It’s very simplicity makes it so incredibly powerful. Rachel likes it too.
A lot of people think labor is poised for a resurgence, in the wake of Wisconsin. Not everyone agrees. Harold Meyerson reports on some unfounded pessimism from the people who should be making that happen.
Many union activists viewed the 2009-10 battle for the most recent iteration of labor law reform — the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — as labor’s last stand. EFCA could never attain the magic 60-vote threshhold required to cut off a filibuster, despite the presence, at one point, of 60 Democratic senators. Given the rate at which private-sector unionization continues to fall (which in turn imperils support for public-sector unions), many of labor’s most thoughtful leaders now consider the Democrats’ inability to enact EFCA a death sentence for the American labor movement.
“It’s over,” one of labor’s leading strategists told me this month. Indeed, since last November’s elections, half a dozen high-ranking labor leaders from a range of unions have told me they believe that private-sector unions may all but disappear within the next 10 years.
The failure of a Democratic White House and record Democratic majorities in Congress to even make a serious effort to attempt to pass EFCA was a travesty. But EFCA was never the only way to revive the labor movement, nor was it going to be very effective without strategic changes within the labor movement itself. (For more, see Julius Getman’s Restoring the Power of Unions: It Takes a Movement, or my quick hits here and here.) That supposed leading strategists and thoughtful leaders believe otherwise is truly disturbing.
Mike Elk reminds us that Congress is not the only thing stopping the White House from advancing the cause of labor rights. They could be using an executive order to enforce rules on contractors, as as already been proposed for disclosing political donations.
By updating the standards, databases, rules and guidelines for enforcing contracting rules about what corporations get the law, Obama could stop a wide range of anti-worker practices, from workplace safety rules to sexual harassment to unionbusting.
If President Obama signs this executive order forcing disclosure of corporations’ political donations, the progressive movement should then hound him to sign a similar high-road contracting rule.With a stroke of his pen, he coud go a long way toward curtailing rampant unionbusting and workplace safety violations.
Given the renewed attention to labor rights as a result of Wisconsin and the rest, Democrats who want to be seen as pro-labor need to actually do things that are pro-labor. Not being a Republican is not enough. And unlike with legislation, there is no one to blame for this failure to act other than Obama himself. It’s also worth noting that more union rights would mean better wages and a stronger economy for everyone (including Obama, who’s reelection chances are largely a product of the state of the economy).
Tim Francisco at Working Class Perspectives offers some helpful advice about framing what’s at stake in Wisconsin and beyond.
Walker’s “frame” [in his WSJ op-ed] parallels much of the coverage of workers’ issues that, in an earlier post, I criticized for failing to address the complexities and the realities behind the eye-catching and heart-tugging “working class” frames like his. For example, rather than simply accepting as unassailable inevitability the plight of Walker’s brother, why aren’t we asking why his health-care premiums are so high, or why the important work that he and his wife do to support their family is so undervalued at a time when corporate profits and worker productivity are at all-time highs?
Imagine the impact of a story that, after describing the plight of Walker’s sibling, actually examined the profit margin of the hotel and department store that employ the couple to let readers discern whether or not the couple is being asked to “sacrifice” because their employers are exploiting the recession to squeeze more out of employees.
The “unassailable inevitability” hits the nail on the head. A central component of neoliberalism is the acceptance of existing power and economic distributions–this is what is meant by “pragmatic”–and looking for solutions within that framework. But as I’ve said before, politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Also the last paragraph highlights why I am so focused on union campaigns involving service workers, like Hotel Workers Rising!
In the Nation, Corey Robin suggests we have yet to provide a deep critique of conservatism and market fundamentalism.
We must confront this ideology head-on: not by temporizing about the riskiness or instability of the free market or by demonstrating that it (or its Republican stewards) cannot deliver growth but by mobilizing the most potent resource of the American vernacular against it. We must develop an argument that the market is a source of constraint and government an instrument of freedom. Without a strong government hand in the economy, men and women are at the mercy of their employer, who has the power to determine not only their wages, benefits and hours but also their lives and those of their families, on and off the job.
We must, in other words, change the argument from the abstractions of the free market to the very real power of the businessman. More than posing an impersonal threat to the deliberations of a democratic polity—as the progressive opposition to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision would have it, or as liberals like Paul Krugman and Hendrik Hertzberg have suggested about the unionbusting in Wisconsin—the businessman imposes concrete and personal constraints on the freedom of individual citizens. What conservatives fear above all else—more than higher taxes or lower profits—is any challenge to that power, any inversion of the obligations of deference and command, any extension of freedom that would curtail their own.
My emphasis. ”It’s long past time,” Robin argues, “for us to start talking and arguing about those first principles, especially the principle of freedom.” I couldn’t agree more.
With 100% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press gives Kloppenburg a lead of 204 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast. A Kloppenburg win would shift the balance of the court, from 4-3 conservative to 4-3 liberal.
Given the political security that Wisconsin Justices usually enjoy, Prosser should have been re-elected easily as of just a few weeks ago. However, the political backlash against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation has galvanized liberal activists, who brought in a late but very energetic game for the election.
Gov. Scott Walker said this afternoon that the spring election results show there are “two very different worlds in this state.”
“You’ve got a world driven by Madison, and a world driven by everybody else out across the majority of the rest of the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said at a press conference in the Capitol.
“For those who believe it’s a referendum, while it might have a statewide impact that we may lean one way or the other, it’s largely driven by Madison, and to a lesser extent Milwaukee,” he also added. “But those Senate recall elections on both the Democrat and Republican side aren’t being held in Madison, they aren’t being held in Milwaukee.”
Damn Hippies. Only teabaggers should be allowed to vote!
From Fast Company, a short book excerpt about the Beatles got me thinking about Democrats and the future of the Democratic party:
When the company begins a downward spiral, someone must take control. That person must have the best interests of the company as top priority, and the welfare of the members as a secondary focus. However, there are limits to what that person can accomplish if he attempts to manufacture a return to the good old days, especially from the top down. Esprit de corps must come from shared goals, and new circumstances call for new ways of working–and new ways of leading.
In Liverpool, as Badfinger’s Joey Molland has noted, the band had always been the thing: a unit, inseparable. But by January 1969, Paul could see the Beatles slipping away. John Had Yoko, Ringo his acting career, and George, his devotion to a newfound religion. In an effort to bring the band together, Paul began to float the idea that returning to their roots would revive their flagging spirits and interest, and rekindle the friendship and camaraderie that they had enjoyed before. He tried to persuade them to play live as they had in Hamburg and the Cavern. That failed.
For the past year, perhaps from the sellout of the public option — the White House verbal support that was unmasked as lies, the Democratic party leadership has revealed itself to be as craven and corrupt as the Republicans. We’re the sane corporatists. As opposed to the often insane, even racist, Tea Partiers who plump for the moneyed crowd. Or the garden variety Republicans who think greed is always good and, dammit, give me my gun.
What to do, as Democrats? How do we take our party back? Yeah, this is the 1,364,992nd chapter in this saga, but it might be good and cleansing to discuss what Wisconsin, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Japanese nukes, and other events in the recent past mean for people who care about a fair society that meets the needs of working people. While the world is suddenly a lot messier, it also has revealed a lot of opportunities and a lot of truths. Read the rest of this entry »
On one hand we are faced with a Corporo-Conservative assault on labor unions using their mercenary GOPper legislators in WI and elsewhere.
On the other, a cultural hegemonic front that systematically excludes Progressive views, analysis, and solutions from the mainstream media, elected office, and the history of our nation.
As Merge Left was taking form from the remains of Open Left one idea that percolated up was for us to use this site to organize members to swarm other web-sites and media outlets in a effort to push their coverage toward the left. To show them that the Right Lane is Closed!
This coming Monday morning from 9 – 11 AM (CST) we have an opportunity to swarm Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) during the Midday call-in program. The site is structured to allow non-members to stream the programs in real time and to submit questions via the website or a toll-free phone line. We can do this.
Read the rest of this entry »
Will the people of PA rise up like their brothers and sisters in WI? Corbett’s budget demands lots of pain, and includes more tax cuts, to address the deficit. Somehow. The Predator State rolls on. (All emphases mine).
The governor’s proposed spending plan for 2011-2012 is 3.1 percent leaner than this year’s roughly $28.2 billion budget, and proposes no additional taxes or fees, including no new tax on the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
To offset the pain of cuts to public schools, the governor is asking school districts to reopen their collective bargaining agreements to push for a one-year salary freeze on all school district personnel, from superintendents to teachers. The administration believes that would save an estimated $400 million.
In other areas, the administration is proposing to reinstate the phase-out of the capital stock and franchise tax, in the hopes of stimulating job creation. It also preserves the film tax credit, which had appeared to be destined for doom earlier this month.
Chris has the details at his new digs, whatever that place is called. There are various actions associated with this as well, particularly if you live in Wisconsin, where signatures will be required.
Via the Plum Line, it seems that some Democrats know how to make the case for the importance of union rights.
Good work, Democratic Party of Evanston.(pdf)
With the full-scale attack on collective bargaining launched by Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, maybe you’re wondering how to convince your colleagues, friends or family that unions deserve support. Or perhaps, frankly, you need to hear those arguments yourself. The case is clear: a vibrant, powerful labor movement makes for a better America. Here’s the evidence, with links providing more information.
