BTS 7/25/05: Patriot Act Challenge; AFL-CIO Split in Chicago

It is sweltering in Chicago and the heat was just ratcheted up a few degrees with the news that the much discussed AFL-CIO convention which opened today, is minus four big unions, two of whom then announced their departure from the federation. The "Change to Win” coalition consists of seven unions, but the big four, the SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW and UNITE-HERE are boycotting the convention. The Service Employees and Teamsters then notified the AFL-CIO of their intention to split, making it a fait accompli. To discuss this momentous split – the first since the 30s,
Kim Moody and JoAnn Wipijiewski join us from Chicago, in the second half of the hour.

But to begin tonight’s program we turn to the Patriot Act and a challenge to its constitutionality right here in Los Angeles today brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the Humanitarian Law Project. David Cole, the attorney representing the Humanitarian Law Project, joins us to explain the challenge and how it affects human rights advocates while supposedly targeting terrorists.

Read More for info on tonight's guests:

1. Patriot Act Challenge:

David Cole, The Nation's legal affairs correspondent and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, is the author of No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System (New Press), co-author, with James X. Dempsey, of Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties for National Security (New Press) and author of Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism (New Press), forthcoming in a revised paperback edition in July.

David Cole is also an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and is in Los Angeles today to argue that the ban on providing "expert advice and assistance" to terrorist groups violates the first and fifth amendments to the Constitution because it is so vague that it could be construed to include unequivocally pure speech and advocacy protected by the First Amendment.

2. AFL-CIO Convention:

The labor movement is in crisis – membership is at an all-time low of 7.9% in the midst of an unprecedented and coordinated offensive by employers and the Bush administration against the rights and living standards of all workers. The largest unions within the AFL-CIO today walked out of the confederation, a de-facto split – with no discussion within the ranks at the convention. This is the biggest rift in organized labor since 1938, when the CIO split from the AFL. When the AFL-CIO formed 50 years ago, union membership was at its zenith, with one in three workers represented by unions – today it is more than one in ten. Then the split came from the rank-and file, and intensified labor’s ranks and militancy. Today the split comes from above. What can we expect?

JoAnn Wypijewski, a former senior editor of The Nation, is based in New York City. She is currently in Chicago for the AFL-CIO convention reporting for The Nation.

Kim Moody, author of Workers In A Lean World (Verso) and former director of the monthly Labor Notes, currently teaches labor studies in New York.