FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Silent on Labor

by BRETT WARNKE

Women.  Gays.  African-Americans.  All are groups whose historical and contemporary injustices have mobilized America’s liberal base.  President Obama offered acknowledgement in his second inaugural and even a few historical allusions, mentioning “Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall”—the sites of a women’s rights convention, a racist murder and civil rights march, and a police raid of a gay establishment.

But who was missing from this glittering multicultural mosaic of tolerance?

Ever-neglected labor, of course.  Yes, those door-knocking, winter-braving workers who brought us Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, 80,000 volunteer shifts in Ohio and 2 million voter contacts in the state where 60% of union households voted for Obama.  (Nationally, 58% of voters from union households backed Obama.)

Despite the 2012 actions of labor in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada, Obama chose not mention the historical setbacks of American labor or to acknowledge their efforts on his behalf.  Why didn’t he mention, say, the recent Illinois Caterpillar strike which resulted in a defeat with far-reaching concessions including a wage freeze and an increase in worker health care costs?  Are not wage-depression, out-sourcing, and corporate-strong arming the unaddressed issues of this generation?  Or if Caterpillar’s small failed strike was unimportant to Obama or irrelevant to his administration’s narrative, why not mention the Chicago teacher’s strike–a victory for workers (in his home state) that challenges the extremes of education “reformers”?

Perhaps, in some twisted Washington conference room, such shout-outs are bad politics.  But isn’t the least the President could do is mention the history of those working people who have stood up to entrenched power for over a hundred and fifty years?  If one is so desperate for cheap alliteration why not present “Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall, and San Joaquin” (1933)?  Or how about Santa Clara Valley (1933)?  Or the San Francisco Waterfront (1934)?  How’s about the Streetcar Strikes (1900/1907/1908)?  The Steel Strikes (1919/1946/1959)?  The Savannah dockworkers Strike (1866)?

More people died in these events and dozens of actions like them.  And these strikes were certainly more dramatic than Seneca Falls and included a more diverse population of classes and races.

So why the neglect?

It’s not as if labor couldn’t use specific legislation, political encouragement, or even a public wink or backslap.  Organized Labor recently spent $20 million in Michigan to insert collective bargaining in the state’s constitution, only to receive “right to work.”  And the President has urged 2013 action on TPP.  This corporate beloved agreement is a mechanism to undertake politically unpopular “free trade” measures that grant new rights and privileges to companies and constrain regulators; measures that, according to Public Citizen’s Lori Walluch, “limit the regulation of financial services, land use, food safety, natural resources, energy, tobacco, healthcare, and more.”

The President’s neglect results from Obama’s acceptance of income inequality, his commitment to the discredited technocratic “consensus,” and timidity at facing down and welcoming the hatred of America’s corporate class.  The President has been quite clear:  A second term will consist of voting reforms, immigration, implementing the affordable care act, and if you’re still awake, perhaps we’ll discuss school uniforms before the 2016 debates.

After Obama’s win, AFL-CIO’s President Richard Trumka asserted in a hopeful tone that the President will back a bill supporting “card-check,” a provision that would make it easier for unions to organize by abolishing the secret ballot.  It is apparently Obama’s stealth labor item.  But with a Republican House occupied as it is with bilious rowdies like the Gohmert and Bachmann quarter, how far will such legislation journey?  And if it takes the midterm election to shave away some of the reactionary deadwood, can Obama accomplish “card-check” with his possible Democratic successors—their beady-eyes locked on 2016—dashing about for unlimited corporate coin?

Brett Warnke is a free-lancer who recently finished an internship at The Nation and can be reached at brettwarnke@gmail.com

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail