Thursday, July 7, 2016

Richard Trumka, Hillary Clinton's silent partner slams Trump.

One of the the rewards for a job well done.
By Richard Mellor
AFSCME Local 444, retired

Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO has an article in yesterday’s Guardian attacking Donald Trump. The focus of the piece is Trump’s disdain for American workers. Trump wears suits made in China, even his cufflinks are made there says Trumka. His furniture is made in Turkey and his shirts in Bangladesh.

Trumka is a skeptic when it comes to Trump being a friend of working people. He sends jobs overseas to “line his own pockets” he writes. He is altogether a nasty man apparently. He treats his workers like dirt claiming says Trumka, he didn’t pay servers at a Passover event who “worked 20 hours straight.”,

Trumka is correct about Trump when he accuses him of being a hypocrite. “Trump has always seen working people as nothing more than a means to an end: labor to be exploited, customers to be bilked and human capital to be used and then discarded.“,  Trumka says. Well there’s no disagreement there.

But what is Trumka’s alternative? And doesn’t his statement above apply to all of them? Doesn’t it apply to our capitalist system as a whole?

Trumka doesn’t really raise an alternative to Trump in November although he does have one and that’s Hillary Clinton, the former member of the board at Wal Mart and the presumptive candidate from the other billionaire’s club, the Democratic Party. The purpose of Trumka’s Guardian piece is to boost Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President in a dishonest roundabout way. The heads of organized labor get their political and economic understanding of the world from the capitalist class. They attend their conferences and institutions of higher learning with the sole purpose of becoming well versed in the language and ideology of the market.

As we can see from visiting the AFL-CIO website, Trumka’s quote about Trump’s spending habits comes from Hillary Clinton. Berry Craig, an AFL-CIO correspondent I assume, writes:
“This sentence from Hillary Clinton’s Columbus, Ohio, speech should be tacked on bulletin boards in every union hall.: "Interestingly, Trump’s own products are made in a lot of countries that aren’t named America: Trump ties are made in China, Trump suits in Mexico, Trump furniture in Turkey, Trump picture frames in India and Trump barware in Slovenia."

The author lavishes praises on Hillary and trashes Reagan for firing the PATCO workers back in 1981 and banning them for life from working in their industry. Bill Clinton gets praise for “lifting the ban” 12 years later. "While the administration does not condone illegal job actions in the federal government, reasonable people would agree that after 12 years former air traffic controllers should be able to apply for employment,", Clinton said at the time. There was a hiring freeze mind you and anyone with any sense was not fooled by this symbolic gesture. It should be added that the AFL-CIO leadership did practically nothing to defend the PATCO workers.

An illegal job action by the way is one that doesn’t stop production and hurt profits. Any strike action that might possibly lead to a real victory for union members and the working class in general is an illegal one.

As with all the strategists atop organized labor, Trumka wants to protect US jobs, at the expense of workers jobs overseas. This is the Team Concept at the international level. Defend US capitalists in competition with foreign rivals for global market share. Naturally, foreign capitalists are telling their workers the same so we are pitted against each other for work. We can’t build international solidarity this way any more than we can strengthen the workers’ movement at home as workers in different workplaces join not with each other against the class of employers in order to raise our collective standards of living, but with each employer against their rivals. It is a race to the bottom for working people and a major cause of the continued decline in our living standards.  The union hierarchy’s betrayals are a product of this world view.

Trumka isn’t opposed to trade, “It’s about what the rules are and who benefits from them. Of course, we should open up new markets for our products and do business all over the world. The real challenge is to advance trade policy that creates shared prosperity.

Ah, the “shared prosperity” who benefits from the rules arguments.  Capitalism is a brutal system, as the Great Irish socialist James Connolly pointed out, "Capitalism teaches the people the moral conceptions of cannibalism are the strong devouring the weak; its theory of the world of men and women is that of a glorified pig-trough where the biggest swine gets the most swill." We know who will benefits from any rules about trade.

Funnily enough, every worker and union member knows this. Why this is so and what, if anything can be done about it is another question.

The reason Trumka doesn’t openly champion Clinton as the choice for workers is that most workers are put off by her as much as Trump. Most US workers are disgusted with politics in general which is why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have had successes even they never imagined.

