Monday, February 22, 2016

AFL-CIO super Pac: A new resource for Democrats.


Overall, Stein's platform is better than Sanders
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

As readers of this blog must be aware, we have repeatedly condemned the policies of the stifling bureaucracy that sits atop organized labor for their openly pro business policies that have led to the disastrous decline in living standards and unionization over the past half century.

This writer has stressed that it is not corruption in the sense of taking money or bribes or other criminal activity on the part of the labor hierarchy that is at the root of the problem. Many genuine, honest activists have found themselves in a situation where they betray the very ideals they claimed they would champion on behalf of their members. They did not need bribes or payoffs to do it; they were trapped by their own consciousness, their own view of the world.

This worldview has a name; it’s called the Team Concept, and it is the prime reason the leaders of organized labor refuse to mobilize the potential power that resides in their membership and its ability to cripple US economic activity.  They believe that workers and employers have the same economic interest. This philosophy leads to a situation where workers in one workplace are called on to help their individual employer become more competitive and win market share from their rivals or even drive them from the marketplace entirely. This is capitalism.  The trade union leaders have adopted the world view of the capitalist class.  The same philosophy is applied nationally and internationally as states and municipalities within a nation and nations within the global economy compete with each other for market share and access to profits. We can see it here in the US as jobs flee to the South where racism has been stronger historically, workers divided, workers organizations almost non existent and consequently wages and working conditions much worse.

This is a disaster for workers as we are forced in to competition with workers in other areas, other industries, other nations for who can work faster, smarter, and in an environment that removes obstacles in the race for profits.  Health and safety, leisure time, work hours, and breaks, older workers whose bodies have paid the price of decades of labor, all these are an obstacle to what the boss calls efficiency.  And most importantly, how can we build the solidarity needed to throw back the bosses’ austerity agenda if we are competing with each other in this way? The truth is we can’t unless this cycle is broken.  Workers and bosses have conflicting interests. One purchases labor power, the other sells it, one profits from the labor of the other. This philosophy leads to a race to the bottom for working people and any worker, trade unionist or political activist that subscribes to it will follow in the footsteps of the present labor hierarchy that has orchestrated decades of failures.

In politics, the Team Concept is in the form of this deathly marriage between the political wing of the 1% in the Democratic Party and the labor hierarchy that supports it.  Billions of dollars of union members dues money has been handed over to Democratic Party candidates over the years. Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Obama. Carter used the Taft Hartley against the miners in 1978, Clinton sold them down the river with NAFTA and threw working class women off welfare, often times in to union jobs with less pay and no or fewer benefits. Obama, the anti-war president has stepped up Bush’s horrific foreign policy and the “public option” in health care and the promise of the Employee Free Choice Act, (EFCA) were thrown in the garbage can. Then there’s all the local races and the phone banking and advertising union members’ money pays for. All this for a slower, and now not so slow, slide to the bottom.

The AFL-CIO has now taken advantage of Citizens United I guess and formed a union super Pac called Workers Voice  and the buy in for each union that wants a, "seat at the table " is $1 million.  The super Pac has spent $150,000 helping Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in his race against challenger, Republican Josh Mandel. The argument is that Mandel is receiving questionable funds from industry and that he is anti-worker and against working families. This is the dilemma of supporting one billionaire party against another.  The Democratic Party is funded by industry and Wall Street billionaires just like the Republican Party. As for Sherrod Brown, it’s not about the individual; it’s about the Party. There are differences it is true. The Republican Party has some real fascistic elements in it and its right wing religious supporters. Misogynists are numerous and the assault on women's rights is fought more ferociously by Republicans.

But this strategy of throwing millions of dollars at, and looking to protect workers rights and living standards from a political party of bankers industrialists has failed dismally. The bosses have more money than us. They are called capitalists for a reason. This is the Team Concept in the political sphere.  The union hierarchy could easily either provide a mass workers' party linked to other social movements and community based organizations as an alternative to both these parties, the money, organization and social power is there. Or they could choose instead to shift to the Greens which at this moment in time is neither a capitalist nor a workers party and whose likely candidate, Jill Stein, has a better program than Sanders.

I know many people that describe themselves as progressive and/or socialist who are in the Greens, or who are supporting Sanders in the Democratic Party. Many of them have told me they are supporting Sanders against Hilary Clinton but will then vote for Stein in the presidential contest. Why do they not raise the Green party in their union locals if they are union members? Why not raise money for the Greens, take candidates in to their locals and introduce resolutions in support of Stein in November?  Read more about the Greens as an alternative here.

As for the labor hierarchy, Einstein said that the definition of insanity is: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  The labor hierarchy by Einstein’s definition would be certified sane. They do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results, a little less aggression from the bosses.

They will not break from this deathly embrace with the Democratic Party without a huge groundswell from below that forces splits and the top and throws up new leadership on the basis of a fighting anti-austerity program and that includes publicly condemning and abandoning the Team Concept.  It’s true that their obscene salaries and lifetime employment with double pensions for some are a part of their reluctance to do so. But the main cause is their support for capitalism and the market. The boss has the right to profit, move the factory, shift production or do nothing at all with their investment cash and instead speculate in art. 

For the bureaucracy to challenge these rights and awaken the potential power of labor, both organized and unorganized it can only lead to chaos, so better the safety of the status quo and their jobs are secure. But history is on our side.  The worker, the dues paying union member, is forced by objective reality to resist being driven to pauperism. The union hierarchy with its army of full time staff responds with stifling bureaucratic measures and oppression. But at some point the dam will burst. It will most likely be events outside of organized labor that will begin the process, the communities or the unemployed, struggles against racism, sexism and environmental degradation.But organized labor will not escape it.

There will be some turmoil within organized labor in the period ahead.

2 comments:

David Johnson said...

Excellent article Richard ! We are organizing an event for Jill Stein in Champaign, IL on Wed. March 2nd. We have a guy running for State Senate as a Green and there will be an Independent running for u.S. Congress, who ran previously as a democrat ( 2012 ) and lost by only 1/2 of 1 % of the vote because the national dem party refused to give him get out the vote monies because of his anti-corporate aganda, so this year he is running as an independent. He is an Emergency Room Doctor who is pro-Labor, supports single payer health care, and is anti-war.

David Johnson

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