Remembering Martin Luther King: Rallying for the Robin Hood Tax

by Bill Barclay

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

Bill Barclay speaking at Chicago RHT rally

April 4th was the Fiftieth anniversary of an event that we don’t like to remember: the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But, it also offers the chance to honor and carry forward MLK’s thinking and goals, particularly the concerns with poverty and inequality that he articulated with increasing intensity in the last years of his life.

So, on April 4th there was a national mobilization around the Robin Hood Tax (RHT), the proposal for a very small tax on financial transactions in stocks, currencies, debt and derivatives, futures and options based on these financial claims. The RHT has two goals: raising a large amount of money to reconstruct the U.S. political economy in a way that serves most of the population and at, the same time, restricting or even eliminating some of the most destructive aspects of finance and financial activities by throwing a small amount of sand into the gears of always increasing and always going faster treading volumes.

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Amy Dean to Keynote Chicago DSA Dinner on May 2

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You are invited to the annual Debs – Thomas – Harrington Dinner! It will be held on Friday evening, May 3, at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in downtown Chicago, right next to the Merchandise Mart.

This year’s dinner honors William McNary, co-Director of Citizen Action/Illinois; Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana; and the Chicago Teachers Union. Our featured speaker is Amy Dean, social entrepreneur, author, and progressive activist with deep roots in the labor movement.

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Chicago Activists Ask Chipotle: What About the Farm Workers?

by Tom Broderick


The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is an organization of tomato pickers based in Immokalee Florida. They came to Chicago to confront Chipotle Mexican Grill over their refusal to sign a formal code of conduct with the CIW. These farmworkers have been working under very harsh circumstances for years while being paid wages that leave them in poverty. In 2001 they launched a campaign calling for a boycott of Taco Bell. The CIW wanted better and safer working conditions and better pay. In 2005, the campaign came to a successful end.

In subsequent struggles, the following fast food chains have signed similar agreements with the CIW: McDonald’s (in 2005, when Chicago DSA first got involved with the CIW); Burger King and Subway. Over time, improvements have been made to the code of conduct. In addition to fast food chains, the following food service providers have signed the code of conduct: Bon Appetit Management Co., Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo. Two grocery chains, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have also come to agreement with the CIW. A major victory was with the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. This is the marketing cooperative of the tomato growers who actually employ the tomato pickers. For years, they refused to acknowledge the CIW. The agreement between the Exchange and the CIW extends coverage to more than 90% of the Florida tomato pickers.

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Chicago Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

by Robert Roman

Chicago’s 2012 Eugene V. Debs — Norman Thomas — Michael Harrington Dinner will be held on Friday evening, April 27, at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, just west of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. The evening begins with a cash bar at 6 PM. The Dinner is at 7 PM. The program usually starts about 8 PM.

Michael Harrington’s The Other America was published 50 years ago this March. It eloquently revealed poverty in the United States to be persistent and not isolated. Dwight Macdonald’s 40 page review in the New Yorker in 1963 was effectively a second publication. When Walter Heller gave the book to President Kennedy, it got credit for catalyzing what later became Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” There are good reasons to be cynical about why poverty became a major item on the nation’s agenda back then. Yet contrary to conservative cant, the social programs of the 1960s were not a failure even if they were not a success. When The Other America was published, nearly 30% of the U.S. population lived at or below 125% of the poverty line. Today, even in the lingering shadow of the Great Recession and decades of conservative sabotage, that number is a bit less than 20%. Our honorees this year are outstanding examples of how the fight against poverty is basically a fight for justice. This year we are honoring John Bouman and Chicago Jobs with Justice. Continue reading

Chicago DSA Joins Hyatt Picket Line

by Bob Roman

Chicago DSA members and friends at the Hyatt Regency West Tower picket line on Saturday afternoon, September 10. Maria Svart, DSA's National Director, is 2nd from the left.

UNITE HERE  recently  called a one day strike against selected Hyatt hotel facilities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. In Chicago, the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt McCormick were being struck. The last contract at these Hyatt facilities expired in August, 2009.

At the Saturday, September 10 Chicago DSA membership meeting, we decided to join the picket line at the Hyatt Regency after the meeting concluded. Six of us, including DSA’s new national director Maria Svart, joined the picket line. We also had a second delegation marching at the Regency on Sunday morning.

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Chicago DSA In Praise of Public Service

by Bob Roman

William McNary in one of his fiercer moments at the Dinner. Photo by John Scott.

