about low-wage workers who need these jobs, the appetite to pursue [legal] remedies is going to be quite low.”

Others suggest the limitations requiring workers to give “reasonable notice” and not “unduly disrupt” the workplace with their requests for time off give employers plenty of latitude to say no.

“The reality is that it significantly shifts the balance of power and really puts the decision into the hands of the employer instead of the employee,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. “It doesn’t provide any level of assurance that the person will actually be able to use the leave for the purpose they need it.”

Democrats in the House sounded similar concerns Tuesday. “The choice between overtime pay and comp time is a false choice for workers,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) “We know what happens in the reality of the workplace. The vague promise of time off in the future is often never realized.”

Horn, the SHRM executive, said she doesn’t see that as a concern. Employers who are “going to go to this trouble of setting up this program — I think it’s highly unlikely they’re going to turn around and forbid the worker from using it,” she said. She also notes that the penalties in the bill for coercion are “stiff” and should help deter employers from it.

Jonathan Segal, a partner in the employment group of the law firm Duane Morris, agreed. Penalties such as double damages to employees, he said, means “there’s a material disincentive for employers to do the wrong thing,” he said.

(Workers endured long hours, low pay at Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump’s clothing maker)

Still, opponents said GOP rhetoric has suggested comp time programs could be an alternative to family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave, which have been gaining ground at the state and local level in recent years. They argue that low-wage workers should not have to make the choice, as well as that sick or family leave needs often don’t come with “reasonable notice.”

“It sets up a false narrative,” Frye said. “The notion you somehow have to trade off your pay for flexibility is certainly not the way it works for higher paid employees.”

A spokesman for Roby, Todd Stacy, said such remarks are “frustrating” and noted that the current bill is not a mandate, as well as that it prohibits even indirect coercion and lets workers cash out their accrued time if they and their employer can’t agree on when the comp time is taken. “It’s not for every employer and it’s not for every employee,” he said. “It’s simply meant as an option, to legalize it in the private sector.”

The bill now faces the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t shared his plans on the issue, according to a report in Bloomberg. In 2013, however, he did support a version of a similar bill.

If it does ultimately become law, employers will then have to decide to offer it. Horn says that of SHRM’s 285,000 members, “I probably have just as many who would like to offer the comp time as those who would never want to pursue this option. It is a lift for employers,” she said, meaning it requires planning, expense and logistics to launch and run. “There’s the tracking of hours, and they carry the liability on their balance sheet in case there’s a cash-out. Some employers are just like ‘I would rather pay the straight option.’ ”

 

 

NPR     GDP Grew Just 0.7 Percent In First Quarter Of 2017

Laurel Wamsley  April 28, 2017

The U.S. economy grew at just a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report on the gross domestic product from the Commerce Department. That’s below market expectations and indicates the economy grew at the slowest pace in three years.

Weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling. Employment costs rose 0.8 percent in the first quarter.

This “advance” estimate showed the U.S. economy with its slowest growth since the first quarter of 2014. The GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2016 was 2.1 percent.

The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures the prices paid for goods and services purchased by consumers, increased 2.6 percent in the first quarter. That’s compared with an increase of 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Washington Post     Trump’s new VA office to help fire feds faster also could hurt, not protect, whistleblowers

By Joe Davidson Columnist  April 28, 2017
President Trump signs an executive order on improving accountability and whistleblower protection on April 27. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

President Trump is correct to hold federal employees accountable, even as he and his folks make every effort to squirm away from a steady flow of ethical quandaries.

His executive order on “Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protections” “would create an office in the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify barriers to bouncing bad workers from an agency whose ethical reputation was shredded during a scandal over the coverup of long patient wait times.

The importance of this presidential action was emphasized by Trump’s visit to the VA headquarters, just across Lafayette Square from the White House. Vice President Pence, members of Congress and veterans joined VA Secretary David Shulkin as the president signed the order Thursday afternoon.

Trump praised the “many VA employees who do a fantastic job,” a reality too often lost in discussions about the agency.

“This executive order makes it clear,” he said, “that we will never, ever tolerate substandard care for our great veterans. With the creation of this office, we are sending a strong message: Those who fail our veterans will be held, for the first time, accountable.”

