Labor cannot rely on the Democrats
Published Sep 13, 2008 7:23 AM
Summer is ending, leaves are falling and kids are going back to school. Labor
Day has come and gone, and with seasonal regularity, union members are once
again being urged by their leaders to work for the candidates of the Democratic
Party. Tens of millions of dues dollars will wind up going to support these
so-called “friends of labor.”
Yet time and time again the Democrats act against the interests of the working
class. Who can forget NAFTA, the destruction of welfare and the bipartisan
support for wars against Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yugoslavia,
Afghanistan, Iraq again and (unless we stop it) Iran?
Another example of the Democratic Party’s subservience to Big Business
just occurred in Ohio last week.
Early this year the state’s various unions joined forces to collect the
hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to place a proposal—compelling
employers with 25 or more employees to provide seven paid sick days—on
the ballot in November. Union volunteers, including me, took petitions to their
union meetings and union picnics, to their churches, and out in the community.
The petition drive was successful and polls suggested the measure would pass by
a wide margin.
Needless to say, Ohio’s corporate elite were dead set against the Healthy
Families Act. Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, elected in 2006 with broad labor
support, at first appeared lukewarm on the matter, but in the end lined up
solidly behind the capitalists. “Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher,” according to
the Sept. 5 Cleveland Plain Dealer, “said that behind the scenes he and
Strickland told SEIU officials that their opposition ‘would not be
cosmetic. We were going to actively oppose it and actively campaign against
Perhaps Fisher, a career politician, never had to go to work sick because he
couldn’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Perhaps Strickland, an
ordained minister, never had to worry about being fired by the flock if he
stayed home with a sick child.
As a UAW activist for 21 years I would have liked to see, for once, some anger
on the part of the union leadership. Unfortunately Service Employees
International Union 1199 has done the exact opposite and—without input
from the rank-and-file or even the other unions that campaigned for Healthy
Families—withdrawn the ballot initiative. “We respect the
governor’s wish to avoid a negative and divisive fight that could hurt
Ohio,” stated Becky Williams, president of SEIU District 1199. Apparently
1199 feels obligated to the governor for his purported support last year for
the union’s effort to organize home health care workers in Ohio.
This quid pro quo arrangement exemplifies corporate model business unionism at
its worst. It’s time to abandon these regressive strategies and organize
the masses of unorganized workers who hunger for a living wage, paid health
care and the basic job security that is nonexistent without a union
Hooray for papers like Workers World and candidates like Cynthia McKinney and
Rosa Clemente, who represent a genuine voice for workers and oppressed.
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