It was a really good time. The 53rd Debs — Thomas — Harrington Dinner was one of our better Dinners: fun, educational, inspirational, convivial. Chicago Democratic Socialists of America held it this year at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro on what should have been an inauspicious day, Friday the 13th of May.
William McNary of Citizen Action/ Illinois was our Master of Ceremonies. McNary is someone who makes a differ­ence, in politics and at the podium. At the podium, he combines a rare eloquence with an infectious sense of fun. In welcoming the attendees, McNary observed that public service should not be the same thing as slavery.

Sandra Shimon, a Greater Oak Park DSA member and an Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) board member, presented the Dinner award to ICADP’s Jeremy Schroeder. In accepting the award, Schroeder made reference to the politics and values represented by Eugene V. Debs. Despite the victory in abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, the work of Illinois Abolitionists is not over. Not only is there the Federal death penalty, but propo­nents of the death penalty in Illinois are already attempting to bring it back.

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Bring America Home: Chicago’s 52nd Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

Carl Rosen, Flint Taylor, Kim Bobo, and William Greider Photo by John Scott

by Bob Roman

Chicago DSA‘s 2010 Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner gathered together people representing Chicago’s legal, labor, liberal, and left communities to honor the People’s Law Office and the United Electrical Workers’ Western Regional President Carl Rosen. Author William Greider was our featured speaker. The event was held on Friday evening, May 7, at what is becoming its current home, the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, located at Madison and Halsted in Chicago.

Kim Bobo was our Master of Ceremonies. We have been so fortunate to have her help at our Dinners. In my opinion, she’s the best since Leon Despres. Continue reading

William Greider to Keynote Chicago Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

William Greider

Chicago DSA

Bring America Home! As Frederick Douglass said, “power concedes nothing without a demand,” and in these early years of the 21st Century, “Bring America Home!” must be our demand to the powerful. It is not a cry of isolationism. It is a demand for priorities that are sensible for the majority of Americans: for health care instead of bombs, for productive jobs instead of billions to bail out a financial elite, for fair trade agreements instead of free trade agreements, for internationalism instead of empire. Bring America Home! is the theme of  Chicago’s  2010 Debs ­ Thomas ­ Harrington Dinner.

To address this theme, Chicago DSA has invited William Greider, columnist for The Nation and author of Come Home America (2009), The Soul of Capitalism (2004), The Secrets of the Temple (1989) to be the keynote speaker for this year’s Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner.   Greider writes about capitalism and about democracy and explains how these two value systems are in collision. I can’t think of a speaker better suited to these times. This is someone you will not want to miss.

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Working Together for Justice: Chicago Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

by Bob Roman
Chicago DSA

C. J. Hawking keynotes 2009 Chicago DSA Dinner

C. J. Hawking keynotes 2009 Chicago DSA Dinner

Working Together for Justice” was the theme of the 51st Annual Eugene V. Debs-Norman Thomas-Michael Harrington Dinner. In keeping with the tradition of these events, it brought together a broad cross-section of Chicago’s left to honor two individuals, Timuel Black and Jane Ramsey, who have spent their lives working for social justice and building coalitions as a means of doing so. The Dinner was held on Friday evening, May 1st, the international Workers’ Day, at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro hotel in Chicago’s Greektown.

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Kim Bobo Featured at Chicago’s 51st Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

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Kim Bobo keynote speaker for 2009 Chicago DSA dinner

Kim Bobo, Executive Director of  Interfaith Workers Justice, will be the featured speaker at Chicago’s 51st Annual Debs – Thomas – Harrington Dinner.   Chicago Democratic Socialists of America is the sponsor  for the dinner.  The inner will be held on Friday evening, May 1st, at the Crowne Plaza Metro Chicago hotel, 733 W. Madison in Chicago. The theme of the dinner is  “Working Together for Justice.”

Kim Bobo is one of the best public speakers on the left in Chicago. She’s also an author, having written two books on organizing. Her latest book is  Wage Theft in America.

In announcing the dinner, Robert Roman of Chicago DSA writes “Wealthy conservatives think too much of themselves when they cry ‘class envy!’ We do not envy them. We do not want their toys. We want justice. This year’s Dinner will be a celebration: not of victory, but of conservatism’s defeat; not of victory, but of the opportunity for justice. It will be a celebration of how we can achieve victory: by working together for justice. Our honorees exemplify this principle.”

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