Trump seems to think he created all that’s good. He is not the first to hold VA employees accountable.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Shulkin said the new VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection will help officials deal with employees who “should no longer be working [at] VA, and make sure that we can do that expeditiously.” He didn’t have a cost estimate for this new layer of bureaucracy, which he said will confront “systemic barriers that prevent us from making the right decisions.” But the secretary did say it would not be “small amounts. This is going to be a substantial commitment.”

Unfortunately, the administration’s commitment to move “expeditiously” was not accompanied by a promise to balance swiftness with fairness. Civil service protections were not even an afterthought at the executive order signing ceremony. Due process was not mentioned there by Trump, Pence or Shulkin, or in the order itself.

The order charges the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection with assisting the secretary in using “all available authorities to discipline or terminate” employees who violate the public’s trust and identifying statutory obstacles that get in the secretary’s way as he seeks to do that.

This rush to fire feds faster, first at VA, but with attempts to spread it across government, comes with a serious risk. Yes, due process rights can be slow and cumbersome. They protect, however, not just employees, but more importantly, also the public from a politicized system that favors citizens of one political party over another. Reforms must respect civil service protections. They should be acknowledged by government leaders and not be ignored as they were at the signing.

Furthermore, those protections protect whistleblowers.

While expedited firing has a certain appeal, allowing faster firing also could empower vengeful managers to more easily dismiss employees who report cases of agency waste, fraud and abuse.

The notion of protecting whistleblowers with the new VA office was met with skepticism by those who actually protect them from aggression by individual managers every day.

Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said he appreciated Trump’s “good intentions” but that “it would be unprecedented for this office to be an effective, genuine resource for whistleblowers. As a rule, internal agency whistleblower offices always have been Trojan Horses.”

Elizabeth Hempowicz, policy counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, agreed.

She pointed to the VA’s Central Whistleblower Office, created by Congress last year to investigate whistleblower complaints and charges of retaliation against them. Because it is housed within VA, without “proper independence,” she said, “our worry is that it risks becoming an internal clearinghouse to help agency managers identify and retaliate against whistleblowers.”

Congressional Republicans, who generally speaking have advanced numerous workplace protection dilution measures, were full of praise for Trump.

“I applaud the Trump administration for taking action to hold bad actors accountable and enhance whistleblower protections throughout the VA,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But will the administration enhance those protections or provide cover to subvert them, as whistleblower advocates fear?

“This Tar Will Leave a Stain on the Republicans”

January 29, 2017     John Hanno

                      “This Tar Will Leave a Stain on the Republicans”

King Donald’s Court did it again; they showed they really can’t lead in a responsible manner. The Republi-cons don’t know how to govern because they despise government. This is what happens when you hire people to dismantle cabinet level departments instead of ones experienced in making government succeed. They think government and it’s regulators should just butt out of their patrons risky businesses. Their plan has always been to shrink government to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub. For eight years, they berated any attempt by the Obama Administration to bring America back, after Republi-cons steered us into the abyss.

If the President had cured cancer, this crew would have claimed Obama was grandstanding. Someone said that if he walked on water, they would have criticized him for not learning how to swim. They’ve been very adept at throwing sand in the gears of American progress, but now the bomb throwers are having trouble making the rubber from their soaring campaign rhetoric, meet the highly touted road forward. Leaked audio from a Philadelphia retreat this week revealed how flummoxed Republi-con lawmakers appear, attempting to replace the life saving Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act they’ve pledged to repeal for the last 7 years. Donald’s new promise to make that health insurance for 25 or 30 million folks much better and a lot cheaper won’t help their task.

Trying to make good on the promise to build a wall to hold back our southern neighbors, who actually stopped pouring in right after the financial collapse in 2008, was met with the same outrage around the world as was their bungled attempts to keep Muslims from entering the country. There’s been more people in the streets in the first 9 days of the King Donald administration as protested in the entire 8 years of the Obama Administration.

These hypocrites railed against each and every executive order the President signed attempting an end round Republi-con obstruction, calling it flagrant and unconstitutional abuse of power, but now think Trump’s flurry of nonsensical orders are a-okay. The difference here is that President Obama tried to use his executive power to do things for ordinary people, whereas Trump’s team stays up nights figuring out ways to do things to people.

