Friday, July 13, 2018

The final chapter of the Eastland Machine ends in Mississippi, where there's now a new machine with absentee rulers like the Koch brothers


(To the right, a photo of U.S. Sen. James "Big Jim" O. Eastland of Mississippi)

OXFORD, Miss. – A politician friend came up to me at a restaurant the other day, shook his head slowly, and said in hushed tones, “Well, that’s the end of the Eastland Machine.”

He was referring to the passing of Brad Dye, who served as Mississippi lieutenant governor from 1980 to 1992 after stints as state treasurer, other offices, and back in 1954 driver for U.S. Sen. James O. Eastland during his re-election campaign that year.

Like his mentor Eastland, whose long stretch of power included a statewide network of lieutenants, cronies, operatives, and ward heelers that could make or break a upcoming politician’s career, Dye came out of a different era, one with some striking contrasts to the politics of today.

As a much-younger columnist who’d covered the state Legislature in the early 1980s, I once described Dye as “King Brad”, then the state’s most powerful politician who ruled from his perch in the state Senate and decided whether missives from the state House or even the Governor’s Mansion down the street deserved attention.

Guess I’m getting old, but I look back at Dye’s reign with a hint of nostalgia these days. Yes, cut from the Eastland mold, he was a conservative Democrat back when Republicans were what his mentor called a “zero” who offered voters “mighty dern little.” Still, Dye supported Governor William Winter’s landmark education reform package in 1982, the highway expansion program of 1987, and decent funding for the state’s universities.

Dye lost power when Republicans began taking over the state’s reigns in 1991—ironically the same year I called him “King Brad”!--and that transition has proven Eastland’s words to be prophetic as well as true when he said them. Mississippi voters still get “mighty dern little” from Republicans other than an occasion to rail against liberals, minorities and immigrants.

Sure, politicians like Dye early in his career often took their cues from Eastland in Washington, D.C.—back then not a good thing if you were African American--but at least Eastland was a Mississippian with a constant eye on Mississippi. Perhaps that’s why he finally seemed to soften in his last years, befriending civil rights leader Aaron Henry, accepting the reality of civil rights gains, and making his office more responsive to the concerns of blacks in his state.

Today, the state’s Republican rulers take their cues from powerful ideological forces far beyond Mississippi with no non-political interest in the state or its people.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a charter member of the FOD (Friends of Donald) club, sends Mississippi National Guardsmen to the Texas-Mexico border in support of President Trump’s immoral immigration policies. Bryant recently withdrew support for a $70 million three-state plan involving Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that would have restored Amtrak passenger rail service from New Orleans through the Mississippi Gulf Coast to Mobile, Ala. The states would have split the cost with the federal government.

These days the billionaire Wichita, Kansas, and New York City-based Koch brothers, their Americans for Prosperity organization, and the arch-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council call the shots for Republicans politicians across the country, including Mississippi. The Koch brothers, rich with oil holdings and major producers of gasoline, asphalt, tires, and seatbelts, don’t like public transit, and they recently helped kill a much-needed $5.4 billion mass transit plan in Nashville, Tenn. Trump wants to slash Amtrak funding, something the Koch brothers would applaud.

Oh, well, enough nostalgia. In reality, machine politics still rule in Mississippi. It’s just that this go-round Mississippi’s politicians only take orders. They don’t give them.

This column was published recently in the online edition of the Jackson Free Press of Jackson, Mississippi.             

Friday, July 6, 2018

Janus & the Democratic divide, an Obamacare-supporting Democrat overcomes a cash deficit to win the U.S. Senate primary in Mississippi while a Clinton-era moderate seeks a political comeback, plus taking inspiration from Obrador's victory in Mexico


(Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944, portrait by Leon A. Perskie)

A couple decades ago, I was a widower learning how to date again, and I met a younger woman who seemed to share my leftist views on life. It made for a great, fun relationship for a while. Then I began to notice serious cracks in what I had thought were some solid political agreements—perhaps more a question of priorities than fundamental beliefs.

“You know what?” I told her. “The problem here is I’m a New Deal liberal, and you’re a New Age liberal.”

