After the Fall: An Autopsy of the Midterm Elections

by Michael Hirsch

Surveying the wreckage of his party’s 2014 election campaign, Howard Dean, on the November 9th Meet the Press, was candid, with such sound bytes as, ““Where the hell is the Democratic party …You got to stand for something if you want to win.” The Republicans’ message was, “We’re not Obama.” What was the Democrats’ message? “Oh well, we really aren’t either.”

Translation: “Get my message; we need a message.”

No matter how hard the Democrats tried to demonize their Republican rivals—the data in several states show a far higher rate of negative ads from Democrats —they couldn’t match the Death Star ferocity of the GOP message attack: the failed presidency of Barack Obama. That energized the Republican base. Nothing so potent was tendered to bring out the Democratic base vote, especially among white workers.

In election eve comments, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka placed the blame on the victors’ having “enough big-money backers to drown out the truth.” He did see hope in a number of ballot issues that directly aid working people, especially raises in the minimum wage (Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska) but also including mandating open school board meetings (Colorado), a right to vote amendment that proponents say precludes voter ID requirements (Illinois), guaranteed birth-control prescription coverage (Illinois), a millionaires’ tax (Illinois), and repeal of the automatic gas-sales tax increase (Massachusetts). Many passed in the same states that swung to the Republicans.

“The defining narrative of this election was confirmation, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Americans are desperate for a new economic life,” Trumka said. “In way too many elections, they got a false choice.  In these very difficult times, they did not a get a genuine economic alternative to their unhappiness and very real fear of the future. But when voters did have a chance to choose their future directly—through ballot measures—their decisions are unmistakable.”

One such opportunity happened in Richmond, Cal., where the Richmond Progressive Alliance ran candidates for city office against a slate owned, in effect, by Chevron, the city’s main employer. Chevron red-baited the progressives, spending $3 million on a whispering campaign suggesting one of the insurgents was gender-challenged and another was “a dangerous anarchist” because he took part in nearby Oakland’s Occupy action.

That pricey disinformation gambit didn’t work; the Alliance is a group with a 10-year history of recognized successes, including being instrumental in raising the minimum wage; cleaning the air—largely by wrenching agreements out of Chevron; lowering energy bills; and ending the police practice of driver’s license checkpoints. Among its many campaign issues: saving the local medical center, fighting for teachers’ rights and better schools, and instituting job training for youth and other local residents at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. And what is singularly important: it’s a 24/7 operation; they don’t fold up between elections, but serve as the political base for elected officials committed to social change instead of corporate control. As the Alliance’s basic literature says, “It is between elections that corporations and entrenched interests have the most influence in bending government to their way.”

A giant October rally saw more than 500 attendees pack the Richmond Civic Center—to meet the candidates and hear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who endorsed the slate and predicted the Alliance and its grassroots work would prove a model for other cities. The three council members plus the mayor, a well-known area independent running on their slate, are now Richmond’s elected leadership.

Few Working-Class Issues Prominent in Campaigns

It would seem that, in principle,Trumka was right about working people reliably voting their class interests when those interests are starkly drawn. So why weren’t working families’ needs front and center on candidate appeals? Why wasn’t wage stagnation pinned on the GOP? Or Wall Street banking theft? Where were the critical living wage demands? And where was organized labor in making these class issues part of the Democrats’ campaign? Why didn’t it disabuse the Democrats’ notion that keeping their heads down and waiting for the GOP to implode is not a strategy; it’s barely a tactic. Continue reading

Immigration Reform, Activism, and Moral Certainty

by Duane Campbell

English: Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice Preside...

English: Eliseo Medina, former Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, testifying on immigration reform before the Subcommittee on Immigration of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An argument is being made in many places in the Latino community condemning Obama for his not taking executive action on immigration and condemning Civil Rights veterans such as DSA Honorary Chairs Dolores Huerta and Eliseo Medina for their positions of not condemning the Obama lack of action. Here is an example.

A problem with this effort is that attacking our allies does not move immigration policy forward. And, an argument from a position of moral correctness does not necessarily change policy. We need to be on the morally correct side, as Huerta and Medina are, but that is not enough. See prior posts on this blog about Medina and Huerta.

I learned this in the anti war movement against the war in Viet Nam. We had hundreds of thousands in the streets opposed to the war, but the war went on. 58,000 U.S. soldiers died, 100,000s were injured. Over 1.2 million Vietnamese died. Although we were morally correct, the war went on.

In El Salvador between 1982 and 1992 the U.S. backed government carried out a civil war against the population. At least 75,000 were killed. In Nicaragua between 19 79-1990 at leas 40,000 were killed. In Guatemala the civil war cost at least 200,000 lives. Our solidarity efforts in the U.S. were morally correct, but our efforts did not change U. S. policy.

Moral correctness does not change policy because political and economic power largely controls this country. We have a political oligarchy- the control of our government by the super rich. Our government is dominated by corporations. We need to study and to understand neoliberal capitalism. Then, we will need to go to work to change it.

In the current immigration debate. Continue reading

Unions, community groups divide on immigration reform

Divisions on immigration bill.

Duane Campbellby Duane Campbell

Until last week there was  substantive unity between immigrants rights groups, community groups,  religious groups, and  major parts of organized labor in the effort to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Now, with the amendments and passage of S477, the Senate bill, this unity is challenged.   The draft of S477 by the Gang of Eight was  always a compromise. There is, for example, a redesigned  guest worker program,  the growth of a special status for H1 B hi tech workers,  enhancement of border enforcement,  a extended period of time required for application for legal status, and more.

Conservative Republican forces in the Senate amended the bill to achieve a massive  30 Billion  $ expansion of border enforcement.  The National Network for Immigrants Rights, a network of grass roots community groups, sharply criticized this developments and Presente, a new on-line group that claims to speak with the Latino community has called the bill unacceptable, while the big Washington D.C. lobbying groups such as the National Council de La Raza continue to support the bill.

