The AFL-CIO convention here passed yesterday a political resolution that calls for a break with “lesser of two evil politics” but came up short when it comes to projecting a clear path to how that will be accomplished.
“The time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils,” reads the main political resolution passed Tuesday by the AFL-CIO convention delegates. Lee Saunders, chair of the AFL-CIO’s political committee and president of AFSCME, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, introduced the resolution. They lead the labor federation’s two largest unions. Convention managers yoked the resolution to another measure it also approved discussing a labor party, though not by name….
The two measures, adopted October 24, followed a late Monday-evening meeting of supporters of reviving the Labor Party idea. It attracted about 50 delegates to an upstairs meeting room at the convention’s lead hotel. Their contention: Both the Democrats and the Republicans are under corporate domination.
The prime mover of a Labor Party motion at the convention, Postal Workers President Mark Dimondstein, has been calling for such a new formation since the passage of NAFTA in 1993, which he said showed both Democrats and Republicans were in the pockets of the corporate class.
Dimondstein made many of the same arguments for a Labor Party on the convention floor that he voiced in the meeting the night before, when Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, Mark Dudzic of Labor’s Committee for Single Payer, and Donna DeWitt, former president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, joined him.
Meeting participants differed over whether the nascent party should first build an organization and concentrate on issues, or get into political races, running the risk of becoming “spoilers” in the current political system, rigged in favor of the two existing parties…
Velasquez contended pro-Labor Party members should participate in electoral politics, but starting at the local and state levels. But all agreed, as he put it, the Democrats “are not doing us any favors, never have and never will.”
…The AFL-CIO is not actually pulling the plug on the Democrats, although their politics resolution, which doesn’t mention the party by name, is a clear warning to Democrats that labor support will not be taken for granted. The labor leaders who introduced the independent politics resolution, Saunders and Weingarten, are both members of the Democratic National Committee. The main resolution declared that for the 2018 elections labor would “define a pro-worker agenda…to hold as a joint standard for all officials, regardless of party.”
…He received applause when he pointed out on the convention floor that even when the Democrats gained total control of the presidency and Congress, in the 2008 election, they not only didn’t follow through on labor law reform and other top progressive and worker priorities, but instead produced the Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” pact and similar measures. “The Democratic Party was not delivering anything,” he said, “even when it had control of the White House, the Congress and the Senate.”
The Republicans entrenched union-busting, Democratic President Bill Clinton deregulated Wall Street, and Democratic President Jimmy Carter deregulated trucking, Dimondstein said.
Constructing a Labor Party, Dimondstein admitted, will be a long-range project and needs both community and labor support. “What would be wrong would be to confine this movement” for a Labor Party “to the institution of the two-party system.”
Between this and some teachers unions, the base is getting restless; hell, it’s proposing a separate party. As we’ve noted before, if you shit on your base for decades, they ultimately might decide to not support you, not donate to you, and not canvass for you. Hard to win elections that way.
By the way, anyone recall what happened to EFCA and card check circa 2009? Looking forward, not back, I suppose…
So is our Democratic leadership learning? Well…
House and Senate Democrats are rolling out another plank in their “Better Deal” platform today, a series of pro-labor reforms aimed at “strengthening the collective voice and negotiating rights of workers.”
…The labor plank of the Better Deal is ambitious, anticipating court and National Labor Relations Board decisions that could go against unions in the next four years. Among them:
•A “federal law that provides public workers with the same rights and freedom to engage in collective bargaining as their private sector counterparts,” designed to prevent the piecemeal right-to-work efforts that have taken off in Republican-run states since 2011.
•A ban on state “right-to-work” laws altogether, as “they have been found to reduce union membership by up to 10 percent and have resulted in lower wages and decreased access to employer-provided health care and pensions.”
•Making it easier to strike with a “ban [on] the permanent replacement of striking workers.”
•Limiting employers’ ability to campaign against union drives. “When companies taint the election process by using captive audience meetings, the NLRB will set the corrupted election results aside and require the employer to bargain with the worker representative,” Democrats write in the Better Deal white paper.
A white paper isn’t enough. Both in the Senate and the House, they have to bring legislation to the floor. Obviously, it won’t pass, but rank-and-file Democrats need to see who supports this and who doesn’t. Since it will not pass, any Democrat who opposes it is awful and needs to go.
At this point, trust needs to be earned, not granted.
*And these three groups can overlap. Intersect, if you will…