We broke up long ago, but I’m sure she, like me, rages against Donald Trump, and I’m just as sure she strongly supported Hillary Clinton in the last election. You, Labor South readers, know where I stand on that, banner-waving Bernie Sanders supporter that I was.

Our divide was very similar to the divide within the Democratic Party today.  Some party faithful may not realize it, particularly the still-powerful Clinton wing, but it wasn’t only unions that received a horrible body blow with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 Janus decision. That decision effectively means public employees no longer have to pay union dues even if a union is fighting for them, their wages, their working conditions, their health care, their pensions.

In other words, the Supreme Court declared an open shop on all unionized public employee workplaces. As a result, lawsuits are already being filed by union members seeking refunds for union dues they’ve paid in a past.

So why should the Democratic Party be worried? For many decades now, organized labor has been the most stalwart supporter—financial and otherwise—of the Democratic Party. After all, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the most pro-union president in the history of the United States, was a Democrat, and most Republicans, with the rare exception, despise unions as much as their corporate CEO friends do.

If the Democratic Party wants to take back Congress, state legislatures, and governors’ mansions across the land, it’s going to need money to do it, and this latest court decision will have the affect of partially drying up a very important reservoir of cash.

This comes at a time when young people and working folks of all stripes are crying out for a Democratic Party that responds to their needs. The Clinton-led Democratic Party loved to knock on labor’s doors with both hands out during election campaigns. After the campaign, however, it paid scant attention to its financial benefactor, turning instead to the big cash corporations that typically put Republicans in power but will support Democrats if they’re friendly to their bottom line interests.

Here in Mississippi, voters overwhelmingly chose U.S. Senate candidate David Baria in last week’s Democratic primary over challenger Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist and former Republican and campaign contributor to sitting U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican. Baria, who will now face Wicker in the November election, is an unapologetic supporter of public education, Obamacare, higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. As a trial lawyer—what Republicans consider to be devils—he has gone to bat for workers who’ve been injured or discriminated against in the workplace.

And he won despite his opponent’s overwhelming financial advantage—Sherman had a $850,000 campaign chest compared to Baria’s $300,000--an issue Baria will face again in the November election. Even without real opposition in his own party, Wicker has spent $3.2 million and still has $3.4 million to spend.

With the retirement of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Mississippi will have both of its U.S. Senate seats open in the November election. On the Democratic side, former congressman and Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy is trying a political comeback for that seat.

Espy’s out of the Clinton School, however, and folks may still remember his pregnant silence as a congressman during the historic catfish workers strike in his district back in 1990. The catfish workers won that strike, and some of their leaders still wonder whether Espy was with them or the company that fought the strike. Some folks argue he worked behind the scenes for the strikers. “Hmmmm,” say others. Folks will be listening closely to what he has to stay on the campaign trail this year.

Maybe we can take some encouragement by looking south of the border. Mexico has elected as its president López Obrador, a man of the Left, the first real leftist to lead that nation since Lázaro Cárdenas in the late 1930s. Maybe Obrador will revitalize the ideals of the Mexican Revolution and be a true champion of the people. Donald Trump’s not going to like it, though.

I think people on both sides of the border are looking for politicians who’ll champion their cause, not that of the special interests. It’s a steep uphill fight for those kinds of politicians, but I like some of the signs I’m seeing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Welcome to the Free Market of Outrage! The Koch brothers are killing public transit, Trump's putting young children in cages, Monsanto's fighting farmers, 17 years of war and the VA still fails veterans


MEMPHIS, Tenn. - I live part time in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, and I can’t tell you how elated I was when the city’s trolleys recently began running again after a four-year absence. The clang-clang of those vintage electric cars is part of the charm of this old city, and I’d been missing that sound ever since a fire on two of them in 2014 took them all offline for extended repairs and some replacements.

They might never have come back if the federal government hadn’t kicked in $2.6 million to help one of the nation’s poorest cities get at least one of its three trolley lines back in action. Only the Main Street line runs today, but the two others are expected in the not-so-distant future.

