FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Labor Supports the Enemy

by ARI PAUL

Who is to blame for organized labor’s descent in political irrelevancy? Ronald Reagan? The Koch brothers? Good answers, but maybe we need to look at labor leaders themselves.

Consider the case of this year’s mayor’s race in New York City, one of the last bastions of union political power. There are three candidates in the Democratic Party primary who are considered progressive—former Comptroller and previous mayoral nominee Williams Thompson, current Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. The front-runner is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has over the years curried favor with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the real estate sector. She also angered labor activists by blocking a measure that would grant sick-days to low-wage retail workers.

The New York Times reported that the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has endorsed Quinn because she is the most electable in a year when the Democrat will likely face a strong Republican in the general election. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 spokesperson Pat Purcell defended his union’s endorsement of Quinn to City and State saying, “Nowhere has Speaker Quinn said that she opposes paid sick days. She says she supports the concept, but there is a very real conversation to be had about, especially now in light of [Hurricane] Sandy, when do you do a paid sick bill and how do you do it in a way that does not put a burden on an already fragile economy? We’re very supportive of paid sick days, but we also have to look at the big picture.”

Quinn’s campaign is already awash with union money, including donations from the two largest Service Employees International Union locals in New York City, 1199 (health care workers) and 32BJ (building workers, security guards and custodians).

And so the outrage over Quinn’s allegiance to Bloomberg and the business lobby on the sick days bill was clearly all for show, and now Quinn can sleep soundly at night, knowing that shoving her thumb in the eyes of low-wage workers causes no political consequence. According to the RWDSU, she is the “electable” one, meaning the one who has raised the most money and the one closest to the incumbent.

The UFCW Local 1500 line that Quinn supports the bill’s concept is a tad naïve. Anyone who has played the political game long enough knows that when you ask a politician “when?” and she says “later” she really means “never.” Purcell also makes two arguments on behalf of the bosses: one being the “shock doctrine” method of invoking an unprecedented catastrophe to subvert any reform efforts and the other is the implication that worker protection is antithetical to prosperity, as labor activists have gone to great lengths to refute this myth specifically regarding this legislation.

It makes one wonder why unions bother with political endorsements at all. If they’re just going to wait to see which Democrat raises the most cash and then offer to support that candidate, what incentive does that candidate have to return the political favor after he or she is elected? It’s a bit like the insecure kid on the playground who wants to join the in-crowd. He waits to see what dominant opinion is, and then registers his agreement. It’ll make him feel accepted. But none of the cool kids are really that interested.

Political risk aversion is deeply rooted. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum had a salary of just under $250,000 in 2011 (2012 data is not yet available), as did UFCW Local 1500 President Bruce Both. Unless rank-and-filers mount an opposition campaign based on these issues, these leaders have little reason to choose principle over closeness with Democratic leaders. In 2014, a single mom working at a fast-food joint my fall behind in her rent because she missed work due to an illness, but these two men will be unscathed in a far away tax bracket.

Here’s the kicker: The city is making progress in passing the sick-days bill, although it has a new line allowing managers to offer sick days or shift swapping. Rahul Saksena, the policy director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, said “we are concerned about the so-called ‘shift-swapping’ provision, which our members tell us will give restaurant owners and managers the green-light to continue pressuring their workers to swap shifts instead of taking a paid sick day. Shift swapping is the current practice in the restaurant industry.  It is a broken practice that should not be legitimized by the law.”

So maybe Quinn will oversee a sick days bill. It will be one that has been weakened by the political process, sort of like the labor movement.

Ari Paul is a contributor to Free Speech Radio News and the Indypendent. His articles have also appeared in The NationThe GuardianZ Magazine and The American Prospect.

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
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail