Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unions Always Side With The 99%, Right? Ummm...

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Labor unions built the middle class. Period. Like any human endeavor there are times when they haven't been perfect but they have pretty much always been the bulwark against plutocracy. Union bureaucrats in DC, however, are something else entirely... like the rest of Washington. You know how I feel about Washington, right? Too many of these union bureaucrats seem more interested in careerism and the cocktail circuit and chummy friendships among the liberal elite than doing the right thing for the men and women paying their dues and getting the short end of the stick from Lewiston to Kalamazoo to Denver, Seattle, L.A. and back to Baltimore. We've often featured inspiring, hard-hitting speeches by Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Leo Gerard of the Steelworkers and the former SEIU president Andy Stern.

But I've been in too many meeting with too many DC union bureaucrats for my own comfort. I'll never forget one chiming in during a debate about endorsing Ilya Sheyman not that his union would endorse the conservative Democrat the DCCC was pushing down unions' throats, but that they were thinking (seriously) about endorsing the Republican. He wasn't joking. Unions have endorsed some of the most hideous Blue Dogs in the country who vote month after month and after month in lockstep with the Republicans against working families. And when the DCCC demands they help out with anti-worker candidates, many political directors just want to go along and get along. Unions have endorsed anti-working family shills like Marty Chavez against labor champion Eric Griego and I've heard from dozens of local unionists that the bosses in the state had been pressured by DC to go for someone who just broke their hearts to have to endorse.

Since 1989 the Building Trades Unions-- the biggest donors and often the most transactional and conservative-- have doled out $123,961,998 in campaign contributions. The third biggest recipient is arch-conservative Tim Holden, a Blue Dog from Pennsylvania ($562,594). Holden's default position is to vote with the Republican Party. He's virulently anti-Choice and was one of the loudest Democratic voices singing from Boehner and Cantor's hymn book about why health care reform would be a disaster. He voted for the Stupak Amendment and against the health care bill. Other Blue Dogs who scored the heaviest from this group of unions include Loretta Sanchez (CA-$521,400), Baron Hill (IN-$460,550), Leonard Boswell (IA-$455,550), Earl Pomeroy (ND-$409,500), Adam Schiff (CA-$359,000), Joe Donnelly (IN-$342,450), Nick Lampson (TX-$325,800), Dennis Moore (KS-$304,750), Mike Ross (AR-$280,500)... that's a list of grotesque Blue Dogs, many of whom line up against working families as faithfully as Republicans. This year, among the biggest recipients of Building Trades Unions cash are the usual array of right-wing Blue Dogs (Joe Donnelly, for example, is #2) and corporate shills in the party leadership like Hoyer, Wasserman Schultz and Crowley but also, coming in in the Top 10 of all members of Congress, Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-NY).

Let me tell you a little about one of the most hideously corrupt and conservative members of the California legislature, Juan Vargas down in San Diego. Back in 2010 when Insurance Industry shill Juan Vargas was trying to reclaim a seat in the state legislature, labor waged one of the most expensive campaigns in state Senate history to keep him out-- and almost succeeded.

Click so you can see who valiantly opposed Juan Vargas in 2010

The 40th State Senate District-- currently represented by termed-out Democratic Senator Denise Ducheny-- includes the South Bay of San Diego (with cities like Coronado and Imperial Beach), and then spans inland to encompass Riverside and Imperial Counties. With a large Latino population, the race is between State Assemblywoman Mary Salas of Chula Vista-- and Juan Vargas, who represented the same Assembly District until 2006.

Salas is clearly labor’s favorite-- with endorsements by the California Labor Federation, SEIU, UFCW, the Nurses Association and the California Federation of Teachers. She’s also the choice of the League of Conservation Voters and Equality California. Sixteen of the State Senate’s 25 Democrats (including President Darrell Steinberg) have endorsed her, along with 32 of the 48 Democrats in the State Assembly. Most of the Democratic clubs in the San Diego area have endorsed her, as did the California Democratic Party.

...But the big story in San Diego is not who’s endorsed Vargas-- but who has been funding the attacks on Salas. Insurance companies have thrown their weight around in this June election (over $17 million statewide), and the 40th State Senate District is one of a handful of races they have focused on. That’s because Vargas was their “go-to” legislator in the Assembly. ... CJAC is playing a starring role in this race. They have set up two campaign committees-- “Californians for Balance and Fairness” and “California Back to Work”-- which poured in $257,000 and $721,000 respectively on behalf of Vargas in this race.

