Labor Leaders, Obamacare, and the Fate of the Unions

by SHAMUS COOKE

A funny thing happened a couple of months ago: labor leaders finally awoke from their coma and realized that Obamacare was not only bad for unions, but for working families in general.

Once the biggest salespeople of the bill’s passage, union leaders are suddenly full of rage and “shock” at the realities of Obamacare.

The first sign of brain activity happened in July, when a trio of national labor leaders sent a letter to President Obama, saying that “[Obamacare] will shatter not only our [unions] hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

Perhaps they should have read the bill first? Instead of trying to convince their members and the rest of the country how great it was.

But labor leaders aren’t accepting blame for their role in selling snake oil to the American public. Instead they are blaming the “implementation” of Obamacare, not its essence. For example, the recent AFL-CIO conventionended with a resolution that critiqued Obamacare’s implementation, saying that the bill “doesn’t live up to its promises.”

But the AFL-CIO knows better. Many writers — including this one — sounded the alarm bells about Obamacare four years ago, but as the bill’s passage seemed precarious — since many working people hated it — organized labor doubled down for Obamacare, since they had “their” President to re-elect in 2012. Obamacare eventually passed — thanks to organized labor — and unions vigorously celebrated their own undoing.

Unions pressed ahead with Obamacare even after the Congressional Budget Office predicted that as many as 20 million people could be victimized by having their employer-based health care dropped, since these people would now be “mandated” to buy health care as individuals.

Of course, if companies were incentivized by Obamacare to save money on labor costs, they were going to do it.

“But now!”, shriek labor leaders, “Obamacare is incentivizing employers to switch to part time employment! This is an unintended consequence!”

Not true. In 2009 mainstream media outlets were talking about this openly too.

Labor leaders are faking outrage now because their members are being directly affected, as are millions of others, all of whom have every right to blame labor leaders for this “nightmare scenario.”

Obamacare is perhaps the most blatant example of the complete incompetency of many U.S. labor leaders, who’ve tied the fate of organized labor to the Democratic Party, with disastrous results.

As the jobs crisis grinds on and wages and benefits are being attacked across the board, this “strategy” of labor leaders has proven be an utter failure. Union leaders have remained silent as the Democrats have attacked teachers, public employees, and implemented austerity measures on a state and federal level that shift the cost of the recession on working people.

The corporate and government assault on working people is quickly shifting the landscape under the feet of working people in the U.S., and instead of devising a strategy to fight back labor leaders are focused on “helping” Democrats in the incredibly naive hope that the Democrats will eventually do “something” for organized labor.

Any organization with leaders that have no vision and zero strategy should consider selecting a new leadership. Organized labor is in the fight of its life, and the Obamacare disaster will be repeated unless union members elect new leaders willing to wage a serious, massive, nationwide independent fightback.   

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker and an elected officer of SEIU 503. He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future