Write on: Letters to the editor

November 17, 1993


No wonder the government can give back family payments of $600 per child. For struggling separated parents who are trying to do the best for their kids, the government takes 50 cents in every dollar of the family assistance paid by the non-custodial parent (who has already payed tax) over the first $1095. This is an effective tax rate of over 50% for our most deserving Australians, those that are trying to raise the future generation. No wonder there is disharmony between struggling parents. It's time for fair taxation for those in need rather than tax cuts for the rich.

Dr Colin Hughes
Glen Forrest WA


If Greenpeace activists Burgess and Saunders are terrorists for painting "NO WAR" on the Sydney Opera House on March 18, 2003, when Australia planned to invade Iraq, the English language has lost its meaning. Free speech has become a crime, and US "free" trade and killing those in the way is OK and to perpetrate democracy, dissenters are terrorists. No wonder we were arrested for handing out NO WAR leaflets at Sydney University in 2001. What next?

We are terrorising and being terrorised to "defend the homelands" and protect US economic interests.

Yvonne Francis
Queanbeyan, NSW


The United States has not even begun to understand the calamity it has caused both in Iraq and beyond. By invading Iraq without justification the US has sent a clear message to Muslims around the world that the rules of international relations have been thrown out the window. Resolving international disputes by means of pre-emptive unilateral force has been given the green light. The US and its allies have sanctioned state-sponsored terrorism.

In Iraq the result has been chaos. The Iraqi national resistance is retaliating to US terrorism with its own brutal attacks on both the invasion forces and those who collaborate with them. They are seeking not only the removal of foreign forces from their land, but the reversal of any institutional changes forced upon Iraq by the Americans. This includes the removal of any US appointed government.

Internationally the US attack and occupation of Iraq has sent a clear message to Islamic groups that violence by the most powerful state will be used to quash governments that they disapprove of. Pre-emptive attacks on other nation states, particularly those with different cultural, religious and political systems have and will occur.

In the past the US was held in check by another superpower. Since the fall of the Soviet Union this is no longer the case. The US has decided to use its military power to invade and bring down the governments of other nation states including Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no knowing how far this state aggressor may go. There is certainly no guarantee that a change of government in the US will result in different outcomes in the future.

Not all groups who use violence against the state are terrorists. One needs to look at their motives. Has the state acted in such a way that violence is a justified means of retaliating? There are numerous examples around the world where violence against the oppression of the state is justified. If the US wants to embark on unjust invasions then it will foster an explosion in such groups.

Adam Bonner
Meroo Meadow, NSW


If the Bush-Cheney gang didn't install gun-totin' rootin' tootin' shootin' gangsters with a taste, like themselves, for summary "justice" and execution, it would be a surprise. I mean, look at any of their successes in Central and South America, Afghanistan or the oil-rich former Soviet central and south-west Asian republics. Look at the mob in charge of their other vassal pariah states, notably nuclear-armed Israel and Pakistan.

And everywhere, the same sinister looking young men with burp guns, all reputed "security" contractors, mostly of a type drawn from English, US, Israeli or Australian secret military units.

How deep are we into this muck, Mr Howard? And do you care? We all know that both the Kirribilli House Howards have put on the record that they are roaring fans of "special" capital punishment. No wonder our government disgusts decent Australians.

Peter Woodforde
Melba, ACT

Jim Clingan

I refer to your article on the struggle by Caterpillar workers for a decent contract (<http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/1998/310/310p19.htm>). I worked for Caterpillar from November 1996 through May 2004. During my time at the small Caterpillar plant in Denver, which is represented by the UAW, I became very active in the union. I was recording secretary for two years, third shift committeeperson for three years, chairperson of both the education and civil rights committees, editor and main writer for the monthly newsletter and the decisive winner of the election that chose the delegate to the 2002 UAW convention.

I was suspended indefinitely during a heated first-step grievance meeting. During the meeting, the company refused to answer questions relating to the suspension of a member and was insistent that I was hampering production with the grievance.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of company sponsored contractual insubordination, the supervisors involved were told to act the way they did by labor relations according to an email turned over by the department during the investigation of my suspension, I turned from them and muttered that I could hurt production by having people file grievances all night.

That was it. I was suspended.

Later the suspension was reduced to 30 days with one big omission, I couldn't arbitrate the time lost. If I chose to arbitrate, I would be terminated. This was after the company put an offer of 30 days with the right to arbitrate on the table. It, in effect, removed an offer from the table.

I called the Solidarity House and asked what I should do. I talked to Jim Clingan. After his defeat by a 3-1 margin at the local level, the UAW put him into an office where the democratic process can't touch him, he's a union official at the Solidarity House. He said that the company can't take an offer from the table. He called around and checked to see what happened.

The president of the local, who has been active since 93 and won the election in 2001, told him that yes, the company took the offer from the table and is now denying it ever made it. Caterpillar labor relations said it never made the offer. Clingan believed the company over the local president.

During my conversation with Clingan he said taking the deal, 30 days off with no pay and no right to arbitrate, "isn't a loss". I never asked him to make that deal for me. I began looking for jobs knowing I was going to be terminated. The president of the local and I were both under the impression that if I took the deal I gave up all rights, if not I was gone and would wait for arbitration.

Clingan was under a different impression. He decided to settle the grievance on my behalf citing my call to him as an excuse to assume the duties of my grievance handler. Before the grievance even went to second step, he settled the grievance by agreeing to 30 days with no right to arbitrate. I told him in May, after I had found a new job and still within my 30 day suspension originally given, that I wanted the case to go to arbitration. He said no, he wasn't putting it into arbitration. To me it became an issue of steward's rights vs a pledge that the UAW made to the company that counteracts the ideals, principles and constitution of the UAW. The UAW pledged that it would reduce the arbitration backlog during the final 1998 contract talks. It re-emphasized this pledge in the concept proposal it gave to Caterpillar in December 2003.

Clingan, now retired and presumably pulling in a nice salary for his "duties" as an UAW official, is still selling out the members of the UAW. Now he's doing it to all locals though. Again, the only difference between Clingan as Local 974 president and Clingan now is that he cannot be removed by the democratic process. He's a criminal to the ideals of the UAW and through its defense of him, the UAW is criminal to the principles of its primary founder, Walter Reuther.

Douglas Champiny
Denver, Colorado

From Green Left Weekly, August 11, 2004.
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