King Donald’s approval numbers are tanking, so the diabolical pretenders are trying to somehow make good on his un-deliverable pledges to take America back to 1929. This latest order, taking shape at the nations airports, is looking more like a holy war than an attempt to make us safe from terrorists.

These folks know so little about what actually goes on in the government, they actually believe that the thousands of folks at homeland security and in our intelligence agencies, our military, our state and local police departments and in state and local governments throughout the nation have been doing very little to keep us safe since 9-11. The Obama Administration in 2011 and before him the Bush Administration have already instituted enhanced vetting of those trying to enter the U.S. They say this vetting takes almost 2 years. Most of America’s terrorist threats have actually come from home grown evildoers.

And even before Barack Obama was elected, the Republi-cons refused to even attempt to craft responsible legislation to raise up America’s sinking middle class. And now all of a sudden, they’ve refashioned themselves as populist proponents of American labor. Any legislation offered by these Republi-cons was hatched and prepared by either the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or by the affected corporate or industry lawyers and lobbyists. Some of ALEC’s latest and most popular efforts involve attacking public workers and unions and proposing right-to-work legislation throughout the country.

Republi-con health care reform will be drafted by the insurance industry and big pharma. Comprehensive energy policy or reform will be written by fossil fuel.  Any Republi-con comprehensive tax reform, as in the past, will be bought and paid for by the rich and corporations. Comprehensive immigration reform was passed 70 to 30 in the Senate during the Bush Administration, but never came up for a vote in the Republican controlled House.

Russian American Journalist and author Masha Gessen, believes this administration will cause her and America a “constant low level dread.” I’m beginning to think more like a “permanent state of high anxiety.”

The desperate folks in the upper Midwest rust belt, who grabbed onto the Trump Tarbaby will soon discover the same thing the little boy realized in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. No matter that Donald’s two trusted advisors Reince Priebus and Kelleyanne Conway faithfully tells him he’s doing so good and looking real fine, America will soon realize that King Donald the Emperor Has No Clothes.     John Hanno

 

P.S.    “Former Bush adviser Eliot A. Cohen says the first week of Trump’s presidency has been a “clarifying moment in American history”: “For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time,” he writes in an op-ed for The Atlantic. “Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it. Rifts are opening up among friends that will not be healed. The conservative movement of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, of William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol, was always heterogeneous, but it more or less hung together. No more. New currents of thought, new alliances, new political configurations will emerge. The biggest split will be between those who draw a line and the power-sick—whose longing to have access to power, or influence it, or indeed to wield it themselves—causes them to fatally compromise their values. For many more it will be a split between those obsessed with anxiety, hatred, and resentment, and those who can hear Lincoln’s call to the better angels of our nature, whose America is not replete with carnage, but a city on a hill.”

The Electoral College “Trump, A Political Tarbaby”

John Hanno      December 18, 2016

“Trump, A Political Tarbaby

President Obama is absolutely correct; there’s nothing Russia or Vladimir Putin can do to undermine our Democratic principles as long as we stand united. The reason he was able to influence and disrupt our election, was because we’re so polarized that 37% of Republicans approve of Putin. This is a direct result of statements by Trump, and repeated over and over in right wing nut media, stating that Putin was a better leader than President Obama. Trump believes a leader that righted an economy losing 800,000 jobs a month and headed into depression and who led the world’s most powerful country,  through eight years without a single whiff of scandal, is a worse leader than someone who has looted his country’s assets to the tune of $85 billion dollars, probably ordered an airliner shot down, and ordered the imprisonment and murder of opponents and journalists.

Now reported to be the richest person in the world, richer even than Bill Gates, he’s amassed this fortune by plundering a corrupt, failed economic plutocracy, on the backs of millions of struggling and suffering countrymen and women. What would the Republi-cons say if President Obama had accumulated $85 billion as president, while having been unopposed and sham-elected for 20 years. Every American should be so outraged, that 10’s of millions of people should be in the streets protesting this Russian cyber attack on our electoral process. But the Republi-cons praise Putin and respect his predatious business acumen. It’s clear the Grand Old Party has been so corrupted, it’s no longer redeemable.