How did the Koch Brothers allow that $2.6 million federal outlay get past them? Did you know that the right-wing billionaires and their minions in Congress, state Legislatures and governors’ mansions have been working hard to kill public transit projects across the land?

Their most recent success was in killing a $5.4 billion mass transit plan in Nashville, Tenn., that would have added needed public transportation to one of the South’s—and nation’s—most vibrant, growing cities. Koch drones spread across the city making thousands of phone calls, knocking on doors, spreading the Koch gospel about the evils of taxes and government of any kind that doesn’t support billionaires like themselves.

Oh, and by the way, the Koch industrial conglomerate “is a major producer of gasoline and asphalt, and also makes seatbelts, tires and other automotive parts,” reports New York Times writer Hiroko Tabuchi in an article published today (June 19).  However, “it supports spending tax money on highways and roads.”

The Koch brothers want you to get in that car and drive, burn their gasoline and the rubber off their tires, and please use your seatbelt!

It’s just one of many outrages in what seems to be a daily onslaught these days.

Of course, the latest is the Trump policy toward immigrant families crossing the border to the south, separating thousands of young children from their parents as the government cages them all, then only giving the parents an 800 telephone number when they’re released and trying to find their children again. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cites the Bible in his defense of this Nazi-like program, but who’s surprised by that?

Many of Trump’s legions will never be shamed into backing away from their führer, but sooner or later those who’ve not drunk too deeply of the Kool-Aid will feel the pain themselves that Trump’s government is inflicting on others. They’ll see his own untrustworthiness—remember how he actually seemed to be endorsing sweeping immigration reform just last January then did as much as anyone to scuttle any realistic reform?

We live in a corporate world, and what business wants, business gets. When Arkansas last year sought to ban the weed-killing-but-also-crop-damaging herbicide dicamba, Monsanto intervened like gangbusters, decrying this limitation on free enterprise.  Halliburton and other companies in the military industrial complex have successfully kept this nation at war since 2001, yet three Veterans Administration secretaries in the last four years have failed to make VA hospitals and clinics fulfill minimal promises to suffering veterans.

Here in the South, now the model for the rest of the nation--and that’s not a good thing, folks--politicians won’t fund basic services and fight Medicaid and other programs for the poor tooth and nail, yet they continue to shell out big bucks to corporations. Witness Alabama’s recent willingness to shell out $700 million in incentives to Toyota and Mazda to land a factory.

I could go on, but I don’t have all day. People are protesting, however. Just this week in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson, Mississippi, members of the Poor People’s Campaign burned the Confederate and Mississippi state flags (which carries the Confederate emblem) to protest the racism that has become inherent in modern-day capitalism. It’s a brown as well as a black issue, but, you know, really at bottom it’s a green issue. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Special needs workers at Didlake in northern Virginia demand union rights; and riding the City of New Orleans to the Big Easy, where Dylan says "you can almost hear the heavy breathing" of ghosts


Didlake workers say their rights include the right to join a union even if they have disabiities

The Rev. William Barber II and his Poor People’s Campaign have joined striking workers at the nonprofit firm Didlake in Arlington, Va., in their public protest to bring attention to the company’s resistance in recognizing their vote to join a union. Hundreds of workers with special needs work at the Manassas, Va.-based company.

(The Rev. William Barber II)

“We ain’t going to let no corporation turn us around,” sang Barber as he led workers in song and chant recently. “Everybody has a right to live. Forward together, not one step back!

Barber said that “it says in James that when we exploit workers we exploit God.”

The company is “taking advantage of us,” one worker told veteran labor organizer and video filmmaker Richard Bensinger.

Custodial employees at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington voted 12-6 in favor of unionizing in April 2017. They went on strike May 25. Didlake says past National Labor Relations Board rulings show standard labor practices could be harmful to workers with disabilities like those at Didlake. Unionization might threaten the provision of needed services, the company says. Yet the NLRB regional director has also backed the rights of those workers to unionize.

Didlake works with the federal government on programs requiring counseling and training services to special needs workers. An appeals process with the board is underway on the union issue.

