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Time for a Real Labor Party

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“Fool me once shame on you.

You fool me you can’t get fooled again.”

– Geo. W. Bush

Spoken like the true idiot that he is.

So we expect a whole lot more out of the Obama administration.  One bumper sticker even said, “Elect Intellect”.  Kind of turns around the old Adlai Stevenson quip when one supporter said to him, “…All thinking people are for you.”  His response was, “That’s not enough. I need a majority.” (1)

The question to be raised is how does having someone new who’s smarter than a fifth grader  make a difference in solving the problems we’re facing?  Eight years has been a long time for our collective brain to atrophy. Can Obama restore that?  Will it make a difference?  When has the American public ever truly grappled with real solutions?  We complain about the problems all the time. We’ve always expected our elected leaders to surround themselves with the ‘best and the brightest.’ That often gives the public the excuse to be the acquiescent sheep they are so carefully trained to be.

We see the Obama economic  team made up of the very types of people who brought us to the brink of Depression. Being smart just isn’t enough. Missing from the team, and even his cabinet, are the very people who most truly represent those most hurt by this economic crisis: Labor and Consumers.  Conspicuously absent?  Not a word is mentioned of them, even by organized Labor itself. But that should be no surprise.

The leadership of the CIO sold out the UAW and the labor movement in 1936 when UAW wanted to start their own political party for labor and farmers. It was either support Roosevelt and the New Deal or funds for organizing  auto workers would be withheld. (2)  Since then, Labor has been under the thumb of the Democratic Party for so long now that they think they’re part of the hand.  It is no wonder there hasn’t been a peep out of organized labor over the exclusion of Labor in Obama’s economic powerhouse team.

The Obama administration’s exclusion of Labor clearly shows that the Democratic Party sees Labor’s leaders as their loyal lieutenants. They see Labor’s role as having no value, except to call out their armies during election time.  They also know that if they were to have a real independent labor voice on their team their entire economic plan to revitalize Wall Street and the banking houses could crash.

Will the rank and file union members ever wake up to the stranglehold the Democrats have over them?

What’s truly needed now are real alternative political parties.  The Greens are out. In states like Maryland they can’t even organize a sock drawer, let alone a political party.  Other state Green Parties are stronger but overall very weak and getting weaker. If one just goes by raw numbers, their recent showing in Louisiana had been the margin that helped to defeat the corrupt Congressman Jefferson.  Too often, though, the GP is reluctant  to crow about how it can make an electoral difference or even try to. If only the Party could have had some bragging rights in 2000, then 2004 might not have been so disastrous for them!

Libertarians have a very specific message, but with little money and no good organizers they might just as well duke it out with disenfranchised voters who might argue for staying home, still leaving the field wide open for the two main rivals.

Shouldn’t this be the time that Labor finally breaks from under the yoke of the Democrats, who are so hell-bent on being Wall Street’s electoral arm?

It is still inconceivable that rank and file union members don’t do to their union bosses what Terry Malone did to Johnny Friendly (3) and throw them all in the water.

The support the Labor movement gives to the Democratic Party is contrary to the needs of labor.  When, since 1947, has any serious Democratic candidate, let alone the party’s platform, ever called for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, one of the most anti-labor pieces of legislation?  It was the Reform Party candidate, Ross Perot, that Texan Ferengi, who in 1992 railed against NAFTA, our generation’s most anti-labor treaty. Bill Clinton and his Democratic Party pushed it through once elected with continuing backing from Democrats and Republicans alike.  And, the one issue that often ties up all union contractual activities is not just outsourcing, bad working conditions or bad bosses, or even wages. It is health care and the need to keep what coverage they can. If health care was taken off the table, with a national health care plan along the lines of Single Payer in place, then unions could focus on real labor issues. Yet it is taking forever for the Democrats in Congress to sign on to any real health care plan independent of the health insurance industry.

A Labor Party would have very broad appeal.  It would be a party for working families, regardless of their past political affiliations.  And what difference does it make if it does hurt one party or another?  If only it speaks for its members, why be apprehensive about whether or not its strength would hurt another’s whose interests are clearly not theirs to begin with?  A Labor Party not afraid to stand up to the Democratic and Republican Parties would honor the labor heroes who struggled or died fighting for the basic rights of workers in America.

Myles Hoenig is a disenchanted member of PGCEA, a teachers’ union in Maryland.  He also ran a Green Party gubernatorial campaign in Maryland in 2006.  (Eddie Boyd. Presente!) He can be reached at myles.hoenig@gmail.com 

Notes.

1. http://www.npr.org/programs/wesat/000205.stevenson.html

2. “Who made the New Deal?” Lance Selfa, 11/14/08, www.socialistworker.org

3. On the Waterfront, 1954

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