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USA, Katrina - Store virksomheder henter nemme profitter i Katrinas kølvand!
Profiting from pain: Corporate gold-diggers head to Gulf region
Milt Neidenberg, 13. september 2005
Der er hurtige fortjenester for ingeniør- samt bygge- & anlægsvirksomheder, ikke mindst såfremt de har de rette politiske forbindelser til Washington samt til de militære enheder, der har stor indflydelse i genopbygningen, hvor lokale virksomheder og initiativer i vid udstrækninger negligeres af centrale myndigheder.
The corporate gold-diggers are looking South. To New Orleans, through the Gulf ports of Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida, they are stampeding, big and small, smelling quick profits. They seek to capitalize on death and destruction, and on the human tragedy inflicted on the poor and oppressed population by a hurricane and a government locked into a military-industrial empire.
With only the clothes on their backs, tens of thousands of families have been forcefully uprooted from their birthplaces and dispersed throughout the country by racist military directives. The Gulf Coast populations—those that are left—are under martial law. Seventy thousand armed troops have prepared the way for the familiar faces of industry—the profiteers—the plunderers of Iraq.
The flood waters are receding and the money pot is overflowing. Hundreds of millions in no-bid contracts have already been dispensed to cronies directly connected to the Pentagon and Homeland Security. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under the jurisdiction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is under Homeland Security. The two work hand in hand with the Pentagon in dispensing lucrative contracts.
This core of anti-worker, anti-union, racist and sexist bureaucrats will control a $62 billion appropriation, only the first down payment on a $200 billion reconstruction fund.
Even before the Superdome and the Convention Center concentration camps of death and disease were emptied, FEMA announced the awarding of contracts to Bechtel National Inc., of San Francisco; Fluor Corp., of Aliso Veijo, Calif.; and Halliburton Corporation’s Kellogg, Brown and Root, paymaster to former company chairperson Vice President Dick Cheney. He has millions accumulating in escrow awaiting his retirement from government. Other primary contractors who have received no-bid contracts from FEMA are the Shaw Group, based in Baton Rouge; and CH2M HILL, of Denver, Colo.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported the agency had received calls from 6,300 contractors begging to get in on the bonanza. As the five primary corporations are assured they can pay sub-standard wages, there will be kickbacks, personal and political. Corruption will be as pervasive as the smell of death and destruction that hovers over the Gulf Region.
Davis-Bacon and National Oppression.
On the day FEMA handed out no-bid contracts, President Bush by executive order suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 Depression-era wage floor that led to higher wages on all federal contracts with employers. The suspension was a racist, immigrant-bashing decision to further victimize the victims by cutting labor costs, and increasing profits. Sixty-seven percent of the New Orleans population is Black, and there are 145,000 Mexicans, and 150,000 Hondurans. One out of four in the city lived below the poverty level.
The Davis-Bacon Act was passed two years after the 1929 stock market crash, which resulted in a 25 percent unemployment rate. Unemployed Councils, led by communists, socialists and class-conscious workers, Black and white, organized and fought back.
Militant marches and protests forced Congress—Democrats and Republicans—to enact many progressive laws similar to Davis-Bacon. The Act mandated the Secretary of Labor to set a prevailing wage for all federally financed/assisted construction projects. By establishing a local wage standard that contractors had to pay workers on public projects, the law made it illegal for employers to slash wages, enabling them to bid low on federal contracts. The 1930s unemployed were unskilled and at the mercy of profiteering contractors. The “Wal-Martinization” of labor was outlawed.
When President Bush suspended this progressive law for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, Wall Street’s reaction was quick and predictable. The no-bid contracts, the Davis-Bacon suspension, and a drop in oil below $70 a barrel, combined to push the stock market up 141 points.
There was an immediate response to the suspension of Davis-Bacon from AFL-CIO leaders, who called it legal looting, allowing contractors to pay substandard wages for the dangerous jobs of cleanup and reconstruction.
A Sept. 10 New York Times editorial called it “A Shameful Proclamation.”
“If Mr. Bush does not rescind his proclamation voluntarily,” the editorial said, “Congress should pass a law forcing him to do so.”
The strategy here is to point the labor movement and especially the Democratic Party in the direction of hopeless lobbying and legislative activity, thus preparing the workers for the 2006 election. The dead-end policy has the support of the AFL-CIO.
The Change to Win Coalition, which split from the AFL-CIO, attacked “the inadequate response of the federal government,” to the hurricane, but to date has not issued a statement on the suspension of Davis-Bacon and its political ramifications.
Katrina and the aftermath have exposed the criminal behavior of the government and torn away its democratic façade. The class character of the imperialist system, which serves the wealthy one percent, has once again been revealed.
There is an awakening from below, particularly from Black labor unionists, the oppressed communities and low-paid multi-national service workers, driven down by the blows of “Corporate America” and the Bush administration. Across the U.S., the laboring masses are fired up over the racist treatment of their sisters and brothers in the Gulf region. There is a growing awareness of the need for a regroupment of mass organizations—the many movements opposed to U.S. imperialist policies of plunder and profit for the ruling class. New leaders will arise from this amalgam of organizations.
The Million Worker March Movement has proposed a class-wide independent movement which will lay the basis for this regroupment of forces to unite on the basis of class solidarity, and in the fight against war, racism, national/sexual oppression and poverty.
The events in the Gulf region have added urgency to fulfilling this vision.