A ride down memory lane to the Big Easy on the City of New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – I made my first pilgrimage here back in the late 1960s, with my buddies crammed in a jalopy all the way from North Carolina. We stayed at the decrepit Hotel Paris, drank cheap beer on Canal, then wandered down Bourbon, where old-school jazz masters like Papa French and Sweet Emma still performed.

(To the right, yours truly on the City of New Orleans)

My wife Suzanne and I rode in style this time, the City of New Orleans that Arlo Guthrie sang about, enjoying the club car as we passed through the Mississippi Delta with its endless fields, primeval swamps and bayous, tiny, sunburnt towns. In the city, we stayed with our daughter Jessica in the Irish Channel, a short Uber ride to Galatoire’s for a meal I couldn’t have afforded in the 1960s.

Papa French and Sweet Emma are gone, but Steamboat Willie is there on Bourbon, playing Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? at the Café Beignet. Steamboat knows what it means. Hurricane Katrina forced him to leave, but the former preacher and Bible salesman came back. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” he told once during an earlier visit. “I am in the right place.”

(With Steamboat Willie, daughter Jessica Byrd and wife Suzanne at the Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street)

A different kind of musician, Bob Dylan, says New Orleans is a city where the ghosts of the dead and the laughter of the living are never far apart. “The ghosts race towards the light, you can almost hear the heavy breathing,” he writes in his autobiographical Chronicles. “Around any corner there’s a promise of something daring … something obscenely joyful behind every door—either that or somebody crying with their heads in their hands.”

The great New Orleans photographer Clarence John Laughlin captures this dichotomy in his haunting depictions of tombstones and Greek statues, Corinthian columns, strange figures peeking out of rooftop gables, young women staring off into the distance as if searching for something lost, forgotten or never found. From its founding, New Orleans has offered a “special kind of fantasy,” Laughlin once wrote, whether it’s “the unparalleled development of funereal art in the old burial grounds” or “the wild fantasy of the Mardi Gras.”

One evening we sat in a courtyard with some of Jessica’s neighbors, surrounded by banana plants, giant elephant ears, and cats everywhere. We met an author of children’s books in training to become a voodoo priestess, a writer for the National Enquirer, a former missionary who now operates a women’s clothing store on Magazine Street, a restorer of 100-year-old shotgun houses, a civil engineer with deep roots in New Orleans who has come back home after years of being away.

They talked of their city with joy and pride, of its resilience after the devastation of Katrina in 2005. Dylan wrote Chronicles just before Katrina, but he saw and felt the same. “There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better,” he wrote. “Everything in New Orleans is a good idea.”

As our train made its way back through the Delta toward Memphis, I studied the passing landscape--an abandoned store with a huge sign offering the promise of “CANDY” inside, junked cars, old graneries and cotton gins, a lone man standing next to his motorcycle on an empty street. I thought of other exotic train rides the world offers—the Orient Express, the Trans-Siberian Railway, the night train I once took from central Poland to Bratislava, Slovakia.

A woman in the group next to us in the club car began singing. She sang about loneliness, how there’s only her husband and her mother in her house, no children. Her friends listened with admiration and asked her how she came up with such music. “I just write ‘em down,” she told them.

Like the city we just left, I told myself, this is a train ride that holds its own with any in the world.

A shorter version of this column on New Orleans appears this week in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Rev. William Barber II leading MLK's flock on a renewed Poor People's Campaign to see through the corporate-political fog that prevents true economic justice


(The Rev. William Barber II in Selma in May 2015. Photo by Joe Atkins)

I met the Rev. William Barber II in Selma, Alabama, back in 2015. He’d come there from his home in North Carolina to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bloody march by civil rights advocates across Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“We’re here to honor the memory of the sacrifice,” Barber told me. “The very things they marched about have been gutted.”

Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, leader of the Moral Monday demonstrations that began there five years ago, is now leading the national Poor People’s Campaign to bring attention to the unfulfilled goals of Martin Luther King Jr.’s original Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, the year King was murdered.