They’ve long ago exiled any moderate or conservative remnants of the Lincoln, Eisenhower, Rockefeller and even Nixon GOP. And President Obama is absolutely right; Regan is turning over in his grave. It’s become the Old White Party of Winuts. Winuts will forsake any moral integrity or principles in order to win. No level is too low to stoop. Racism, misogynistic and xenophobic conduct, violence, deception and lying are traits to be admired and praised. Trump’s supporters will believe anything he says or tweets, even if it’s a preposterous lie devoid of any credible fact.

Trump is a political Tarbaby of epic proportions. The Republi-cons have forsaken all core conservative, Christian or perceived family values simply because Trump somehow won the election. He told the winuts he would “Make America Great Again” by winning so much, they would get tired of winning. And the gullible  believed him lock, stock and blatant lie after lie. But he’s already done a 180 on virtually every promise he made. The desperate supporters reaching for the gold plated ring, and the never Trumper’s who’ve jumped on the victory merry-go-round, are stuck on the tar and headed for a rude awakening.

The Trump Administration intentions are no longer ambiguous. Nomination after cruel nomination has cemented their blueprint. “Draining the swamp” actually means siphoning the dregs into his cabinet. Hiring the “best and the brightest” means turning the wheels of government over to billionaire Trump toadies. “Bringing the jobs back” actually means giving his labor secretary carte blanche to replace minimum wage workers with compliant robots. Creating better paying jobs means turning multi-millionaires into billionaires. Making our schools better means destroying and privatizing public education, demeaning scientific discovery, and promoting creationism.

Making America energy independent means turning responsibility for protecting our air, water and land over to Exxon Mobil and the oil interests, pipeline companies and frackers, corporate polluters and Russian oligarchs; and also means exploiting every square inch of public lands, National Parks or National Monuments for private gain, no matter the consequences to our environment and America’s National Pride. Would anyone actually hire any of these folks if they had to pay their salaries. I don’t think so.

And “Making America Great Again” means time traveling what’s left of America’s middle class back to before FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great Society, equal rights for all Americans, and of course any common sense governmental regulation.  And balancing the budget means granting unnecessary and undeserved tax cuts to corporations and the richest of the rich, no matter how it blows up the deficit; and at the same time  means attacking social safety net programs and Social Security, privatizing Medicare, block granting Medicaid and replacing Obamacare with….. well with nothing.

Trump’s promises are like the sands of time; extremely fluid. We can only hope 37 patriotic Americans will come to Jesus, and for the sake of their country, their families and their soul, decide to cast their electoral vote for anyone but Trump. Will they shirk their Constitutional duty; will they take America’s future for granted?  Or are they stuck on the tarbaby?                  John Hanno  www.tarbabys.com

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Your Right to Work for Less!

As a right-to-work law appears inevitable, Missouri AFL-CIO turns to voters

By Celeste Bott St Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • As GOP lawmakers and an incoming governor vow to make Missouri the 27th right-to-work-state, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis has filed several versions of an initiative petition that would amend the state constitution to protect union negotiating rights.

A right-to-work law, which would limit the ability of labor unions to collect dues from members, has been a longtime priority for Republican legislators who found a continual roadblock in Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

But while Nixon has used his veto pen to block the right-to-work legislation in the past, on the grounds that it’s anti-worker, Gov.-elect Eric Greitens has promised to sign it.

In the weeks leading up to their return to Jefferson City in January, leaders of the Legislature’s GOP super-majorities said it’s the top task in their pro-business 2017 agenda, and several lawmakers have already filed right-to-work proposals.

 

The push was largely financed by David Humphreys, a Joplin roofing company magnate who spent millions on candidates who support labor reform, including Greitens.

Louis’ petition for the 2018 ballot would essentially reverse any right-to-work law passed during the upcoming session by giving employers and employees the “unalienable” right to negotiate contracts that would require workers to pay fees covering the costs of union representation.

 “That employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing,” it reads. “No law or ordinance shall restrict or impair an agreement which requires employees to support their chosen collective bargaining representative.”

In a statement, Louis said such negotiations were essential to ensuring fair wages, good benefits and safe working conditions.