Has your local Democratic Party released a similar statement?
The NYT-CBS poll reported in today’s NYT offer data indicating majority American opposition to the GOPer attack on unions (“Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions”, NYT, 28 February, 2010).
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/us/01poll.html (trouble with embedding this morning?)
These data obviously contradict the claims of popular support for attacking unions. The polling is actually very, very encouraging. For instance, the strongest support for cutting benefits and wages is found among those making in excess of $100,000 and even these wealthier Americans oppose cutting public sector wages and benefits (45% support, 49% oppose). Also encouragingly, independents break with self-identifying Dems on the issue.
These data are highly unlikely to encourage GOPers to turn on their real constituents such as the Koch brothers and those of their ilk. But it is a big shot in the arm for those fighting for their rights – for all of us, really – in Madison and Trenton and Columbus and elsewhere. It also provides evidence that Democratic leaders would have the support of the public if they took a stronger stance, or at least a more active stance, of support for workers. It certainly gives space for a strategy of upping the rhetorical attack on GOPers.
President Obama: You said you’d walk the line with striking workers. You may get your chance. Do that and go on the offensive generally. The public supports the workers and your strong moral leadership will likely strengthen that base support, possibly even expand that support. If doing the right thing for Americans is not sufficient motivation to enter the fray in full, consider the consequences for you and your party if the GOPers win these fights now underway and to be decided in the next several months. If we do not win those fights, you and the party are in serious trouble. If those fights are won, you may gain in strength. With the support of the public, we can win this fight.
The American people are ready. Are you? Or maybe the better question is: Which side are you on?
At this moment at the dawn of 2011 a rare alignment of instabilities is occurring. The analogy surfing through my brainpan is one of dams breaking upstream in many rivers. While each river has filled (and is filling) its “natural” flood plain, these have yet to flow together; to roil in unison. Maybe they will never find the watersheds that would push them toward each other, or maybe the connections between rivers are not found only in water flowing over rocks and dirt. After all, these connections extend through the atmosphere and are found where the climate meets the weather. For that reason, my recent posts have highlighted those of M. Stoller. because I think his analyses are an apt description of a “watershed” in the analogy that I’m currently beating to death. That labor rights and human dignity are the common foundation of the Jasmine Revolutions, the protests in Europe, and the growing movement centered in Wisconsin, USA is clear. The burst of hand-made content by those now posting here was sparked by Travis and it actively feeds forward as I post.
Travis was exactly correct, these are truly stories from the Front Lines. John has started us toward a bit longer event horizon by putting impending elections in the context of on-going events, so we have begun to gain some traction, perhaps. Even as we discuss (im)possible names for The Site to be Named Later, the steadfast dignity of the union members/supporters in WI has clearly gone viral.
Read the rest of this entry »
Matt Stoller has been on fire drawing the connections between our common moment here in the US and in the Middle East. His latest is The Liquidation of Society versus the Global Labor Revival.
As Daniel Ellsberg once said, “Courage is contagious.” And what happened in Wisconsin came from the inspiration of seeing millions of powerless people join together and overthrow a regime in Egypt. It didn’t come from union leaders, who have been perpetually unprepared for the onslaught against them. Just look at the webpage of the AFL-CIO of Wisconsin. It looks like it was designed by Geocities in 1997. Yet, #wiunion has been trending on and off for a week on Twitter and has inspired actions all over the country (check out the Cheesehead protest in NYC).
Perversely, people may be so beaten down that they only want to side with institutions that are visibly and aggressively advocating for them. This might lead them to recognize that middle class interests are aligned with those of labor, which was the widespread view in the first generation after World War II. However, that also means that the de facto business unionism of the 1970s onward isn’t appealing. People might only like unions when they see strikes, otherwise all they hear about is backroom negotiations. Perhaps effectively striking is actually the way to force people to ask questions about what kind of country they want to live in. I haven’t seen this much labor coverage since, well, ever in my lifetime. There seems to be multiple feedback loops at work: political, global, and economic.
Matt’s right – this truly is a moment where we need to choose between the ethics of MLK or Andrew Mellon.
I stole the idea for this post, but I don’t think John will mind. Below are a few shots I grabbed at the action on Wednesday at the capital. In Annapolis. So if nothing else you can tell your friends that today you learned that the capital of Maryland is Annapolis.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Maryland is possibly the bluest state in the union. Despite no immediate threat to collective bargaining (save for some attempts by municipalities to cover their fiscal mistakes with union wages), over 100 souls braved the winter weather (a flash snow storm that rolled in the night before) to show their support for their brethren in the midwest.
And my favorite shot, in reference to the aforementioned weather…
Perhaps, for once, when people say that “the time is now”…well, maybe the time really IS now.