Launched with a mule-cart procession in tiny Marks, Mississippi, King’s campaign was totally in sync with his efforts to help the striking sanitation workers in Memphis that year because the campaign’s goals were economic: a basic income that’s guaranteed, capital availability for minority and small businesses; and full employment.

“The duty of the living is not simply to recall the martyrs of the movement but to continue their work,” New Yorker magazine quoted Barber saying in a recent profile by writer Jelani Cobb.

Indeed, even many Trump supporters, Wall Street Republicans, and Tea Partyers pay homage to past civil rights gains, and the pages of their media organs offer praise for King on his government-designated day each year. As for the economic justice he sought in his last years, however, the silence is deafening.

In addition to his many other roles, Barber, 54, is also pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, one of the poorest cities in that state and not far from where this Labor South correspondent grew up.  Goldsboro is the fifth poorest city in the United States with 25 percent of its population mired in poverty, with estimates ranging from 40 to 65 percent of its children poor.

The powers that be on Wall Street, in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the land talk a lot about diversity, jobs, freedom. Talk. Big corporations like Nissan compromise organizations like the national office of Barber’s own NAACP with big handouts to keep them from the nitty gritty issues of fairness and equity at the workplace.

Barber, arguably the most dynamic civil rights leader in America today, sees through all that, however, and he’s committed to making others see through it, too.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Latino journalist Manuel Duran sits in a Louisiana immigrant prison for trying to report the truth in a Trumpian world


OXFORD, Miss. – Manuel Duran is a Memphis journalist who covers the Latino community for Memphis Noticias, a Spanish-language news outlet he owns. He’s also a native of El Salvador, and that fact is a reason he’s in prison in Jena, Louisiana, one of the nation’s worst immigrant detention facilities.

My late friend Marty Fishgold, a longtime labor writer in New York City, liked to say that good “journalism is a subversive activity” because it tells truth to power. Veteran Boston journalist Tom Oliphant had this to say about it: “Good reporters are anarchists” because they question all ideologies and authority.

Those are good things, and that’s why journalism gets special protection in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It may be the best-known promise in that document and why the constitutions of nations as far flung as Poland, Brazil, Egypt and Bangladesh include such language as well.

One could argue that many of those countries don’t practice what they preach. Well, guess what, we don’t either.

The 42-year-old Duran came to Memphis after working as a reporter in his native El Salvador, a war-and-drug-torn country whose cruelest goons trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. He’s now facing deportation back to that country, perhaps the equivalent of a death sentence.

Let’s consider why Duran sits in prison—Jena is one of the “worst detention centers” in the United States for its treatment of immigrants, according to Father Michael McAndrew, who works with immigrant communities in Greenwood and north Mississippi.

On April 3 in downtown Memphis, police arrested Duran and eight others who were protesting immigration policies. Police said they were blocking a roadway and Duran refused to move as ordered. The protest also took place without a permit, police said.  Two days later, prosecutors dropped charges against Duran. Charges against most of the protesters are still pending.

Duran was far from a free man, however. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers immediately arrested him and sent him to Jena. ICE officials said Duran missed a scheduled appearance in an immigration court in Atlanta back in 2007 and thus had since been living in the States without legal status. Attorneys for Duran said he received no notice to appear that day in 2007, and they have asked the Atlanta court to reopen the case.

If Barack Obama were still president, Duran might be free since he has no criminal history other than misdemeanor driving offenses. Under President Trump, however, none of the 11 million immigrants in this country without full legal status is even temporarily safe from deportation.
“The actions pursued by government officials in this case threaten core First Amendment freedoms that are essential to our democracy,” says a federal petition by the Southern Poverty Law Center seeking Duran’s release. Those freedoms are “the right to criticize and expose the actions of government officials, and the rights of members of the press to write and publish about them.”

Duran’s greatest “crime” may be that he has been critical of the Memphis Police Department in his reporting.  For example, back in July 2017, he reported in a Facebook post allegations that immigration enforcement officials and Memphis police had joined in a traffic stop operation despite claims they do not work together. Memphis police asked Duran to take down the post. His coverage also raised questions about police handling of the case of a Latino immigrant whose body was found in a police impound lot 49 days after he was shot during a robbery.

