I remember talking to a lawyer at a dinner a few years ago. We had established a mutually common liberal outlook on life already, but then he said something that stopped me in my tracks: "You know, unions had their place years ago, but I think they've outlived their usefulness."
Now, regular readers of this blog know that I'm not one to let a comment like that sit unchallenged. My father (as a federal employee), mother (a state employee), and brother (a public school teacher) are/were all members of unions and have all benefited from that association. The pensions my parents now individually receive are the result of union negotiations. The fact that there are not 45 children in my brother's classroom is the result of union negotiations. I need only look at them to see that unions still have a very critical role to play right here and right now to protect the labor movement.
After the all-out assault on unions going on in Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, and Indiana after the 2010 elections, I think if I met up with that lawyer again, he'd change his tunes on unions. Because right now, the only thing standing between us and the oligarchy completely taking over is...you guessed it, labor unions.
Richard Trumka has graciously agreed to come on to C&L today to discuss the labor movement and how the unions will continue to fight for the dignity and rights of workers in the face of such draconian measures as Paul Ryan's Atlas Shrugged budget plans and other budget cuts that hurt American workers.
He is making a speech today to warn the Democratic Party that they must take a stronger stance against these draconian measures and stand with American workers if they want the electoral support of unions. From the press release:
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka plans to issue yet another warning to Democrats on Friday, proclaiming that if lawmakers don't push hard enough to stem attacks on labor's interests, workers will abandon the party in the 2012 election.
The union leader, whose perch atop the 11-million-member federation makes him arguably the most powerful labor official in the country, is slated to speak at a National Press Club luncheon. In excerpts from his prepared remarks, obtained in advance by The Huffington Post, Trumka focuses his ire on the widening gulf between U.S. workers and the wealthy -- attaching particular blame to politicians who value ideology over morality.
"Budget proposals unveiled in Washington and state capitals across our country revealed a despicable canvas of cruelty," Trumka will say, according to his prepared remarks. "And not just meanness. Destructiveness. A willful desire to block the road to the future."
"America’s real deficit is a moral deficit -- where political choices come down to forcing foster children to wear hand-me-downs while cutting taxes for profitable corporations," the remarks continue. "Powerful political forces are seeking to silence working people -- to drive us out of the national conversation."
Trumka also says in the prepared remarks that party affiliation alone won't determine how the federation allocates its resources in 2012. If Republican lawmakers embrace parts of the AFL-CIO's agenda, the union federation will respond in kind. If Democrats abandon the union community's principles -- or if they fail to protest as those principles are attacked -- they can expect similar treatment.
"We will spend the summer holding elected leaders in Congress as well as the states accountable on one measure: Are they improving or degrading life for working families? We are looking hard at how we work in the nation’s political arena. We have listened hard, and what workers want is an independent labor movement that builds the power of working people -- in the workplace and in political life … Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country. It doesn’t matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside -- the outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families’ interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be -- now, in 2012 and beyond."
With that, I welcome Richard to Crooks & Liars. Please join us to chat about the labor movement in America and how we can fight these union-busting moves throughout the country.