“We do not need the puppets of David Humphreys or any other corporate billionaire to pass laws to interfere with a process that has long made Missouri a great place to have a business and a great place to work,” Louis said.

The initiative petition process has become an increasingly popular way for Missouri activists, particularly Democrats, to push agenda items that wouldn’t be palatable to the GOP-led Legislature. Recently, that’s included efforts to raise the tax on cigarettes, limit campaign contributions and legalize medical marijuana.

But it’s a difficult and arduous process to get a referendum on the ballot, one that requires approval of the secretary of state and attorney general, analysis of fiscal impact by the state auditor, and a certain number of signatures from registered voters.

 

Response, December 14, 2016,   John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com

A big thank you to outgoing Democratic Governor Jay Nixon for consistently standing up for workers. With a Republican Governor and both houses of the Missouri legislature controlled by Republi-cons, the courageous minority Democrats will have their work cut out for them.

The simple fact is, right to work means right to work for less. Sure, you can depress wages for your fellow workers and neighbors and it might benefit your own cost of living a bit; but eventually it will come back to harm all workers. Sure, we can all work for peanuts and all that crap coming from 3rd world countries will be cheap. You can buy all the crap you want, crap that will end up in garage sales 6 months from now but what is that doing to your community? What the hell is that doing to our environment?

We now have a contracted manufacturing sector; lost 60,000 or so manufacturers. 71% of our economy is now dependent on retail. More and more folks are just barely getting by. 75% of American’s are one paycheck away from bankruptcy. Adult children are still living in their parents basements well into their 30’s because they’re hobbled with a 30 year mortgage of student debt. They can’t get a living wage job that will allow them to prosper and pay off debt. There’s now more student debt than consumer debt. These young people can’t get married or buy a home. They can’t even pay rent or support themselves without a living wage.

And the dimwit Republi-cons wonder why the economy is growing at such a slow rate. Dah! Old farts like myself don’t buy anything except gasoline and food. We already have everything we need. Is it any wonder why erstwhile great companies like Sears Roebuck are going bankrupt?

I worked for almost 50 years for a dozen different unions at successful fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies. All my jobs paid living wages. I made $20 an hour as an industrial electrician/electronic technician in 1989, almost 30 years ago. Now thanks to the Republi-cons decades long war on workers and the middle class, started by Regan, those same jobs now pay $13 or $14 per hour. And they wonder why no one will take those dangerous crap jobs. I can work under the table for $45 per hour. But how does that improve our economy. I don’t pay taxes.

Republi-cons just don’t understand the concept of community, of working together to benefit all Americans, not just themselves or the super rich oligarchs like the Koch brothers, who sponsor anti-worker right to work laws. How much money is enough for them? Like Ted Kennedy said, “Where is the limit to their greed?”

Missouri will soon follow Wisconsin, Indiana and other red states in the race to the bottom. No, matter how much workers offer to give up to the employers (like the steel union tried with Carrier in Indiana), it’s never enough. Carrier said they would have to work for $5 an hour, lower even than the federal minimum wage. Even with the $7 million payoff Indiana Gov. Pense gave Carrier, they’ll move the rest of the jobs to Mexico within a couple of years.

After all the unions and collective bargaining are gone, good luck sitting down with the company lawyers and asking for a raise by yourself. Keep fooling yourselves; let yourselves be bamboozled by the evil plutocrats. But if you have any sense, you’ll support progressive Democrats and Independents who place workers rights ahead of more money for the likes of Drumph. John Hanno