A long tradition exists of Latino journalists suffering because of their commitment to truth. Perhaps the most famous Latino journalist in U.S. media history was Ruben Salazar, a courageous reporter for the Los Angeles Times and later Spanish-language television station KMEX in Los Angeles. After launching with fellow journalist William Restrepo an investigation into police and sheriff’s department brutality and criminality in early 1970, Salazar was killed later that year by a deputy-fired tear gas projectile while covering a Chicano demonstration. Deputies said they were answering reports of looting and being pelted by bottles and rocks when Salazar was killed.

Some questioned whether Salazar was assassinated because of his reportage. He has been called “la voz de La Raza”, the voice of the people, a martyr to good journalism. A U.S. stamp bears his image.

The Duran case evokes more recent memories of what happened in Jackson, Mississippi, to Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old native of Argentina who had been living in the United States since the age of 7. Despite earlier protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, her more recent lapsed status resulted in a March 1 arrest and federal deportation proceedings. An SPLC petition helped win her release nine days later, but her fate remains as uncertain as Manuel Duran’s.

A shorter version of this column appeared this week in the Jackson Free Press in Jackson, Mississippi.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Former SNCC leader Bob Zellner and labor organizers Richard Bensinger and Rose Turner talk about "The Future of Labor" at University of Mississippi campus: Grassroots organizing can overcome both fear and "right to work" laws


(From left to right, Richard Bensinger, Rose Turner and Bob Zellner)

Civil Rights Movement SNCC leader and social activist Bob Zellner joined veteran labor organizers Richard Bensinger and Rose Turner last Friday for a panel discussion of “The Future of Labor” at the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center. A central point in their discussion was that grassroots organizing can overcome "right to work" laws as well as anti-labor forces' greatest weapon: fear.

Sponsored by the campus Radical South organization, which seeks through panel discussions and other events in April to provide an alternative view of the South from that of conservative politicians like Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, the panel offered a lively discussion on the status of labor today in the South and across the nation.

Bensinger, a top national labor organizer who helped coordinate the United Auto Workers’ recent campaign at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, and other auto campaigns in the South, said “right to work” laws across the region aren’t a good thing but also shouldn’t “stand in the way” of a successful campaign. Bensinger co-founded the Institute for Employee Choice, establishing organizing principles for both employers and unions to follow during union campaigns. He advises unions on organizing and experimental organizing strategies in the service sector.

Turner, who led the successful and historic catfish workers strike in the Mississippi Delta in 1990 and has continued to work with catfish and nursing home workers in the region ever since, said organizers “have to organize” and get down to the grassroots level with workers. Turner currently serves as organizing director and executive assistant to the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1529, based in Memphis.

Zellner, who fought side by side with Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael and other civil rights leaders during what he calls “The Second Emancipation” of the 1960s, said fear was the great weapon anti-civil rights forces used back then and it is the same weapon anti-labor forces use today. Zellner helped organize the Freedom Rides of 1961 and was the first white Southerner to serve as field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  He continues to be active in the Poor People’s Campaign and the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina with the Rev William Barber.

Fear can be defeated at the workplace just like it was in the South back in the 1960s, the panelists agreed.

Labor South’s Joe Atkins moderated the panel discussion, which included topics ranging from the current teacher strikes and student protests against gun violence to how corporate money has compromised groups such as the NAACP in their support of labor campaigns such as the one at the Nissan plant in Canton.

(To the right, at Ajax restaurant in Oxford, from left to right, Joe Atkins, Bob Zellner, pro-UAW workers from the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, Richard Bensinger and his activist wife Virginia Diamond)
 
The panelists’ visit to Oxford, Mississippi, featured dinner and lunch the next day on the city’s famous Square as well as opportunities to sing labor songs such as “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” and “Union Maids” with fire-breathing, labor organizing, Truman Scholar-winning University of Mississippi student Jaz Brisack. Also joining the group for lunch were several Nissan workers who had campaigned for UAW membership at the Canton plant.