Labor too is dividing. The national AFL-CIO praised the passage of S477 in the Senate, Richard Trumka  said,

The United States Senate today moved our country a big step closer to building a common sense immigration system that will allow millions of aspiring Americans to become citizens.  Continue reading

Assault on labor in Michigan


By Duane Campbell

While labor won big in the 2012 elections, we did not win everywhere.  Labor did not win in Michigan.  Republican legislators in Michigan on Thursday passed so called Right-To-Work  legislation  for private sector work by six votes in the Senate and the House.  The governor has indicated he will sign the bill.  A following bill restricting public sector workers is following close behind in the lame duck session.

From: Kitchen table economics:  in  DSA’s Democratic Left.  Winter 2012.What is Right To Work?  What motivates and who funds  these state campaigns against organized labor?  Answer: In states that have adopted so called Right To Work, annual wages and benefits are about $1,500 lower than for comparable workers in non-RTW states—for both union and nonunion workers.  And the odds of getting health insurance or a pension through one’s job are also lower. (1)

Right to work (RTW)  is a misleading slogan.  It does not guarantee anyone a job, that is a right to work.   Rather, it makes it illegal for unions to require that each worker who benefits from a union contract pays his or her  fair share of the costs of administering that contract.

“Right to Work” is a propaganda title that unfortunately the corporate owned  has successfully branded and the media repeats day by day.  We should avoid repeating the phrase.  Instead we should call it what it is, an assault on unions. Continue reading

Union leaders praise Obama on immigration decision

by Laura Clawson

English: Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice Preside...

English: Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union, testifying on immigration reform before the Subcommittee on Immigration of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, April 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The AFL-CIO and the SEIU are applauding President Obama’s decision to give work permits to young, law-abiding undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, rather than deporting them.

“President Obama showed leadership and courage,” according to SEIU Secretary Treasurer Eliseo Medina, on a “common sense move [that] is fiscally responsible and widely supported.”

“President Obama is showing great courage in taking this action, and it presents a stark contrast with the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee who has vowed to stop the DREAM Act if elected. In Congress, polarizing partisan politics kept the DREAM Act from becoming law in 2010.

“Through President Obama’s courageous leadership, DREAM eligible students can get relief from the immediate threat of deportation. The president has now done all he can do, but the kind of relief he is able to grant is temporary. It is now up to Congress to pass the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, which is the only way that the dreams of these productive Americans can be realized.”

[note: Eliseo Medina is an Honorary Chair of DSA]

“We are thrilled,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.

The President’s actions bring much-needed security and encouragement to our nation’s youth who can finally live without fear of separation from their families and deportation to a country they barely remember. […] The AFL-CIO commends the Administration for its courage and leadership in taking an important step towards a more just America. Continue reading

Migration – a product of “Free Market” Reforms

By Duane Campbell

Labor journalist and photo journalist  David Bacon is a frequent contributor to Talking Union.  In a new three part series, “Migration- a product of Free Market Reforms” he describes the displacement of some 500,000 people from Oaxaca, Mexico.  Most to the fields of California.

David Bacon

“It is the financial crashes and the economic disasters that drive people to work for dollars in the U.S., to replace life savings, or just to earn enough to keep their family at home together,” says Harvard historian John Womack. “The debt-induced crash in the 1980s, before NAFTA, drove people north…The financial crash and the Rubin-induced reform of NAFTA, New York’s financial expropriation of Mexican finances between 1995 and 2000, drove the economically wrecked, dispossessed and impoverished north again.”

The U.S. immigration debate has no vocabulary that describes what happens to migrants before they cross borders – the factors that force them into motion. In the U.S. political debate, Veracruz’s uprooted coffee pickers or unemployed workers from Mexico City are called immigrants, because that debate doesn’t recognize their existence before they leave Mexico. It would be more accurate to call them migrants, and the process migration, since that takes into account both people’s communities of origin and those where they travel to find work. Continue reading

California Teachers Union begins “State of Emergency” campaign

David Sanchez in Sacramento

by Duane Campbell

Almost 800 teachers and their supporters rallied in Sacramento on Monday  and marched to the state capitol to demand that the legislature pass a budget that adequately funds the schools. Scores of protests, rallies, teacher sit-ins and grade-ins, and town halls are part of a statewide “State of Emergency” campaign week of actions  launched Monday by the California Teachers Association (NEA) CTA and a coalition of all of organized labor and parent supporters calling on the Legislature to extend current taxes now to avoid the catastrophe of an all-cuts budget.

David Sanchez in Sacramento

“We are living in a state of emergency,” said David A. Sanchez, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association. “Educators, parents and community leaders are fighting back against state budget cuts that are decimating our schools, public safety and health care services. To protect essential public services, the Legislature must finish the job of resolving the state budget crisis by extending current tax rates legislatively. Time is running out for our students and our communities.”David Sanchez in Sacramento

Educators are fed up with endless cuts and will be holding daily sit-ins at the Capitol building in Sacramento. In the past three years, K-12 and higher education have been cut by more than $20 billion. An all-cuts state budget would add another $4 billion in education cuts, the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst warns. CTA supported the governor’s call for a June special election to extend taxes, but Republican  lawmakers hijacked the process and blocked that vote. The time to protect the revenue we have is now.

Events this week will   show the impacts of budget cuts on students and our communities.  Rallies will be held in  5  California cities on Friday, culminating in a march on the capitol and a potential occupation of the California Capitol.

The campaign website is and features events planned statewide, along with blogs, videos and news coverage about cuts and the growing crisis in California.

What is similar to the occupations in Wisconsin and the demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana? Continue reading


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