Who is CJAC? Donations (often in six figures) to these campaign committees include: (1) Jobs-PAC, which is the California Chamber of Commerce’s political arm, (2) Farm-PAC, which represents agribusiness interests, (3) Mercury Auto Insurance, while it’s not spending millions to pass Prop 17, (4) Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, who represents Safeway, Blue Cross and a who’s who of the largest corporations in America.

Wanna know how much the landlords love Vargas? The California Apartment Association has-- to date-- spent over $103,000 in the past month alone in independent expenditures on his behalf.

Vargas has been as horrible in office as the unions feared (and as the insurance companies hoped) so what are the unions doing today? Backing him for a seat in the U.S. Congress-- because they want to get him out of Sacramento. See all those unions opposing Vargas two years ago? Today he has been endorsed-- against two more progressive opponents-- by the California Democratic Party, the San Diego and Imperial Counties' Labor Council, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Association of Firefighters, International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the United Association: Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and HVAC Service Techs, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-AFL-CIO, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, the SD International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 569, the Laborers' International Union of North America, the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers, and, in case you missed the point, the California Labor Federation. And almost all the Sacramento political leaders who opposed him a year and a half ago. If Californians are wondering why our state failed to enact single payer health care legislation with such big Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature. They might want to ask the unions who are backing Juan Vargas, who refused to vote for it.

Is there a bright side to this dismal story? Well, kind of. A friend of mine running for Congress was asked to sign a pledge from a labor union. This is the pledge:
Southern California District Council Labor Pledge

I, __________ pledge to the following if elected:
(Candidate)

I will unflinchingly support organized labor, collective bargaining and workers' rights.

I will not support the subcontracting of public services.

I will support public education and not support "Public School Choice."

I will support a new model for infrastructure repair.

I will protect SOCIAL SECURITY.

I will work for the removal of the funding cap on SOCIAL SECURITY.

I will work for:

Single payer healthcare and the protection of MEDICARE

A pre-school subsidy for single parents.

The restoration of HEAD START

I will work for:

A progressive income tax structure, corporations paying their fair share of taxes and a penalty tax for corporations that offshore American jobs.

A green jobs initiative, funding and research for alternative fuels and a national priority for green programs.

I will keep an open mind on U.S. and international human rights issues, the right to choice in marriage, affirmative action and religious freedom.

I will support a woman's right to reproductive choice.

Now think about all the "Democrats" being pushed by corrupt Beltway party hacks Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Joe Crowley who could never in a million years be endorsed by these unions, locals that really do stand for the legitimate aspirations of working families, not Beltway fatcats on the cocktail party circuit.


UPDATE: Oh Yuck!

I was just going through Paul Ryan's FEC report and came across something that made me really sick. The Carpenters and Joiners Union was one of his top 5 contributors this cycle, right up there with Goldman Scahs and all the other plutocrats financing the reinstitution of slavery in America. Go unions! Especially in Wisconsin!

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4 Comments:

At 10:23 AM, Blogger BrettB said...

It's kept Pennsylvania from becoming a no rights at work state, HAVING prevailing wage laws, and probably kept our min. wage from being decimated. It's also stopped the privatization of TONS of services that would raise the price for all taxpayers.

Progressives can't blame unions for playing the game to protect what they have, but we can blame ourselves for not organizing more people. Many of us rely on labor for funding, PR, LOBBYING ACCESS, and pre-existing structures, but we spit on them when they use those to protect their existence. I do it too, and we need people telling them to be smarter for resources, but we can't ignore at the local and state levels (and even national when it comes to infrastructure) how much it's worked.

 
At 11:43 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Yep, unions are their own worst enemy sometimes. The old saying "power corrupts" applies to union bosses just as much as to political bosses.

My suggestion for progressives is to emphasize an economic bill of rights, so that all workers, not just union workers, get good pay, sick leave, a comfortable retirement, generous vacation, seniority priviliges, etc.. And of course, a $12-$15 minimum wage.

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Labor needs to remember there are other issues than just there own sometimes. And those issues when neglected can have consequences on their members.

I am all for strong labor, but their political needs have to balance with the public as well. To just get rid of a public official (or pass the buck) because it suits there needs just creates a larger problem for their workers and the rest of us.

 
At 11:48 PM, Anonymous SeanB said...

I think the author is missing an opportunity to do some good while bringing up the unfortunate side of labor, that there is a solid Democratic candidate in this race... John Brooks. We CAN have a progressive candidate to fill Bob Filners shoes, not Singler-Payer killing Vargas, and not the NRA democrat(Ducheny), but a candidate inspired by the Occupy movement. I'm hopeful

 

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