Behind the Lines

Populist For Hire

EVIDENCE GATHERED BY THE the Washington, D.C.-based magazine Counterpunch indicates that self- styled populist James Carville has acted as a paid adviser to Brazilian pro-corporate presidential candidate Fernendo Henrique Cardoso.

 Carville, who coordinated Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992, remains a close advisor to Clinton. The Counterpunch article, written by Ken Silverstein and published in the September 1 issue of the magazine, reports that "it appears [Carville] was hired about four months ago. He did not list Cardoso, or any Brazilian client, on a financial disclosure statement filed in June. The filing came after Republicans complained that Carville and three other close Clinton advisers ... should be required to reveal whom they worked for while advising the president."

 Cardoso is the former finance minister of Brazil and is the author of country's new anti-inflation economic plan, the "Plano Real." Cardoso's main opponent is Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, head of the Workers Party [see Brazil: A Time for Revolution: An Interview with Luiz Ignacio śLula' da Silva," Multinational Monitor, January/February 1991 ]. Lula had a commanding lead in opinion polls until recently, when public support shifted to Cardoso, primarily in response to the plan's success.

 "The total fee being paid to the U.S. consultants is believed to be in the neighborhood of one million dollars," according to Counterpunch. "Big money, but not a burden to Cardoso's campaign, which is flush with deposits from businessmen terrified at the prospect of a victory by [Lula]. Someone familiar with the negotiations between Carville and [Cardoso's Brazilian Social Democratic Party] said, śThey (the party) have got more money than God.'"

 The article noted that several other Washington, D.C. consultants were reported to be working with Carville on the Cardoso account, including Grunwald, Eskew and Donilon - headed by Mandy Grunwald, another Clinton confidante - and the public relations firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schecter & Associates.

 None of the consulting firms responded to requests for comment.

 

Labor Round-Up

LEADERS OF INDONESIA 'S only independent trade union, SBSI, have been arrested and are facing trial in connection with worker unrest in the North Sumatra capital of Medan in April 1994. Some of these demonstrations turned violent, damaging ethnic Chinese-owned property and killing one ethnic Chinese factory owner.

 Dr. Muchtar Pakpahan, chairperson of SBSI, was arrested in August 1994 and charged with "spreading hate" and organizing demonstrations without permission. According to SBSI spokesperson Tohap Simanungkalit, Pakpahan is likely to be tried for "masterminding" worker actions in Medan in April, when tens of thousands of workers took to the streets to demand wage increases, freedom of association and an investigation into the death of a worker named Rusli, whose body was found in a river after a workers' rally in Medan in March.

 The leaders maintain that, while they were involved in organizing the worker demonstrations, the ethnic riots that followed were incited by outside elements.

Pakpahan and the other union leaders have been subjected to interrogation, which is routinely violent in Indonesia.

 "The clampdown on SBSI leaders in Medan and now the arrest of its general chairperson is clearly aimed at decapitating the union and thereby forcing it out of existence," asserts Pharis Harvey, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based International Labor Rights Education and Research Fund. "The government-backed SPSI has never supported workers' rights and sides with the bosses in most labor disputes."

 The U.S. government is currently considering Indonesia's labor rights practices in its ongoing review of Indonesia's preferred trade status under the General System of Preferences (GSP). "The U.S. embassy is concerned about Mr. Pakpahan's arrest and detention," an August 16 U.S. embassy statement said. "With respect to the ongoing dialogue between the United States and Indonesia concerning GSP, worker rights and human resource development, the Pakpahan case may come up during the course of that dialogue. We do not expect any announcements on GSP to be made while that dialogue is continuing."

 The Indonesian embassy did not respond to questions posed by Multinational Monitor.

 

Sprint's Union-Busting

THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD (NLRB) will seek an injunction to require a Sprint subsidiary, La Conexion Familiar (LCF), to reopen its San Francisco facility and rehire those it fired when it closed the facility in July 1994, shortly before a scheduled union representation vote.

 The injunction follows an investigation of a complaint filed against LCF by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in September 1994. The complaint alleges that LCF unlawfully closed the San Francisco facility in response to a union organizing drive. The plant was closed on July 14, a week before the scheduled July 22 union election. The CWA complaint also charges that LCF engaged in more than 50 other unlawful practices relating to the organizing effort, including threatening and intimidating workers and union supporters. The trial for the complaint is scheduled for November 8, 1994.

 "Sprint's intention was to send the message, śWe will not be unionized, and this is an example of how far we will go to keep from unionizing,'" claims CWA spokesperson Jeff Miller.

 "I am very pleased that the Board has authorized us to seek the injunction," says NLRB General Counsel Fred Feinstein. "We hope the court will act promptly and will grant the relief we have requested for the many affected employees."

 Sprint did not return calls made by Multinational Monitor.

 - Aaron Freeman