Bil Browning

Is Labor Ditching the Democrats?

Filed By Bil Browning | August 30, 2011 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: AFL-CIO, Charlotte North Carolina, Democratic Party, labor unions, North Carolina, Super PAC

Shortly after news broke that several unions - including the Teamsters - may sit out the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina comes news that the AFL-CIO will not be supporting the Democratic Party AFL-CIO-Obama.jpgas heavily in the next election cycle.

The growing rift between labor and their Democratic allies was on full display Thursday, as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters that labor groups are planning to scale back their involvement with the Democratic Party in advance of the 2012 elections.

Going forward, Trumka said, the labor movement will build up its own political structures and organizations rather than contribute to and depend on the Democratic Party's political operation.

"We're going to use a lot of our money to build structures that work for working people" Trumka said. "You're going to see us give less money to build structures for others, and more of our money will be used to build our own structure."

Trumka's remarks follow the news that the AFL-CIO will set up a so-called super PAC, allowing the nation's largest labor federation to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activity for next year's elections and beyond.

North Carolina is a right-to-work state with the least amount of union members in the country thanks to several restrictive laws. None of the hotels where attendees would be staying are unionized. Most of the unions threatening to boycott the conference are part of the AFL-CIO's building and construction area. The convention is scheduled to start on Labor Day.

(Photo credit: Bill Burke/Page One via AFL-CIO)

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Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 30, 2011 3:55 PM

Slowly but surely, by fits and starts the unions are moving left, moving away from Democrats and moving towards political independence.

Madison was a wakeup call and Labors response has been uneven but marked by big changes. The chances for a general strike were aborted by the usual suspects - Democrats and the labor bureaucracy who sit at their feet begging for crumbs. Instead of a general strike they - especially the Democrats - proposed a campaign to elect more Democrats, the same Democrats that 'accepted' wage cuts and only demurred on attacks on collective bargaining.

Their efforts were not successful.

On the larger front things look much better. Unions in Chicago are uniting to duke it out with Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former hit man over his proposed cuts in union jobs, wages and working conditions. Unions in Ohio, California, NYC, New York State and Indiana are hitting back hard at Democrat and Republican scabs, forcing them to back off and back down.

The National Nurses Union wants to tax the rich, a political demand that enjoys huge support: "Only small slivers of the group of Americans surveyed for a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday said they support cuts to Medicare and Medicaid — 21 percent and 30 percent, respectively — and cuts to defense spending get the support of 42 percent of those surveyed. Seventy-eight percent of Americans are opposed to Medicare cuts, while 69 percent are opposed to Medicaid cuts. " Politico

Change can even be heard in the upper reaches of the union bureaucracy.

Talking Points Memo reports that "Watch out, Democrats, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said… Trumka's speech at the National Press Club, billed as a major address by the union, recast the union's connection to politics as a year-round, national affair… Trumka's main message to politicians, after a year in which labor has battled broad-based attacks in state legislatures across the country, was a simple one: you're either with us or you're against us..

"It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside--the outcome is the same either way," he said in prepared remarks that he veered little from during the address. "If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them."

These are still early days, though. As the economy sinks the radicalization of working people and their unions, the heavy infantry of social change, will continue. The next big steps will be general strikes and the formation of a Labor Party, a worker's party to lead, organized and educate. And the final step will be the formation of a workers government.

The Green Party's here and waiting. We've been supporting labor since well before the Democrats abandoned it.

Well, the people who were in the Republican party moved to the Democratic party becuase the batshitcrazyasswackjobs were moving in. The conservatives who were 'sane' moved to the Democratic party about... well, about 10 years ago. Thats when you started to see 'Blue Dog' Democrats. Dem's who act like Republicans. So, where's the REAL Liberals at? Because its not looking like its the Dems.

Angela Brightfeather | August 31, 2011 4:38 PM

There are some signifigant differences between main stream America and many lobor unions.
As a person who has made her living in the trades for 50 years, I have seen the big time unions in action when they were at a high and I have also seen the reasons they have lost support among main stream, middle class Americans in the workforce.

While I truly believe there is a place for unions, I have never liked some of their practices and how some of them have gone about their business.

My Grandfather worked for the New York Central Railroad for 50 years as an engineer on the route between Syracuse to Albany and Syracuse to Buffalo. He loved his job and looked forward to his retirement and spending more time with his family. After 50 years in the union, he felt that he was all set....until the NY Central went bankrupt and it's union was taken to court for spending all of the retirement funds. He lived out his days on Social Security and turned sour about the fact that he was robbed and could do nothing about it. He was one of many who still suffer after years of service in a union, only to find that their retirment funds disapeared without any accountability.

Having worked in the trades as an "open shop" contractor, I have hired, trained and employ skilled tradesment who the best of which I would put up against anyone in their trade that is in a union. It didn't used to be that way though. Years ago, young people would go to work with their fathers, just to carry their lunch buckets and do laborer work until they could become an apprentice, then a journeyman and then a tradesman and work besides their father or uncle or another relative. The unions were closed of to many who wanted to better themselves but didn't have the same kind of connections.

Today, community colleges and other courses are offered to put young people into positions of being apprentice workers and move up to journeymen status. But even today, those people may be rejected by unions if they don't have an "in".

Unions benefitted all workers when they pushed for a 40 hour workweek, decent vacations with pay and holidays and health and retirement benefits, but since those things are given to workers by many employers today on a standard basis, you don't find people on strike trying to get them much any longer.

The unions have lost their political clout because Open Shop Contractors are free to liberally donate to politicians through their own organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce or groups of associated contractors who have organized for political purposes.

Generally speaking, life became so good for workers when there was only 5% or less unemployed, that they didn't see the benefit of paying 5 to 10% from their paychecks to a union business agent they never saw and got rich while their retirment funds disapeared.

I think some of the reasons noted are why neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a lot of need for unions unless it's time for an election and feet on the ground. I wish unions were stronger, but the fact is that when they were stronger they became no better or worse than politicians, who both given the chance to have some degree of power, seem to selfishly guard it or simply misuse and abuse it so badly that they lose the faith and trust of those they have sworn to protect and help guide to a higher standard of living.

I would love to think that the Green Party was some kind of home for disenfranchised unions, but the end would just be the same....the more power they gained through that association, would result in the same kind of greedy, selfish and mismanaged attempt to convince people that they are the solution to everyone's problems when it comes to employment. The unions are not disapearing because middle class Americans are disapearing. They are disapearing because they became part of the problem instaed of the solution when they had a chance to change things for the better and it didn't work when they became as corrupt as the bosses and politicians they were fighting.