Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Unions Are Part Of The Democratic Party Grassroots, But How Many Working Class Men And Women Are In Congress?

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It has been part of the neo-liberal movement within the Democratic Party to weaken union power inside of the party-- and even weaken unions in society. As I pointed out on Sunday, the most fervently pro-union member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Lee Carter, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, has not been supported by the state Democratic establishment. Democratic voters love him, but the House leaders who control the party purse-strings didn't back him in 2017 when he flipped a seat they thought was too red to contest and this year they are encouraging a conservative "ex"-Republican pretending to be a Democrat to primary him. They revile the consistency in his stand for working families and for unions. Guess, what-- he's a guy who works with his hands and is a union member. That's why you find him doing stuff like this:




And unions are telling Democrats that that's what they want to see more or, not less of. Maybe that's why Bernie has been steadily pulling ahead of the other candidates, who have only paid tepid and confused lip service to organized labor. An AP report yesterday from Michelle Price and Nick Riccardi ephasized that "As candidates court unions for endorsements, labor leaders say they are listening for a comeback plan. Any proposal aimed at workers 'must include ensuring the opportunity to join a union, no matter where you work, since that’s the best way to raise wages, improve working conditions, create family-sustaining jobs and begin to fix our rigged economy and democracy,' said SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. At a conference of North America’s Building Trades Unions in Washington on Wednesday, several Democratic contenders talked about outlawing so-called 'right to work' laws that prevent unions from automatically deducting dues from members, said the group’s president, Sean McGarvey."
[S]ome key labor leaders are starting to worry about the topics dominating the 2020 conversation.

The candidates are spending too much time talking about esoteric issues like the Senate filibuster and the composition of the Supreme Court and not enough time speaking the language of workers, several union officials said. Those ideas may excite progressive activists, they said, but they risk alienating working-class voters.

“They’ve got to pay attention to kitchen table economics,” said Ted Pappageorge, president of the Las Vegas Culinary Union that represents 60,000 hotel and casino workers. “We don’t quite see that.”

Terry McGowan, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, in Wisconsin, said many of the issues driving the 2020 primary so far are distractions.

“The people that are into politics, the people who like sideshows, they’re into that,” he said, citing the debates over reparations for slavery and immigration as examples. “The masses just want to feed their families.”

The unease may be an early warning sign for Democrats, who watched as many white, working-class voters, including many union members in key Rust Belt states, chose Trump three years ago. Democrats are hoping to win back some of those voters next year, a challenge that is made harder, some argue, by labor’s struggle to build its membership and influence its rank and file. Democrats’ early messages may not help, some said.



...To be sure, many unionists are excited about the presidential field. Contenders include liberal stalwarts like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign became the first in U.S. history with a unionized workforce, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who joined striking Stop & Shop workers on a picket line in New Hampshire on Friday. California Sen. Kamala Harris hired a top Service Employees International Union executive for her campaign and made her first proposal one to raise teacher’s pay... Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the competition in the crowded field has amplified workers voices and issues.

She noted that prominent presidential candidates quickly supported Los Angeles public school teachers when they struck in January. Warren, Sanders, Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have all proposed various taxes on higher-earning families, a departure from most past Democratic hopefuls who have treaded carefully on the issue.

“It feels different than at other times,” Weingarten said. “There is far more attention and focus on working people’s economic needs.”

Major endorsements are likely several months away, especially because the labor movement is treading carefully after complaints that its leadership was too quick to back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary over Sanders.

For labor, much is at stake. Despite Republican gains, particularly with trade union members, labor remains an essential part of the Democrats’ coalition. Unions spent $169 million in 2018 on federal elections, largely on Democrats’ behalf, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democrats won union workers by a strong 59%-39% margin in 2018, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate.
One of the traits we screen for when we figure out which candidates to endorse has to do with how strong their commitments are to organized labor. When we feel a candidate is just mailing it in and not really ready to take hard votes for working families... well, they can go look for an endorsement from the New Dems. These four candidates are very committed to union organizing and will be strong fighters in Congress. Blue America has endorsed each one of them and I hope you'll use the thermometer below to contribute something to any of, or all of, their campaigns.

