Labor After Bernie

An organizer with Labor for Bernie argues that the gains won within the Democratic Party must be defended and expanded.
by Rand Wilson & Dan DiMaggio
Jacobin magazine 11.23.16

The 2016 elections saw the labor movement behave largely as it usually does, backing the presumably most electable Democratic Party candidate in an effort to ensure a Democratic victory and win influence in a future administration. National unions like the Service Employees International Union, National Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers went all-in for Hillary Clinton’s doomed campaign early on, despite her cozy relationship with Wall Street and checkered record on pro-corporate trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP.

Can the US labor movement ever move beyond its one-sided adherence to transactional politics? The 2016 election did provide some hope on this question, as the all-volunteer Labor for Bernie campaign built a network of hundreds of local unions and tens of thousands of rank-and-file union members to push for endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his unapologetically pro-worker campaign.

Ultimately, six national unions — the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamate Transit Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the American Postal Workers Union — backed Sanders in the primaries.

In the most recent issue of Jacobin, Seth Ackerman argues that if there’s any hope to build an independent left-wing party rooted in the working class, it will require the involvement of significant sections of the labor movement. “On the Left only unions have the scale, experience, resources, and connections with millions of workers needed to mount a permanent, nationwide electoral project.”

To get a sense of some labor activists’ thoughts on the path forward following the elections, Dan DiMaggio, assistant editor at Labor Notes, spoke with Rand Wilson, a volunteer coordinator of Labor for Bernie, in the wake of the election. Wilson works for SEIU Local 888 in Boston and is now working to build the state-level structure of Sanders’ political organization Our Revolution in Massachusetts. Continue reading

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Labor Veteran Dolores Huerta on What’s at Stake in the 2016 Elections

huertaAlly Boguhn, Rewire

Since the founding along with Cesar Chaves and others of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, through her current work in supporting union democracy, civic engagement and empowerment of women and youth in disadvantaged communities, Huerta’s influence has been profound. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S. .

Republican nominee Donald Trump launched his campaign for president in June 2015 with a speech notoriously claiming [1] Mexican immigrants to the United States “are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”
Since then, both Trump’s campaign [2] and the Republican Party at large have continued to rely upon anti-immigrant [3] and anti-Latino rhetoric to drum up support. Take for example, this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio—whose department came under fire [4] earlier this year for racially profiling Latinos—was invited to take the stage to push [5] Trump’s proposed 2,000-mile border wall. Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that Trump’s campaign had worked with the sheriff to finalize his speech.
This June, just a day shy of the anniversary of Trump’s entrance into the presidential race, People for the American Way and CASA in Action hosted an event highlighting what they deemed to be the presumptive Republican nominee’s “Year of Hate.”
Among the advocates speaking at the event was legendary civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who worked alongside [6] César Chávez in the farm workers’ movement. Speaking by phone the next day with Rewire, Huerta—who has endorsed [7] Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—detailed the importance of Latinos getting involved in the 2016 election, and what she sees as being at stake for the community.
The Trump campaign is “promoting a culture of violence,” Huerta told Rewire, adding that it “is not just limited to the rallies,” which have sometimes ended in violent incidents [8], “but when he is attacking Mexicans, and gays, and women, and making fun of disabled people.”

Huerta didn’t just see this kind of rhetoric as harmful to Latinos. When asked about its effect on the country at large, she suggested it affected not only those who already held racist beliefs, but also people living in the communities of color those people may then target. “For those people who are already racist, it sort of reinforces their racism,” she said. “I think people have their own frustrations in their lives and they take it out on immigrants, they take it out on women. And I think that it really endangers so many people of color.” Continue reading

The Unintended Education of a Union Member

by Angel Picón
Labor unions in California must play an active role more than ever in the 2016 Presidential elections. It wasn’t long ago that unions were created because of local disputes with their employers. This year as each presidential candidate is sharing their political ideologies they shape their presidential campaigns as they travel the all over the country and their support, or lack of support of progressive issues are being highlighted at the union halls all over the country. Many of their inconsistencies are gravely evident to the union members that are now trained “BS” spotters.
According to political reports, the delegate-rich state of California may hold the key in deciding who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. This year California has a distinct opportunity to confidently elect someone that has had the privilege of working for progressive issues; unions issues he has fought for for years. The two front Democratic candidates have participated and supported many union issues in the past. Why are California unions important this year as opposed to other presidential races? In part because the Financial Crisis in 2008 hit the state very hard with a shortfall of almost $40 billion dollars.
The Financial Crisis gave birth to the Occupy Movement thereby giving labor unions and their members an opportunity to participate in grassroots movements across the country. This movement also gives union members a place to vent their frustrations and in turn they got educated. They were involved in direct actions, they challenged the financial institutions to be accountable. They are informed union members now and they know how to connect the dots. They now have questions; they now know how we got into this mess in the first place. In short, it was greed where only the corporate financial institutions (i.e. Wall Street) won and our local economies lost -again. Union members became educated on the issues that mattered to them by directly involving themselves on the issues that affected them.
We, the taxpayer got stuck with the bill Continue reading

Voting Gives Working People a Place at the Table

by Duane Campbell

vote-graphic-smElections are one of the important tools in labor’s arsenal and organized labor is the organized expression of the working class. We should act like it.   Labor has its problems that have been analyzed by many (see the excellent new piece by Harold Meyerson http://prospect.org/article/seeds-new-labor-movement

But, organized labor is still 6 % of the private sector work force and 13 % of the public sector work force. It is the most organized electoral machine on the democratic left. And we need to join in and make this machine work.

When the Waltons (Walmart) and other out of state super rich such as the pension fund thief John Roberts invest almost 12 million $ in the race to defeat teaches’ unions in election for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, there must be a reason . This is one of the current battle against neoliberal power.

See Talking Union below and http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/10/28/3585128/arnold-pensions-retirement-manufactured-crisis/

As we know, the U.S. political system is overrun by money. Economic power at the top is used to produce political results in Congress and in elections. The rich get richer while the middle stagnates and the poor get screwed.

Our response must be encouraging more voting, not less. The lack of interest in electoral participation expressed in many places is not progressive, rather it reveals a lack of interest in defending democracy. Not voting is giving up on what democracy we have. Yes, our democracy is truncated, exploited, and distorted by economic power, but we need to grow and expand democracy, not abandon it. And, that is why we organize politically in labor.

Political activity – elections- is a an important tool in the arsenal of labor. Election victories are one of the key elements of union power, particularly for public sector unions and often even for the building trades. Continue reading

The Democrats and Social Class

by Jack Metzgar

It’s more than a little frustrating trying to follow Democrats’ analysis of social classes in this country.  Most of the time now, there are only two classes – the rich (very precisely defined as those with at least $250,000 in annual family income) and the middle class, which includes everybody else.  But in the analysis of elections a “working class” shows up, one which is invariably “white” and, it seems, predominantly male.

Most Democrats, and especially the more progressive ones, know that moving the white working class away from its decades-long lopsided loyalty to the Republican Party is crucial to achieving a long-term governing majority.  But instead of appealing to this demographic electoral block directly, it seeks to lump them in with what Dems think is a universally beloved “middle class.”  This is a tactical mistake, as in many working-class precincts calling somebody “middle class” is meant as a put down and an insult – somebody who doesn’t live “real life,” lacks common sense, and yet thinks they’re “all better.”  Believe me, I’ve been on the front end of this insult, sometimes deservedly so.

Continue reading

I remember

From the Boilermakers, this election video is getting lots of buzz.