Monday, May 18, 2015

Hillary Clinton's friends atop organized labor come to the rescue

Politics in the "free" world.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Once again we inch closer to national elections and the millions of Americans who are wageworkers, the American working class, have no viable option.

The hedge fund managers, investors and others of their class are as secure as the giant cable companies-------- no matter what, a representative of Wall Street and the 1% will end up in the White House.

The trade union leadership that sits atop a potentially powerful organization that could transform political life in the US is already making it very clear that nothing fundamental will change. The resources of the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Coalition and the affiliated unions will be given to the Democrats and the monopoly that the 1% has over the process through its control of the two main political parties will continue.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the labor hierarchy is cutting Hilary Clinton a lot of slack when it comes to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) , the multi-national trade agreement that has caused such controversy and that the labor hierarchy itself has opposed.  The trade union leadership’s, strategy that has failed US workers time and time again will be dragged out once more.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, the hard earned dues money of the trade union members on the job, as well as thousands of volunteers, many of them from the huge paid staff the hierarchy employs will be donated to the Democrats.

Hillary’s about the only person we’ve got who’s viable,” says one local trade union activist.  We have heard this time and time again as our wages and working conditions continue to decline to the point that US manufacturing workers are now an attractive option as they come so cheap and their unions very compliant. The Caterpillar factory in Ontario shut down, laid off its striking workers and moved to the US mid-west where wages are 50% lower.

Hilary Clinton has pretty much ignored the TPP issue as taking a stand on something controversial could open up a debate and negatively effect her chances of becoming president with all the lucrative deals that come with that.  Her husband Bill still commands around $800,000 a speech, Obama too will rake in millions when he’s finished his corporate service in the White House.

Hilary is a slick one, like most of them, certainly slicker than some of her right wing opponents in or influenced by the American Taliban types.  “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,”

Who wouldn’t agree with that?

She then adds that, “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.”

The “we” she is talking about is the 1%, the class that she belongs to.  There’s no doubt that many union members and non-union workers accept the “competition” argument without thinking it through. Union were built to protect us from competition not facilitate it. And all this is the Team Concept philosophy on the international level.  Competing with other workers, whether foreign or domestic, hurts all workers’ interests pitting us against one another for who can work fastest, cheapest and with the least impediments to profits, like safety regulations and unions themselves. It leads to a downward spiral, a race to the bottom and makes building national and international solidarity all the more difficult.

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO helps divert criticism from the left and the right that Hilary is avoiding taking a stand (she’s smarter than Jeb Bush). He was asked if he thought she was “ducking on trade” and replied that “I think she started off by doing what every candidate” should do, the WSJ reports, and that is listening to voters.  Ho hum.

The labor leaders are trapped by their own view of the world.  They worship the market, believe that only the private sector, capitalists, can govern society or manage an economy and that breaking from the lesser of two evils strategy, which is what a criticism of Hilary’s campaign would amount to, would mean organizing and mobilizing their members and all workers to act on our own behalf, both on the ground through strikes, occupations, direct action etc. and in the political arena by putting forward independent candidates based on this mobilization and working class communities. Small community businesses, equally savaged buy the corporate agenda of both parties could easily be drawn to such an independent movement. From the labor hierarchy’s point of view, this can only lead to chaos.

This false world view that the labor hierarchy adopts, is enforced through their inclusion on the various political bodies like competitive councils and other think tanks that the bosses’ set up or at their universities where they soak upthe so-called free market ideology like a sponge.

When you couple this environment with the moribund, myopic views of the consummate bureaucrat you get gems like this one from Thomas Buffenbarger, the president of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) who said of Hilary’s trickery, “Right now, personally, there’s no reason she should take a position on it……….She’s not a government official,”.

I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Why should a candidate for political office feel the slightest need to take a position on an issue that will have a huge affect on the people she is asking to vote for her?  He’s smart, that Bugffenbarger, it makes sense that the time for a candidate to take a position on a matter is after they get elected.

Another official, Yvanna Cancela whom the WSJ describes as the,  “political director of the Culinary Workers Local 226” says that although her union “stands” with other unions opposing the trade agreement, trade isn’t an issue that directly affect her members.
“We haven’t widely discussed it within the membership,” she said. “In prioritizing our political discussions, people want to hear about what affects them and their families.”

Well as wages decline through increased competition and as more manufacturing flees to cheaper climes it “will” affect her members.  Even her industry will be affected as workers overall lose disposable income and spend less money on vacations, eating out etc.  Not to mention the downward pressure on the wages of her members that will occur as wages in general continue to fall.

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT(teachers) takes a similar line, “For us, an endorsement process is based on lots of different issues and lots of different variables,”  and that the AFT “has a long relationship with Hillary because of her long-standing support for working families.”

Well this “long standing” relationship has failed to halt the savaging of teachers’ livelihoods as well as public education in general.  What is not a variable is that one way or another a Democrat will be supported no matter what. Further demoralization and hatred of politics and all politicians will sink in among the ranks who can then be blamed for their “apathy” and selfish indifference.

As for Bernie Sanders he’s a poor joke.

As I have pointed out before, if the strategists atop organized labor were the heads of corporations they’d have been fired long ago for failing to produce results.  Their positions are relatively secure compared to those whose interests they claim to serve and they never have to work under the contracts they force on their own members. But the truth is that they can get away with it and union members face ever declining working conditions and wages because the rank and file are not stepping in to the ring. 

It is unfortunate that the union member is faced with a war on two fronts, one against the bosses and the other against the disastrous policies of the union hierarchy. But if we want change course and the continued downward trend, we have no alternative. We cannot avoid a major conflict with the bureaucracy and its considerable army of full time staff that opposes any movement from below that threatens the Team Concept philosophy and the relationship they have built with the bosses and the Democratic Party on the basis of labor peace.

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