Marqus Cole is running for a Republican-held seat in suburban Atlanta. He reiterated that his dad "is a public school teacher and union member. My wife Amanda's dad is a commercial pilot and union member. Our lives were shaped by the American idea that a community of people coming together to pool their resources and fight for better wages, quality of life and work conditions is something to be proud of. Organized labor is a partner and key part of the economic engine that makes our country great. I think it is high time that we stop handicapping and sidelining our best tool for getting Americans to access the American dream just because a few billionaires are privately financing their own laws through Republican politicians."

Goal ThermometerAudrey Denney, a progressive candidate in a rural district up where her state meets Oregon and Nevada, explained that "Workers’ rights in our country have been under attack, and intentionally eroded for the past few decades. This is directly linked to the increasing poverty in our country and the growing gap between rich and poor. Unemployment in my district is significantly higher than the national average (7.4%, compared to 4.9% nationally in 2016). Incomes in CA-01 are less than state averages, and the poverty rate in my district is significantly above the state and national average. Minimum wage has not been increased over the years at the same rate as inflation. In the last 50 years, the minimum wage has effectively decreased in value by one third! In the same fifty years, corporate profits have increased 500% and average CEO salaries have gone up 1,500%. Minimum wage is so low, that for a family of four where both parents work full-time at minimum wage, the family is still below the poverty line. In my district, poor infrastructure and inadequate career and technical education discourage businesses from coming to the area or expanding. We desperartley need a representative who will fight for working families instead and not corporate donors.

Kara Eastman is running against Trump puppet Don Bacon in Omaha. When I asked her about where she is on unions this morning she said "I come from a union family which means something to me. My mother worked cleaning apartments to put food on our table. I have worked for over 20 years in nonprofits serving working individuals and families who have had a weak voice in American politics. But that is starting to change. I am tired of seeing people who work hard, struggle to make it on one salary. I want to work on behalf of families who deserve better than representatives who cater to the interests of corporations over theirs. We need more social workers, nurses, carpenters and teachers in office. Perhaps then, it would be a no-brainer to raise the minimum wage to an actual livable wage. Or maybe then the student debt crisis would be priority one."

Eva Putzova has a different situation. Before she takes on a Republican in her vast Arizona rural district, she has to beat a "former" Republican/current Blue Dog in a tough primary battle. He's a perfect example of someone who pays lip service to unions and then votes against the interests of working families all the time. Eva, who served on the Flagstaff city council, is an organizer herself. "After World War II," she told us yesterday, "over 50% of our workforce was unionized, mostly in the private sector. As the productivity of the economy increased, so did wages. In the last 40 years, anti-union, corporate interests and their representatives in government have made a concerted effort to weaken, and in some industries, eliminate unions altogether. As unions have declined in power so have wages while profits are at an all time high. When elected to Congress I will fight to eliminate anti-labor right-to-work laws, and will support real labor law reform that makes it easier for workers at all levels to be represented by a union. A revitalized labor movement is the key to achieving greater social, racial and economic justice for all American workers."

Randy "Iron Stache" Bryce went heavy on working class men and women feel like they have as much a right to be in Congress as an attorney or businessperson. He has a new outfit now, Iron PAC, which he's using to recruit and prepare working people to run. This morning he told me that "It’s really great to see some incredible pro-labor candidates step forward to run for president. Many of them helped our campaign out in some way, and, I’ll always be very grateful. It was incredible to see Senator Sanders be the first to ever organize a presidential campaign and voluntarily recognize a union. I know our staff appreciated that. It sent a message that those who do the work of moving a campaign along are worth taking care of. (Also thank you Rep. Swalwell for following suit.) Many voters have an issue that is important to them. I have several. In these times, we need a lot of help as organized labor has been under attack for far too long. Some people think that there are issues that aren’t as important as others. Let me just put in that this isn’t just an election. We’re building a movement. If some of those ideas advocate for equality for a gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, or race and they aren’t viewed as being important then we are leaving people behind. We are turning our back on strength. This is going to take everybody to win. We can’t afford the alternative."




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2 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The majority of members of my local vote Republican and are Trump supporters. And, they tend to be VERY bigoted.

Kind of hard for anyone but Trump to expect support from a group like this.

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it isn't the votes, it's the money. Union leadershit still $upport$ democraps.

Proving my thesis: dumbest motherfuckers in the history of earth.

democraps have taken their money but have only acted to destroy unions since the '70s. Or have we already forgotten the terms of obamanation's GM bailout already? Of course we have. dumbest motherfuckers in the history of earth.

 

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