When Bush the Lesser stole his election, somebody threw a tomato at his inauguration day limo.
That’s what I told Ukraine’s Svitlana Matiivienko last Monday at the Northern Nevada Labor Temple in Sparks.
At the request of the Northern Nevada International Center, the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council hosted a delegation here to learn about U.S. non-governmental organizations.
We informed them of the most tightly-regulated NGO’s (unions) and the most lightly- overseen (secret tax-subsidized political fronts).
With Grzegorz Kot of Krakow, we talked of Lech Walesa, the union electrician who became president of Poland. I told him how the Central Labor Council used a TV spot Walesa recorded on a 1989 U.S. visit to spark major northern Nevada organizing drives.
Ana Novakovic of Montenegro raised the question of union divisiveness, noting that in her country, some unions support the government and others oppose.
She wanted to know if American workers are willing to fight.
Are we courageous like the citizens of the Philippines and Ukraine when their elections were stolen? Tough enough to take to the streets like the people of Dubai, Tunisia and Egypt?
George Mayamiko Jobe told us how his fellow Malawi citizens coalesced behind the country’s largest labor union when the government wanted to oust its entire leadership.
“In many ways, we are victims of our own success,” stated long-time Painters & Allied Trades leader Todd Koch, adding that so much is now taken for granted.
Many don’t remember who gave them social security, retirement plans, health care, safety and overtime laws, the weekend, the increasingly endangered eight-hour day and 40-hour work week.
You can read detailed U.S. labor history in schoolbooks in other countries but not here, Building & Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Paul McKenzie told our six visitors (including Rotanark Soy of Cambodia and State Department representative Marcelo Gandaria from the U.S. embassy in Argentina).
Mr. Gandaria asked me to give a quick history of American unionism. I strongly emphasized how the AFL-CIO was used as a conduit to support Walesa and future Pope John Paul II as communism crumbled in Poland a quarter century ago.
Paul Alan of the Industrial Workers of the World (aka The Wobblies) told them how organized labor in the western U.S. was born in Virginia City, which they had just visited.
I have been honored to participate in several such events and they always leave me with a feeling of hope for the world and a sense of foreboding about us.
Are we tough enough to fight back anymore?
If our fragile, fragmented, weak, selective and sporadic economic recovery turns into Great Depression II, we may find out the hard way.
Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 44-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.