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Vol. 33, No.2                                                      April 16, 2006



Over the past few days, the situation at MEDCO has gone from bad to worse. In response to MEDCO's recent lockout of its Las Vegas based workforce, the United Steel Workers union, which represents 580 pharmacy technicians of Local 675, issued a call for help to the labor movement. On April 10th, the USW asked union members across America to fill their prescriptions at a retail pharmacy---whenever possible---until MEDCO ends its "illegal" lockout and returns to the bargaining table. As United Steel Workers president Leo W. Gerard explained it, both solidarity and safety are at stake:

Medco has announced that it will use "temporary employees and additional supplemental staff" to keep its operations going in Las Vegas, one of the company's three main dispensing pharmacies. We do not know if these replacements have adequate training and experience. We do know that the jobs performed by our illegally locked out members, who have many years of experience and are highly skilled, can not be safely performed by those who have just been given a few quick training classes. We believe that Medco's use of these "scabs" place millions of people at risk with potential delays in getting their medication or even receiving the wrong medication altogether. Because of this public health risk, I will be asking the Nevada Board of Pharmacy to suspend Medco's license to operate this facility for the duration of this lockout . . .

Due to the risks of having inexperienced replacements filling mail-order prescriptions through Medco, I am strongly recommending that people consider filling their prescriptions at a retail pharmacy whenever possible until this dispute as been resolved.

If Medco does not soon end this illegal lockout -- which we believe puts the lives of millions at risk -- we need to let Medco know that we will be actively seeking other prescription plan providers. It would be greatly appreciated if you and your locals could let Medco know of your concerns. If you could copy me on any letters it would also be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for supporting our members and their families in their struggle for a fair and equitable contract.

Since "Solidarity Steve" London and his trusty sidekick "Luau Larry" Morgan specifically made the decision to switch the WF prescription drug plan to MEDCO, we here at The Patriot Returns would like to know what, if anything, the Welfare Fund and the PSC are going to do about these requests. In particular, we'd like to know:

  • Will Steve and Larry inform the membership about the ongoing crisis and chaos at MEDCO?

  • Will Steve and Larry recommend that all those covered by the WF's MEDCO plan have their prescriptions filled during the course of this lockout?

  • Will Steve and our Dear Leader, PSC president Barbara Bowen, express their public opposition to MEDCO's anti-labor moves, as the USW has requested?

  • If in light of recent investigations, federal court penalties, lawsuits by teachers in Ohio, and now this lockout, will Steve and Barbara still consider MEDCO to be the most appropriate partner for the PSC?

But look on the bright side: MEDCO is not selling Coca-Cola, or at least not yet.


As the campaign has unfolded, we have watched with bemusement the emergence of a heretofore low-level apparatchik, York Chapter Chair Janice Cline, as a major spokesperson for Barbara Bowen's New Caucus. Chapter Chair Cline first attracted our attention when she prohibited the videotaping of the CA/NC debate at York. It's so much easier to distort what your opponent said when no videotape exists of the event.

Lately, we've been struck by Chapter Chair Cline's explanation for the New Caucus' contract cave-in. Who's at fault? Not, of course, the Dear Leader. The real culprits, Chapter Chair Cline informs us, are the nasty union members who have criticized the Dear Leader's disastrous policies---and especially those with the gall of trying to deny the Dear Leader another term in office. "Imagine," Chapter Chair Cline rhapsodized, "what a force we might be--what productivity increases we might claim--if we were all working together, a real union, all working for the same purpose!"

This novel interpretation of the role of elections might be mainstream in Pyongyang, where followers of the (original) Dear Leader certainly do all work for the same purpose. But here in America, Chapter Chair Cline might remember that elections generally involve the opposition critiquing the incumbent's performance. It's what our very own Dear Leader might call "democratic unionism."

Chapter Chair Cline has also pioneered a most unusual electioneering strategy, designed to alienate as many voters as possible before balloting closes. A (tenured) professor who admitted that he was undecided on how to vote asked her to defend the NC's handling of the Welfare Fund. But Chapter Chair Cline scoffed at the request: "You remind me of a student who's been absent for three weeks and then whines, but if I only knew what the assignment was, I would have done it."

So, in Chapter Chair Cline's world, faculty who ask the NC to defend why WF reserves have plunged from $15 million to near-bankruptcy since the Dear Leader assumed power are the equivalent of whiny students; and those who challenge the Dear Leader at the polls are responsible for the Dear Leader's contract failures.

In the 1960s, William Fulbright coined a phrase to describe people like Chapter Chair Cline: "the arrogance of power."


The decision by a Brooklyn judge to jail "Jolly Roger" Toussaint for 10 days and to fine him $1,000 for his starring role in the recent ill-starred transit strike may have caused consternation at the TWU---and at chez Toussaint. But we've heard rumors that at a least one union HQ, and one Upper-West Side residence, the reactions were gleeful, not gloomy. From the early days of 2005, Barbara Bowen and Tony "She's Tough" O'Brien have been fantasizing and planning a final confrontation with Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. States of Emergency have been declared, Defense Funds have been collected, "job action" referenda have been authorized, "mass rallies" have been staged, and dry-run picketing done across the university. Added to these were the Dear Leader's exuberant support for strikes by graduate students at NYU and, of course, by the TWU's Local 100. By year's end the PSC's "La Passionata" Bowen was ablaze!

So, what happened? It seems that when the CUNY Alliance arose to challenge the Dear Leader's unquestioned control of the PSC, a remarkable transformation took place. The once fiery revolutionary became a sober, serious bureaucrat. Rather than being in the streets and on the barricades, where she certainly appeared to be, she was in boardroom, overseeing "'round the clock" negotiations and single-handedly preventing the collapse of the Welfare Fund. How Barbara managed to be in two places at once---for instance, on April 10, negotiating with 80th Street for more than 10 hours, as she claimed, and, as she also claimed, demonstrating with the "undocumented"---is beyond our ken. But as Tony and others know, she is a woman of many parts.

A return tour of one of those parts, Barbara "La Passionata," does seem to be in rehearsal. As she offered us "Straight Talk About the Contract" in the March 2006 Clarion, the Dear Leader praised the "courageous workers in the TWU" while cautioning that an "even more powerful campaign" would be need to break the "concerted power" of the chancellor, the mayor and the governor. But with sufficient "union militancy" and "risk-taking," the necessary "job actions" could be taken, and would succeed. "I think that the question should not be whether we do it, but when." There's candor in The Clarion at last, if not in the New Caucus.

And what might Barbara's co-belligerent in the class struggle, "Jolly Roger," have to say about such thinly veiled strike threats?

No one in their right mind goes on strike. Even legal strikes come at enormous risk to our members, so as a matter of policy of common sense a strike for us is always a last resort.

Now, if we catch Roger's drift, no responsible head of a public employees' union should be cavalierly challenging the Taylor Law. Yet save for a brief, and unconvincing, turn as a levelheaded union leader, no one has mistaken Barbara for such a leader. As to being in her right mind---we'll leave that one to Tony O'B. and the New Caucus' praetorian guard. Should she take leave of her senses and try to take the PSC out on strike, however, we do hope that she'll consult with Roger first. We certainly would.


We have nothing to note regarding Brooklyn CLT and self-described "trouble-finder" Paul Sheridan.



Sharad Karkhanis, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus

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