Under Democratic as well as Republican administrations workers have lost ground. For people of color, and especially the black community, the crisis in education, housing and jobs is no better or perhaps worse since Malcolm X wrote in reference to the black middle class and politicians: “..for while these hand picked Negroes were eating high on the hog, rubbing elbows with white folks, sitting in Washington DC, the mass of the black people in this country continue to go to the worst schools and get the worst education.”

Trumka as a loyal Democratic Party spokesperson recognizes that the party is so despised by most workers he can’t even champion it and its candidates openly.  When forced to speak openly about it like all of them he will resort to the age-old scare tactic, “Anyone but Trump”.  If you think Trump is prone to violence given the nature of his racist and misogynistic remarks, wait till Hillary gets going. She, will be a ruthless and efficient representative of US capitalism.

So the labor hierarchy, people like Trumka, have to use their words cautiously as they encourage their members and the working class in general to support the billionaires' party. The millions that have withdrawn from politics altogether, Trumka leaves out of the equation.

As I have said before, the reason the heads of organized labor do what they do----support political parties and candidates that represent Wall Street-----is because they defend capitalism.  As defenders of this system and at the helm of the union ship,  this means that they have to suppress any movement from within the ranks that moves to restrict the rights of capital and increase the rights and power of workers.

Most of the head of big labor organizations are university educated and pro-business. 

Look at Jorge Ramirez, the President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, the third largest in the country with 500,000 members. Jorge is a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and “works” with World Business Chicago and Choose Chicago according to the CFL website.  A banner on the union website reads: The only way to stop our jobs from going overseas is to buy American-made products. This is a disaster, not true and a hindrance to organizing union power in a globalized world, even the employers know that.

But in answer to those who claim the problem with the labor officialdom is that they take bribes and are involved in criminal activity,
it's not bribery and criminal activity that is the main problem. Sitting on the Board of the Chicago Federal Reserve that's the problem, and it's not illegal.

Then there’s Rusty Hicks, he’s the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the second largest in the country that has over 800,000 workers affiliated to it. Rusty is a former intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan and a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. He’s a lawyer, a graduate of Loyola law school. I'm sure he opposes the trillion dollar wars.

Vincent Alvarez, who majored in business economics at university is president of the
NYC Central Labor Council with 1.3 million workers affiliated to it. Secretary Treasurer, Janella Hinds is a graduate of Princeton and New York University. Janella is a former sorority member.

Head of the Philadelphia Council Patrick Eiding is on the board of the Philadelphia Area Labor Management Committee (PALM).

While the heads of these bodies do not command the same influence over the ranks as the top officials of the national (usually called international due to having members in Canada or Puerto Rico) unions it is an example of where their loyalties lie. The leadership of the unions at the national level repeatedly intervene and take control of unions where leaders of affiliated locals refuse to accept concessions or are forced to do so by the pressure of their membership as they too defend capitalism at the expense of their members livelihoods.

The few examples also give an insight to the incredible potential power that slumbers in the lap of organized labor. Los Angeles is one of the top economies in the world. The two million workers affiliated to the California State Labor Federation could shut down economic activity in that state, the 6th largest economy in the world. With a correct approach and outlook, the millions of unorganized workers and our communities would flock in to an organization that clearly fought for what we need to live a decent life and explained how we could win it.

It is the role of the union officialdom to ensure this does not happen. It is their role to ensure that the protectionist arguments like that expressed in the CFL banner I quote above are made prominent, an argument that actually weakens US workers in a world economy rather than strengthening us.

What I describe in this commentary is what every rank and file activist that claims to be an oppositionist has to take up. If you are active in a union in anyway and not waging an open campaign against the Team Concept on the job and the pro-business unionism as well as in the political sphere through support of the Democratic Party, you are part of the problem.  A genuine struggle against the boss through the union, will inevitably bring you in to conflict with the present leadership.You cannot simply ignore them.

Some socialists do steer clear of this struggle as well, using their efforts to build the revolutionary party as an excuse. More often than not it is because they have entered this bureaucracy using incorrect methods and having no real base among the rank and file would lose their positions if they opened their mouths. What they are really doing is avoiding the struggle for the consciousness of the working class.

This is what all activists must be engaged in, a struggle for the consciousness of the working class.

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