Posted on Veterans For Standing Rock #NoDAPL gofundme

Posted on Veterans For Standing Rock #NoDAPL gofundme

John Hanno December 7, 2016

I’m a veteran who’s supported Standing Rock Sioux Protectors since the beginning of the protests through my blog www.tarbabys.com. Please sign the petition to President Obama. Change.org Petition The Dakota Access pipeline poses a catastrophic threat to Native American sacred lands and to the critical water source for more than 17 million Americans down stream of the Missouri River crossing. We know that President Elect Trump has a serious conflict of interest by owning large investments in DAPL and other fossil fuel assets; and his energy team includes Harold Hamm, billionaire founder of Continental Resources oil company, and someone Mr. Trump might name as his Secretary of Energy. Mr. Trump and the Koch brothers said they support extractive exploitation of public lands and National Parks. President Obama must not only order the Army Corps of Engineers to revoke the pipeline permits and stop the Dakota Access pipeline but we petition President Obama to cede to the Sovereign Standing Rock Sioux Nation water protectors, ownership rights to Army Corp land surrounding and including Lake Oahe and land at the pipeline crossing of the Missouri river, before he leaves office; and / or in the alternative, permanently protect this land by declaring it a National Park or National Monument. After suffering centuries of persecution and exploitation, Native Americans deserve justice. This land belonged to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation Rez before it was taken back. President Elect Trump has stated he will quickly approve the Dakota Access pipeline and also reverse President Obama’s decision to deny approval of Keystone XL pipeline. We have an enormous glut of oil reserves at Cushing, Oklahoma. The clear purpose of Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines is not to make America energy independent but to reap enormous profits for greedy oil interests exporting oil to China. We must protect our environment and our oil resources. This outdated fossil fuel infrastructure is not needed and railroads serving the Bakkan North Dakota oil fields have invested heavily in improved railroad oil tank car safety and have stated that they have more than enough railroad capacity to transport the Bakkan oil. They will also be able to permanently rehire thousands of laid off North Dakota railroad workers. America must finally honor the first Americans and our first environmentalists by stopping Dakota Access.

Enbridge Oil Spill in Michigan

John Bolenbaugh WhistleBlower

October 23, 2016

SICK ENBRIDGE RESIDENTS PART 1

A few small clips of the hundred sick residents I’ve interviewed. Almost a dozen kids now have lukemia, in our small area. A must see. I am part cherokee and Blackfoot and I have always felt a deep love for the environment, animals and a need to protect our water. When the Enbridge spill happened in my back yard. I knew what Gods purpose for me was, it was to protect mother Earth against companies like Enbridge. Enbridgelies.com

SICK ENBRIDGE RESIDENTS PART 1A few small clips of the hundred sick residents I've interviewed. Almost a dozen kids now have lukemia, in our small area. A must see. I am part cherokee and Blackfoot and I have always felt a deep love for the environment, animals and a need to protect our water. When the Enbridge spill happened in my back yard. I knew what Gods purpose for me was, it was to protect mother Earth against companies like Enbridge. Enbridgelies.comWatch part 2

Posted by John Bolenbaugh WhistleBlower on Sunday, October 23, 2016

Proof ENBRIDGE lied. Please share all of these short clips. Many more on my facebook. They can help save future lives. I am part cherokee and Blackfoot and I have always felt a deep love for the environment, animals and a need to protect our water. When the Enbridge spill happened in my back yard. I knew what Gods purpose for me was, it was to protect mother Earth against companies like Enbridge. Enbridgelies.com

Posted by John Bolenbaugh WhistleBlower on Monday, June 20, 2016

Watch part 2

“True Blue Collar”

Response to AFL CIO President Richard Trumka’s CBS News interview talking about why Trump falls like a house of cards with union members.

“True Blue Collar”

John Hanno    October 7, 2016

I’m blue collar, thru and thru. I wear blue shirts, blue pants, blue socks, blue hats and if I could afford designer underwear, I’d wear blue underwear too. I’m proud of my lifetime (50 years) of working with my hands, as an electrician/electrical tech and carpenter. I belonged to 4 different locals of the IBEW and was a member of a dozen other unions; steel, textile, auto, teamsters, nuclear workers, furniture workers and other industrial unions. Having been through 4 manufacturing plant closings, I can understand folks who need a job, any good living wage job. But there are issues more important than strictly looking out for one’s own welfare. There were many of our brothers and sisters who sacrificed life and limb in the early days of America’s labor struggles.

