Sunday, June 12, 2016

AFSCME's Betrayal. Jill Stein and Greens are an alternative to Hillary.

Afscme president Lee Saunders
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

To get an understanding of the sorry state of leadership atop organized labor one should checkout the Lee Saunders’ column in AFSCME Works, the national magazine of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. The title of his column is Moving Through the Storm. To be fair, it could be any publication of the labor hierarchy but AFSCME is the union I was a member of for some 30 years.  Afscme has 1.6 million members and 3400 locals in 46 states according to its website. This is no small organization.

Saunders writes that AFSCME members had faced “an especially egregious attack brought to the Supreme Court two years ago. The wealthy special interests behind those attacks were not content to make representing you more difficult, they wanted to make representing you impossible.”

I am not certain and Saunders is not specific but I assume he is talking about the attempt by the National Right to Work Committee to get the US Supreme Court to declare public sector unions unconstitutional.  As I have stated before, fresh from their pacification of the auto workers and their union with the help of the UAW officialdom, the bosses are now intent on crushing the public sector unions and public sector workers along with social services are now being blamed for destroying the American way of life. Everything must be privatized.  Around 35% of public sector workers are unionized as opposed to less than 7% of the private sector workforce. *

But AFSCME is strong says Saunders and the union even launched a campaign of the same name to help the union strategists “….better address your needs.”  It’s a pretty militant response to the 1%’s offensive involving, “….thousands of one on one conversations..” Saunders writes, “…listening to what you discuss at the dinner table after the kids are excused and what keeps you up after you’ve tucked them in at night.”

This fighting response to the capitalist offensive is paying off says Saunders as AFSCME is growing. How they are growing this writer is not sure, I do know that more often than not in the past it was by absorbing already formed organizations. This is a sort of process where the leaders of a national union meet with the leaders of an already existing formation and make some sort of deal with them to bring the members in to the larger body; there’s no intensive detailed debate about it from the ground up. Strength, for the union bureaucracy is more members that can increase revenue and hopefully put added pressure on the leadership’s friends in the Democratic Party to throw us (and particularly them) a few crumbs.

We still feel the “torrential downpour” Saunders writes, “…but we are withstanding the winds and moving though the storm.”  Saunders seems a bit obsessed with the weather and as I read on I can’t help thinking of Chauncey Gardner, Peter Sellers’ whacky character who became an adviser to the president in Being There, Sellers’ last movie.

But finally Saunders’ double speak begins to make sense as we get to the heart of the matter. After describing some of the assaults we’ve faced and championing AFSCME’s response to the attacks under the leadership of him and his team, He says that we have battles to win and it’s a “tall order” but,  “We can either mope----or mobilize.”

Don’t get excited folks. Saunders isn’t talking about shutting down NYC, Philadelphia, Detroit as AFSCME members could do if they stopped working and especially if a coordinated effort among all unions were to join in such a mobilization and ensure that our communities are brought on board as well. This could have been done in 1996 when the teachers, union rank and file, and the Teamsters were moving against Giuliani’s attacks. Instead, the AFSCME officialdom in the largest council in the country stuffed ballot boxes with yes votes in order to get a concessionary deal passed. This took place as findings of widespread corruption and abuse of members’ funds took place and the rank and file pressure forced the top leadership to act, putting DC 37, the largest council in the country, under trusteeship and ending the union career of Stanley Hill, the director of DC 37. Many officials resigned.

So after the call to mobilize, Saunders urges us to “…proceed with a spirit of confidence and a spine of steel, and seize this opportunity to put our adversaries on notice.” (My added emphasis)

The “opportunity” he is referring to is to make sure we vote for Hillary Clinton for president of the United States. He backs away from mentioning her by name as the choice is so odious for most thinking workers. So the cheerleading takes place further along in the publication, written by a paid propagandist under the heading, Connecting With Hillary. This is the notice we are supposed to send to our adversaries, elect one of them.

Here we are presented with the testimonials as to why we should vote for yet another Democratic Party representative of the 1% “Clinton will listen to us” says one member who had been denied insurance for a “transition to the male gender” “She was so understanding” and said she wants to make sure transgender operations are available under Obamacare  Nice words for sure.

I looked through the reasons for why workers should support Clinton:

“She’s a powerful political leader and she will stand up for me.”

“Hillary will be able to enforce regulations on wall Street and beyond to protect everyone from the disastrous practices that led to the financial crisis”  You have to laugh at this one.

“She is very strong”

“She’s on our side and she won’t back down”.

“She’s real, she’ll do amazing things as president.”

I still can’t figure out from reading this what Hillary Clinton has actually done that benefitted working class people. Is there any wonder top union officials are way down there with corporate heads when it comes to popularity. But we should not be surprised, organized labor’s hierarchy sees the unions as employment agencies with themselves as the CEO’s.

The argument is that Trump must be stopped and only Hillary can do this.  This tired old argument must be rejected. The big capitalists, despite disagreements among sections of them, are still the ruling class and they will throw their weight behind Clinton. Obama served them well and so will Clinton.  Trump, on the other hand,  is not good for business.
Jill Stein. The alternative female canddiate

The end is near for the Bern as the Democratic big guns, Warren and Obama himself back Clinton. The party must be united and it is on their terms that it must be so. Apart from this lesser of two evil route women are reminded that it will be an historic victory as Hillary Clinton will be the first women president, don’t derail this. Don’t be a spoiler.

But she is not the only woman on offer.  Jill Stein is the likely Green Party candidate and this party’s platform and Stein’s program is far better than Clinton’s or Sanders as far as workers and the middle class are concerned.  I intend to vote for Stein.  The other important point is that an anti-capitalist amendment to the Green Party constitution has been introduced and looks like it is passing with a sizeable majority. A significant vote for Stein and a swing toward the Greens is what will scare the backers of Hillary on Wall Street. It is not always immediate victory that brings reform, it’s the fear of where it will lead.

The Green Party is not a capitalist party in my view and not yet a socialist or workers’ party either. The young Bernie Sanders supporters who are not despaired by the maneuvers in bourgeois politics and who want to fight on should, without Sanders, join the Greens, vote for Stein and campaign within the Greens for a program and party that meets the needs of working people and offers us all a future, that would include orienting it more toward the working class, our organizations and communities. We should also take organizational steps to prevent those Democrats who use the Green Party when it suits them and head back home when it doesn’t from doing so in the future.

* Note: originally I had written that "over" 35% of public sector workers are unionized but this was a typo, I meant to say around and have corrected it.

1 comment:

VonEitzen said...

I totally agree with you. I was amazed when the UAW came out in support of her after Ca. Now the AFL-CIO is going to endorse her too. Has anyone polled the members? If we continue supporting Centrist Democrats, there are not going to be any unions left. I have waited over 4 years for Panera to recognize our Bakers Union in Mi. We are affiliated with the BCTGM. The NLRB has certified us three time and the company appeals, we are now at the 12th distict court in D.C.. Without stronger Labor Laws and penalties for companies that flout the law, there will no longer be any small group who will be able to organize successfully. Ask the the Burgervillle, the Guitar Store, the N.Y. Carwash employees. these are the small groups that have voted in an union yet still don't have a contract. McDonalds and Walmart employees if they succeed will have to unionize each store unless the NLRB finds corp. a joint employer. Yet the Internationals continue to support politicians that have sold us down the river for more lucrative proposals from the corp.