Trump Uses State of Disunion Speech to Take Shots at Workers

Springfield  President Trump came into his first State of the Union speech marking the end of his first year in office with the lowest level of popular support for his job performance in modern times with only 37% of the American people approving his work according to polls.  Perhaps unsurprisingly he used the opportunity to dog whistle his base by taking shots at workers both large and small.

Part of the red meat of the right is attacking federal workers as bureaucrats and bums, and Trump seemed to be calling for an end to civil service protections for federal workers, saying he would “…call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.”  That’s a scary statement that seems to call for something somewhere between a purge and a witch hunt based of the whims of a totally political appointee, which is what all cabinet secretaries are.  What objective standards might possibly fairly determine among the millions of federal workers, who had undermined “public trust” or failed “the American people?  Given Trump’s random broadsides at the Justice Department, State Department, and any number of others when they seemed to displease him, his remarks seem to be a call for an open season on any workers at any level that displease them so that they could be fired immediately.

This isn’t about the “spoils system,” which is part of the reason the federal civil service and others protections in most cities and states were created in order to prevent politicians from just randomly eliminating hard working civil servants to hire their buddies as part of their patronage.  Last reports there were still thousands of appointments still not tendered by the administration for jobs that were exclusively political, rather than civil service qualified.  Trump already has more jobs available for his sycophants than he seems to have people ready and willing to serve.  This is all about a federal worker equivalent of his old reality show that he wants to make his new reality show from the White House where he can tweet “you’re fired” at every federal worker who offends him that minute.  That’s not why we change a civil service system, that’s why we have a civil service system!

The precedent that Trump is trying to leverage here is the “Veterans Administration Accountability Act,” passed by Congress last June, which gives expedited firing authority to the VA chief. According to a White House fact sheet distributed during the speech, 1,470 VA employees were fired between the law’s enactment and the end of 2017, with 443 suspended and 83 demoted.”  This program has been controversial and was triggered by problems in service delivery by the VA, and many believe this is the wolf trying to cover itself in the sheep’s clothing of that scandal in an effort to privatize the VA itself, despite its sterling record of offering top of the line health care and cost controls for millions of veterans.

The American Federal Government Employees union and the National Treasury Employees Union both immediately condemned these remarks.  Some also thought this was a guise for Trump’s attack on the Justice Department not bending to his will and whim.  The threat is meant to intimidate and chill the rights of federal workers, but these are also the words of a tyrant on try out, so his calls must be rejected.

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Forty-Nine Years and More of the Story Emerges on the Springfield Riot

Source: Instagram #scspirituallife #springfieldcollege

Springfield     Before the showing of “The Organizer,” the organizers of the screening and Q&A has put together a small dinner for some of the professors and their star students.  As people put away their plates, Rick Paar, a Springfield College psychology professor, said that since I was there he wanted to tell the story of how I got him arrested almost 49 years ago.  I was all ears.  I knew that about 50 members of the Springfield College Black Students Union had gotten arrested for joining the welfare rights members after they had voted for the students to leave and for the police to arrest them, but I didn’t really appreciate that the rush of the police into the demonstrators might have caught some other white supporters as well.

Paar told the story from the perspective of a 19-year old Springfield College student caught in the drama of the day.  He had been at the Vietnam Moratorium Day rally in downtown Springfield that day in Court Square, and like many others, including the students of all four area high schools that were then built cheek to jowl at the bottom of the hill.  At the time there was a bus strike so everyone was making their way up the hill.  At the top was the Springfield Welfare office housed in a former supermarket in this largely African-American neighborhood across from Springfield College.  Paar mentioned having heard Barbara Rivera, the chair of the North End WRO, our delegate to the rally, speak about ending the war on the poor as well, and call for support for our demonstration and sit-in at the welfare office.  The confluence of all of these events, coupled with the police action, was combustible, and a riot broke out.

Long and short, he was caught in the sweep with some of his buddies from school by the police.  He told about the bottles flying, which I also remember clearly from my trip to jail.  He felt safer in the paddy wagon.  In a side bar he mentioned seeing his father, who was then a college professor, trying to pull a coat over his head while he let air out of the tires.  Eventually, we all ended up in the York Street jail, which is now where the NBA Hall of Fame is located after the jail was demolished.  My friend, Dan Russell, mentioned I can now say I was in the Hall of Fame.

Anyway, Steve Bardidge, the MWRO lawyer, had always told me he was able to negotiate my arrest down from an inciting to riot charge to simple a nolo contendere plea on simple protest with a 2-year probation because he was able to get me packaged into a deal being demanded by an influential Springfield College professor who was trying to spring his son.   Now, almost 49 years later, I discover that was Rick Paar’s father.

He ended the story before the documentary began, saying “You can thank me now, Wade.”  And, I did, and here it is again, “Thanks, Rick!”  Better late than never.

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