I know some union workers are thinking about voting for Trump, especially in those rust belt states most impacted by off shoring. Trump will say anything to anyone in order to hoodwink voters. It’s pure bull. Every other sentence that come out of his mouth is a lie. If you think for one minute that you can trust Trump or any other Republi-con in Congress to support programs vital to labor and particularly union labor, you’re kidding yourselves. Even before the Regan administration’s war on unions, corporations (now multinationals) and their Republican enablers have mounted an unrelenting decades long assault on labor, and consequently America’s middle class. Walker in Wisconsin is nothing new, he’s just the latest version. These crony capitalists have an inbred hatred for unions and labor in general. And Trump has proven that, time and again, by stiffing workers who labored for him. Just check out the unrelenting legislative attacks in every single state controlled by Republican Governors and or legislatures.

And if you think Trump or any other alt right republi-con is capable of bringing back manufacturing plants or keeping others from leaving, you’re delusional. China and Mexico are not stealing our manufacturing plants and jobs as Trump screams daily, multinationals have and will continue to chase the cheapest labor, the least amount of safety and environmental regulations and international partners who will turn a blind eye to their exploitation of labor. China and Mexico are just the latest destinations. And if TPP is passed, there will be another half dozen of these cheap labor pools to chose from.

Study the history of the labor movement. It’s no accident that labor has unfailingly supported progressive Democrats. Google these Republi-con pretenders voting records in Congress. They’ve voted for every single bill that enabled these companies to flee the country with lucrative accompanying tax incentives and against any legislation that would protect workers or retrain those impacted by off shoring. They’ve voted against any and all minimum wage increases and unemployment benefits. They’ve voted against any and all jobs bills proposed by the Obama or any other Democratic congress or administration. And if you think Trump would be any different, just read a list of the folks he’s intended to hire if he’s elected. He wants to take America back yes but back to the Robber Baron days.

These folks despise and devalue those of us who work with our hands or undertake the dangerous and dirty jobs. They demonize government workers (especially mail carriers for some strange reason), public school teachers and those who labor long and hard to supply us with cheap food. They can’t help themselves, it in their DNA.

It’s been a rough few decades for labor but I think the pendulum is swinging back our way. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month in the last Republican administration but are now creating 200,000 or more per month now. And because of The Affordable Care Act, all those older workers, who were hanging onto jobs just for medical insurance, have left the work force; ergo the low employment participation rate. That’s why the Republi-cons tried to overturn the ACA more than 54 times. They want desperate workers beholden to employers. But President Obama quickly realized that to tackle the jobs debacle he inherited, he had to try to appease the corporate titans who pleaded the high cost of health care as the number one reason for off shoring jobs, ($2,300 per American made auto). That’s the primary reason he invested so much capital, trying to get at least a marginal health care bill passed. It wasn’t pretty but it’s a start.

To continue the rebirth of labor and the American middle class started by this administration, we must support progressive Democratic candidates who respect labor and their contribution to a vibrant middle class. Our job on November 8th is to vote only for candidates who fight for, living wage jobs for all, the clean technology jobs of the future, infrastructure beneficial for all of us, not just corporations and fossil fuel, free public education and affordable single payer health care. And most importantly, overturning Citizens United so that oligarchs like the Koch brothers can’t buy our politicians. Stay strong brothers and sisters, don’t sell your soul to these anti labor devils.

Alton    Very well said brother

John Hanno,   Thank you.

Patrick    If the “GOLD STANDARD” TPP is passed, you can thank your blue sweatered friends in DC…

John Hanno,   Patrick, Do your homework. 100% of progressive and at least 75% of the rest of Democrats in congress are against TPP.

Elizabeth   HRC is NOT a progressive and she IS for TPP

Marie,    Unions are automatic votes for Democrats. How about Unions stay out of politics and just worry about your members well being. Stop telling them how to vote. Btw, proud Union home here.

John Hanno,  Marie,  You can’t separate union and politics any more than you can separate living and politics. They’re intertwined. There’s been a coordinated war on labor and unions since Regan. It’s corporations and oligarchs like the Koch Brothers in coordination with their Republi-con lapdogs waging this war. Its a political war waged in legislatures in red states, (and some in blue states with Republi-con governors like Rauner in Illinois) and labor must stand up and defend themselves in the political arena. I was a union member for 50 years in a dozen different unions. I was never told who to vote for. I had enough brains to know who was and was not supporting labor. Most if not all the Republican who even thought about supporting labor interests have been drummed out of the party long ago.