US: Chicago union condemns “unnecessary destruction” in New Orleans

“Build an independent party to represent working people”

The following resolution was recently passed by AFSCME Local 2858, in Chicago, in which members of Socialist Alternative (CWI) are active.

Chicago union condemns “unnecessary destruction” in New Orleans

Resolution on the unnecessary destruction of human life and working class communities resulting from the widely predicted hurricanes affecting New Orleans

Whereas the Bush administration slashed funding for public spending on levees and other environmental safety and engineering measures in order to pay for tax cuts and the war, and used the National Guard for the war in Iraq instead of its intended domestic purpose; and whereas the Democratic administrations in Louisiana and New Orleans also proved unable to limit the disaster or aid its victims, Governor Blanco calling instead on the National Guard to shoot-to-kill, and Mayor Nagin calling for residents who had survived the first week of the disaster, to be starved out of their homes; and whereas the Bush administration has already shown that it intends to use the disaster, just as it used 9/11, as another opportunity to wreck existing worker protections and to hand out no-bid contracts to its cronies;

And whereas Republican politicians have opposed the rebuilding of flooded working class neighborhoods, one even gloating that "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did." (Congressman Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, 9 September 2005); be it therefore resolved that this union adopt a position of putting no faith in promises to rebuild, whether coming from the Bush administration or the corrupt politicians at city, county and State level, but, while continuing to work through Union-led volunteer efforts, should organize support for the following demands on behalf of working and poor people:

  • No land theft and no foreclosures!
  • Mortgages, taxes and insurance on flood and hurricane damaged homes and small businesses should be considered paid until recovery efforts are complete;
  • Defend working class communities! Evacuees should get first priority for jobs in rebuilding the flooded and hurricane damaged areas, homes and businesses, and be paid at the prevailing Union rates of pay, and workers who are unable to work due to the effects of the hurricane should continue to be paid until their jobs are restored or replaced, these measures to be paid for out of increased taxes on the rich and corporations;
  • Evacuees should not be temporarily housed in locations that would pose an obstacle to their return, and should be provided with the means to keep in touch as a community. Existing military and other public and private facilities such as hotels should be made available for this as an urgent priority;

And it should be further resolved that this union work with other unions and community groups to build committees made up of residents, whether displaced or not, with representation from unions and existing community organizations, to independently investigate the negligence of government at all levels in failing to prepare for this predicted and expected catastrophe, such committees to demand the right to direct and supervise the rebuilding of communities damaged by the hurricane;

And if finally be resolved in view of the failure of both major parties to deal with this and other crises threatening working people, that this union work with other unions and community groups to organize and build an independent party to represent working people, refusing big business campaign contributions, but fighting instead to defend workers’ living standards and working class communities from the profiteers, and to work for policies and priorities that will prevent, or minimize, future natural and not-so-natural disasters.

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October 2005