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

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail