Wednesday, May 16, 2012

California: Union leaders join the 1% in savaging workers' living standards

left: Brown and Union supporters.  The Calif Labor Federation spent $10 million electing him in 2010.

Here in California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, a former left demagogue is waging more economic terrorism on workers and the poor in his latest state budget proposals. Brown is proposing closing a $15.7 billion budget deficit through more cuts in social services, education and by raising taxes.  These attacks come on the heels of previous assaults on workers’ living standards, especially in the public sector as the 1% move to put the working class on rations, make the US trade Union movement irrelevant and the Union hierarchy a junior partner.  The successful assault on the once mighty UAW and workers in auto was accomplished with the assistance of the heads of the UAW and only the public sector remains a Unionized force of significant numbers. Over 30% of public sector workers are organized compared to less than 7% in private sector and around12% of US workers are in Unions overall.

The trade Union leadership’s policies of collaboration and betrayal based on their world-view that workers and capitalists have the same interests, has increased the bosses’ confidence and aggression.  Brown wants to reduce state workers’ pay by a further $400 million through shortening the workweek from five days to four. Workers would “ longer hours on those days for a 38 hour workweek” the SF Chronicle reports.

But wait! According to the Chronicle, the details of this latest assault on trade Union members were worked out and presented to Brown and Co by the leaders of the public sector Union representing the victims.  Union officials, “…actually proposed the plan, to the governor and said it is the best of the bad options." the Chronicle reports.  It is a staggering confirmation of the level of degeneration and ideological bankruptcy of the heads of organized Labor in the United States that such a comment can be published in a mass consumption paper and they are proud of it. "Nobody is OK with less pay, but what they're also not OK with is the constant uncertainty of 'Do I have a job or not? Is this going to mean layoffs or not?' " said Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, California's largest state employee union.” the Chronicle reports.  The concept that Ms. Walker or organized Labor’s leadership in general should reject the concessions and organize a fight-back is completely alien to this official.

Like all of them, she sees the Unions as employment agencies and she is one of the CEO’s. As a consequence of their world view, the Labor officialdom will still pour close to half a billion dollars of their members’ dues money in to electing Obama and the Democrats this election cycle.  The left/liberal Democrats will cry crocodile tears and propose a little more kindness, “Cut’s are inevitable” they will argue, “But we have to mitigate the effects on the most vulnerable”

Left and right Democrats, like Democrats and Republican’s in general, will bicker over which section of the working class will pay, who will suffer most, but on the basics, that workers, the poor and the middle class will pay for the crisis of capitalism, on this they all agree. The end result is also a divided working class as we all compete for the crumbs from their table. Democrat Darrell Steinberg, CA Senate President Pro Tem touted by many an overpaid Labor official as the workers’ friend, plays this game well: "There is of course a balance between making necessary cuts, which we will do, and maintaining and preserving essential services for people, especially people most in need,"

There is the out; the need for a “balance” between necessary and unnecessary cuts and these politicians of the 1% in a political party funded by Wall Street will make that decision for us.

Brown is proposing $2.5 billion of the cuts, the bulk of them, come from health services and welfare.  It is a two-pronged offensive with severe consequences as the cuts increase the need for social services when Democrats and Republicans and their allies atop organized Labor reduce them.  Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and a general breakdown among families and personal relations will be the result of this assault.  The infirm, the sick and the unorganized, especially women and children will suffer the most. With their open collaboration, the heads of organized Labor bear responsibility for this and for the deaths that will occur because of it as they refuse to offer an alternative and defend workers as a whole or even their own members.  The trade Union leadership's collaboration with our enemies will lead to unions becoming even more isolated from the vast majority of the population outside of them as they join the bosses in the assault on social services and the poor.  Only a revolt from below will change this.

As I commented over a year ago, California is also home to 95 Billionaires out of 946 total worldwide, according to the Forbes 2007 Index of World Billionaires. The state is also home to many millionaires. Los Angeles County had 268,136 millionaire households as of 2006, the largest number of millionaires among the counties in the U.S. and 23 % of the total for the state. Orange County had 116,157 millionaire households and San Diego 102,138. Santa Clara County has 74,824 millionaires. The income of a handful of human beings, hedge fund managers and the like, would eradicate the health and poverty crises that many people face day in day out.

Union activists at the rank and file level cannot sit still.  Genuine fighting opposition caucuses must be built in our locals and an open campaign not just against the concessionary policies of the leadership but for increased social services, jobs, federally funded education and health care etc. must be launched as well as a campaign to break from the Democrats and build an independent political party of the working class.  The money is there. The infamous Prop 13 in California benefits the owners of commercial property and these loopholes in prop 13 should be closed and taxes on homeowners reduced.  Income taxes on the wealthy were higher under Reagan than they are now and as has been pointed out many times, California is the only state that doesn’t have an extraction tax on oil taken from the ground.  A sales tax on the millions of trades on the stock exchanges is another source of revenue and the ending of the US capitalism’s predatory wars of course would save trillions. 

The role of the Union hierarchy is criminal but like rotten apples on a tree that fall at the first real gust of wind, they will be dislodged by a genuine movement from below and the quicker we help build such  a movement the sooner change will come.  Socialists within organized Labor that so often act as a left cover for the hierarchy's  right wing policies must orient to the rank and file as opposed to the left bureaucracy of which they are often a part. If we claim to fight for workers interests it will inevitably lead to a conflict with the Labor hierarchy, it cannot be avoided. But activists of all political tendencies have responsibilities and an open struggle against the collaboration of the heads of organized Labor with the bosses and their political representatives is one of them. Providing an alternative is another.

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