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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


A friend made an interesting observation this morning. He mused that he had never heard of the Governor of Illinois until he publicly attacked Bank of America for denying any credit relief to Republic Window and Doors in Chicago, the company that closed last week only to be met with a militant sit-in by two hundred of its workers. Governor Blagojevich, like the members of the United Electrical Workers local, took a stand. He stated unequivocally that that state of Illinois would no longer do business with Bank of America, a company that eagerly took billions of dollars of bailout money meant to loosen credit, while steadfastly refusing to pass it on to a struggling company employing workers in Chicago. After the sit-in began at week's end, Governor B, on Monday, was the first prominent person to visit the workers and take a tough public stance for the workers' cause.

As my friend noted, the otherwise obscure Governor made national headlines on Tuesday, not for his act of solidarity, but for his Federal indictment on corruption charges. Before the word could spread about his support for desperate workers, the national headlines were scandalizing his name, erasing even a hint of integrity in his bold Monday declarations.


Frankly, you have to suffer from nursery school naivete to buy this explanation. Does that mean that Governor B is pure as the driven snow? Of course not. He's a crook. Friends and relatives in Illinois have recounted his many shady deals for some time. Governor B was a willing participant in the national political sport of "pay for play", the active solicitation of personal or campaign funds in return for no-bid contracts, legal and bond work, and other public benefits. It would be far easier for an investigative reporter - if there are any left - to find "public servants" who are not players than to identify the few that pass on the tantalizing attraction of graft. The long and lucrative career of Vincent Fumo, a Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania State Senator, is only the most recent and outrageous publicly revealed example of the mind-boggling greed of public officials.

But think about this indictment. Put the justifiable indignation over the revelations about another corrupted, cynical politician aside for the moment and consider the timing. The Feds have been wiretapping Governor B for five years! They have a veritable treasure trove of self-implicating, vulgar graft-mongering. Like the infamous FBI under J. Edgar Hoover which wiretapped the mafia for two decades, they seemed more interested in eavesdropping than pursuing justice. But - aha! - a moment arrived when they could stick it to the old Governor. He dared to side with the workers!

Now I have no more insight into Governor B's mind than I do the true motives of other politicians who have signed onto progressive legislation or taken commendable public stands, but I do know this: no other Governor has stepped up to defend and support the laid-off workers of Republic except for him. And few will fail to see the possible consequences of doing so, given that the Feds may have been monitoring their deals as well. Nothing puts a damper on political boldness like an assassination - remember the sixties? - or Federal indictments.

Whatever his reasons, Governor B stepped up with real support before anyone else. It took John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, a full five days to issue a statement in solidarity with the workers in Chicago. The machinery of class solidarity seem to be a bit rusty in Washington DC. Maybe the labor movement should consider the UE organizer who dared to take on Republic and Bank of America, Leah Fried, as the next President of the AFL-CIO. She and the workers she so ably represent seem to show a lot more fight than the UAW's groveling President who proudly stands shoulder to shoulder with the discredited auto moguls.

I salute the workers at Republic. Let this be a beginning!


Anonymous said...

What's wrong with the prosecutors' explanation provided in background to the press: the governor was set to appoint a senator, possibly himself, the day of the arrest?

A notable point about the Republic sit-in is the sympathetic portrayal of the workers in most of the media, including Lou Dobbs. One explanation is that severance and vacation pay for 60 workers is a very cheap cost for a story to displace attention from the huge giveaways that Obama and Congress demand of the autoworkers. How much publicity have you seen for the autoworkers' protest caravan to Washington, DC?

zoltan zigedy said...

Maybe Governor B was, maybe he wasn't set to make the appointment. While that may sound like a "justification", there would be many other, later opportunities to expose the Governor's misdeeds before confirmation would be completed. And, of course, other ways to bring the the governor's misdeeds were available, including alerting the Senate leadership.

But, as you aptly point out, the drama of Monday's arrest drove the Republic solidarity to the back pages.

Check out today's Wall Street Journal with headlines dragging in Jesse Jackson, Jr. and SEIU. The blood lust is expanding, increasing the chances of a Republican Senator in Illinois.

Anonymous said...

They say in politics, timing is everything.
ZZ has it right.
There nothing in the indictment but talk, just talk between the Gov and his aides. Not even talk with a possible buyer of the seat.
The Senate democrats, who have the last word on who gets seated, are saying now they won't seat a Gov.s pick. Can you imagine that the senate democrats would have seated him or his pick if he or his pick were indicited after being selected?
No way. So why the hurry to arrest?
What the rush to arrest did was to drive any news of the factory sit in out of the mainstream news Which could be expected given that the news industry is camped out in chicago because of Obama.
The seizing of private property by workers, the President Elect forced to comment favorably on their demands because it's in his own backyard, the Gov. visiting the seized site and announcing his support for the workers and that the state would not do any business with BA, Chicago Alderman calling for the city of Chicago to also drop the bank, the favorable publicity the workers were getting and the open hostility towards "the banks" that was growing, this was all too much and had to be driven off the front page.
This was Especially necessary while all the talk about an auto bailout is going on and workers, and everyone else, could compare the response in Chicago & Detroit.
ZZ's right! It really does Take A Fight to Win
ZZ could have additionally pointed to the weak response of the democrats, especially in an area of major concern to labor.
The first thing Sen. Durbin did was to call for a special election. Does anyone think that the democrats will win such an election in this atmosphere? that the US Chamber of Commerce, NAM, RNC will not pour in millions to win it for the republicans. What would that do for Employee Free Choice Act?