FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The AFL-CIO Votes to Endorse Obama

Despite a dip in labor’s national membership rolls and a significant decline in overall influence, make no mistake about it:  The AFL-CIO is going to play an important part in the outcome of the 2008 election.  That $300 million which the House of Labor is expected to spend between now and November will definitely make a difference.

Still, when the AFL-CIO formally announced on Friday, June 27, that it had voted to endorse Barack Obama for president, the announcement elicited a collective yawn from union members and political observers across the country. The endorsement was resoundingly anti-climatic.  In the view of practically everyone, the AFL-CIO had no choice but to endorse Obama.  Obama is a Democrat.  Obama is the Party’s nominee.  The AFL-CIO always endorses the Democratic nominee.  Simple as that.

Actually, there was a choice.  The other option was for the AFL-CIO to hold out—to pretend to be officially “neutral” and endorse neither candidate, in the hope that their “indecision” would pressure the Democrats to work that much harder on their labor agenda in order to woo labor to their side.  But that flimsy strategy had no realistic chance of working.

Alas, 75 years of experience has taught organized labor that playing hard to get yields pretty much the same results as putting out on the first date.  Sadly, it’s the nature of the relationship.  Whether or not  the unions assume the role of slutty debutante or , they get only what their Democratic benefactors are willing to give them, no more and no less.

However, had this opportunity occurred during the primaries, when Senators Clinton and Obama were still locked in a tight race, or had it been a labor group other than the AFL-CIO (say the Teamsters), it might have been a different story.  Union endorsements have an uneven history.  You never know how effective they will be, how many votes they will get, or if they’re going to turn around and bite you.

In 1980, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with Frank Fitzsimmons (Jimmy Hoffa’s successor) as their president, stunned everyone by officially endorsing Ronald Reagan.  At the time the Teamsters were, by far, the biggest union in America, and their rough-and-ready members were famous for being fiercely loyal to their leadership.  To a Teamie truck driver, an official endorsement from the boys upstairs really meant something.

The union’s embrace of Reagan over Jimmy Carter remained a puzzle until it was revealed, years later, that Fitzsimmons, Jackie Presser (a future Teamster president), and Bill “Big Bill” Presser (a Teamster official and Jackie’s dad), had been facing a multitude of criminal charges, and that, in 1972, in order to save their skins, the three men went to work for the federal government as FBI informants.

Moreover, during the 1980 campaign, Reagan and Jackie Presser not only struck up a friendship, but Presser was later named “labor advisor” to Reagan’s transition team.  It was also reported that Presser, who became Teamster president in 1983, held a grudge against Carter for his Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of several Cleveland mafia figures with whom Presser had dealings.  In other words, it was a mess.

Or take the 2004 primary election.  Prior to the ’04 Iowa caucus, the estimable SEIU (Service Employees International Union) had snubbed organized labor’s traditional and long-time ally, Richard Gephardt, and come out in favor of the Party’s dark horse candidate, Howard Dean.

So what happened?  Dean still lost, and Gephardt, who, even without the SEIU’s support, had the backing of a dozen big-time industrial unions, wound up finishing a distant third.  He dropped out of the race a day later. And true to form, the AFL-CIO remained neutral until well after John Kerry had the nomination wrapped up, then officially endorsed him.

Group endorsements—from any group—are risky.  What leadership fails to realize is that people don’t always appreciate being “told” whom to vote for.  People don’t like feeling that they’re being manipulated or taken for granted or being treated like push-button political entities rather than living, thinking human beings.  Sure, it’s helpful for the International union to come out with a slate of political candidates it endorses, so long as they realize that it risks alienating the very constituency it seeks to influence.

While union officials still bitterly recall (to the point of almost becoming ill) seeing all those “Reagan-Bush ‘84” bumper stickers plastered on cars in union parking lots, they tend to forget what pollsters already know by heart—i.e., that voters are wildly unpredictable.  People vote the way they do for all sorts of reasons, and, like it or not, union membership doesn’t always guarantee a vote for a pro-labor candidate.

Union members aren’t sheep or one-trick ponies who join in lockstep and cast their votes as commanded.  In fact, as nutty as this sounds, some union people consider it a point of honor to vote the exact opposite way they’re advised to by their parent union.

That said, labor’s influence in this election is going to be huge.  Big Labor is primed and ready.  Between the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, there will be 15 million union members bombarded with pro-Obama literature, and hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the media. The two coalitions will not only assure that Obama beats McCain in the fall, they will help Democrats win congressional and senate seats across the country.

Once again, the AFL-CIO will step up to the plate.  Once again, the Democrats will have labor to thank for getting elected.  Once again, encouraging promises will be made.  And once again, as disappointment is piled upon disappointment, organized labor will wrack its brain trying to come with yet another strategy for getting the Democrats to honor their commitments.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail