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PORTSIDE  April 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE April 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Why Campaigning for Democrats Cripples Labor Unions

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 9 Apr 2012 21:52:03 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (169 lines)

Why Campaigning for Democrats Cripples Labor Unions 

by Shamus Cooke

Published on Monday, April 9, 2012 by Common Dreams

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/09-2 

As labor leaders across the U.S. shift resources away
from defending workers and into Obama's re-election
campaign, millions of organized and non-organized
workers remain unemployed and hopeless. Contrary to the
"optimistic" government jobs numbers, the jobs crisis
grinds onward. Some labor leaders will argue that
getting Obama elected is the first step towards
addressing the jobs crisis, but they know better.

The recent so-called JOBS Act that passed with strong
Democrat and Republican support will create zero jobs --
the law's intent is to lower regulations for banks and
corporations, in an attempt to boost their profits. The
JOBS wording was used for popularity's sake, requiring
heavy doses of deceit.

A similar-minded jobs project was put forth by Obama
earlier in the year, when he appointed "experts" to his
Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. But the Council
was front loaded with CEO's and bankers, with only two
labor reps, who allowed themselves to be used to
obscure the real intent of the project. Richard Trumka,
President of the labor federation AFL-CIO, was one of
the token labor leaders on the council, who only later
partially redeemed himself by denouncing the Council's
job-creating recommendations (predictably, one of the
key "job creating" ideas was to lower corporate tax
rates).

Millions of union and non-union workers have seen their
lives worsen under Obama while he promotes the above
stunts that are intended to serve the wealthy and fool
everybody else.

These millions of workers will now be subjugated to
pro-Obama door knockers and phone callers from labor
unions who will ignore the above facts while trying to
put a pro-worker face on the pro-corporate president.
Workers will not be so easily fooled, their paychecks --
or lack thereof -- speak stronger truths than can any
pro-Obama campaigner.

The key irony is that the more forward-looking labor
unions have already realized that they need the support
of non-unionized workers if their movement is to
survive. To this extent both union federations --
AFL-CIO and Change to Win -- have put tremendous
resources towards community outreach and organizing.
But such efforts can be wasted when unions pursue
policies that working people not only disagree with,
but denounce.

Non-unionized workers will only actively support labor
unions when they are inspired to do so; if the
non-union community trusts labor to fight for their
interests, they will fight alongside unions in the
streets. However, when unions have to skew the facts to
encourage votes for Obama, they lose crucial trust with
the broader community.

Trust was also lost when working people witnessed many
unions publicly supporting Obama's health care plan,
which forces millions of non-union workers to buy
shoddy corporate health insurance they cannot afford.
Labor's kid glove handling of Obama's anti-public
education policy is also high on the list of examples
where unions weakened their community status by
attaching themselves to the Democrats' pro-corporate
polices.

Shockingly, the largest teachers' union, National
Education Association, has endorsed Obama's campaign
even though the NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel,
summarized teachers' experience with the Obama
Administration by saying, "Today our members face the
most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student
environment I have ever experienced" -- an environment
directly encouraged by Obama's deceitfully named "Race
to the Top" education program.

Obama has yet to promise unions or working people
anything in the upcoming election. Whoever wins the
Presidency will immediately continue serving the
corporations with varying degrees of public enthusiasm
-- the only real difference between the two parties.

Labor leaders are not stupid. They recognize these
facts, but have absolutely no idea what to do about it.
So they do what they've done for decades; align
themselves with the Democrats in the hopes that they
will be rewarded for their servitude. But the crumbs of
gratitude stopped trickling down years ago, and what
little remains on the workers plate is now being
targeted by both Democratic and Republican politicians
who insist on ever more concessions.

The Democrats' policies signify a clean break from
labor unions, an alliance that was always at the
indirect expense of the rest of the working class. As
long as unions were treated fairly, many labor leaders
turned a blind eye to policies that affected non-union
workers, creating a suicidal distance between the
organized and non-organized.

Now it's labor unions that are on the menu; Democratic
governors on a state by state basis have wrenched major
concessions from public sector unions, substantially
weakening them and reducing their numbers. This,
combined with mass unemployment and Race to the Top,
amounts to a concerted anti-union agenda.

Labor leaders solution to this crisis is to raise money
and volunteers...to elect Democrats.

Labor's real power will thus remain unused. The
inherent power of unions lies in their numbers,
organization, and ability to collectively assert
themselves in the workplace and streets. This is how
labor became strong; the mass strikes and street
demonstrations that built the labor movement created an
organizational power that neither Democrats nor
Republicans dared touch. President Eisenhower and
Nixon, for example, refused to confront unions for fear
of the repercussions. Unions were not given this power
by compassionate Democrats in past generations; power
was forcibly taken from the Democrats.

This truth is kept concealed from the current
generation of union members, many of whom are
miseducated into believing that their power is limited
to electing Democrats. No other belief is as dangerous
for the labor movement, which would immediately benefit
from de-funding the Democrats and using the money to
educate and organize their members to fight in the
workplaces and streets for the many pro-worker demands,
like a massive federal jobs program, that will
otherwise remain "off the table" in Congress.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade
unionist, and writer for Workers Action
(www.workerscompass.org).  He can be reached at
[log in to unmask] 

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