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Tue Jan 10, 2017, 10:55 AM

Unions Facing the Trump Era by Jonathan Rosenblum January 3, 2017

Beginning in 1979 in Seattle, WA, Jim Levitt expertly fabricated custom aircraft parts and tools, helping make the Boeing Company one of the most successful businesses in the world. But in 2013, corporate executives issued a threat: They demanded that Levitt and his fellow machinists surrender their pensions, and that Washington State political leaders hand over a record $8.7 billion in tax benefits. In exchange the company promised to keep production jobs in-state. The Democratic governor of Washington, along with virtually the entire political establishment, caved in to the blackmail. So did Levitt’s international union leadership – they had bargained the deal secretly with the company. The capitulation cost 32,000 Boeing workers their pensions.

“We’ve lost collective bargaining, for all intents and purposes,” Levitt observed in the wake of the corporate blackmail. In recent weeks we’ve seen no shortage of reasons – and excuses – for why Hillary Clinton blew the election and Donald Trump will be our next president: the Russians, an unfair Electoral College system, FBI Director James Comey, xenophobia/racism/sexism, a weak Democratic candidate, Wikileaks, and faked news. Some Clinton backers even blame the “tough” primary run that Bernie Sanders gave their candidate. What’s barely given any attention in the mainstream media is the role that decades of destruction of union power played in the 2016 election debacle. But it’s no mystery to Levitt, his fellow Boeing workers, and millions of other workers from all walks of life who’ve justifiably grown cynical about a political establishment that repeatedly has failed them over the years.

This, my friends, is the difference between third way and New Deal socialist Democrats. A lot of people are cynical, and we blame them for that, particularly if they voted Trump or worse, did not vote at all. But Levitt and his fellow union machinists were betrayed, simple as that. They have every right to be cynical; they had a reasonable expectation that our party to help them when Boeing made the attempt to steal their pensions, but our party did not.

Decades of Democratic leaders caving in to corporate crimes has so eroded our party's base that it has made the entire American public a bit cynical. It is sometimes difficult to understand what our party actually stands for, particularly when we can observe that much of our leadership has the same corporate donor base as the other party.

We have to learn, people, to better articulate our positions (and please don't say we did a good job of that, because we did NOT). We must also learn to stand up against the immorality and odiousness of corporate greed like the Washington Dems DID NOT. We need to call things like what Boeing did what they are - horrible moral wrongs foisted off on innocent people so corporate coffers can become even more swollen with profits.

Start doing that and backing it up with deeds, legislation, and votes, and we will begin winning elections. Most Americans HATE living and functioning in this dog-eat-dog 'real world.' They yearn for something else, leaders who at least try to mitigate the worst of the corporate greed, employee, consumer and environmental abuse, and who address the yearning we all have within our hearts for a kinder, gentler world where we can at least sometimes believe justice will prevail.

I don't, in short, want to be told that my way isn't even feasible because that's not how the world works. blah blah blah.

Because to that I say, "WHY????"

When our party leaders hear messages like this, and act on them, then we will begin winning elections and we together will create a better world.

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Response to PatrickforO (Original post)

Thu Jan 12, 2017, 11:40 AM

1. I'm sorry I missed this, Pat.

I'm IBEW 5, Pittsburgh.

What strikes me most about anti-worker initiatives like this, that the big money people get away with, is that they have a large swath of the general population, even union members, right where they want them, in terms of double think.

The same exact tea-bag crowd, who backed the super rich against the Dems' attempt to tax them more, by screaming that "America doesn't want shared sacrifice, they want shared prosperity! How dare you try to punish the billionaires for being successful?", turned around 180 degrees and backed every big money repug attempt to attack workers making a living wage, by screaming "Those union workers make too much! They're too successful, they're making more than a living wage! They're too greedy! We're in a financial crisis (that repugs created), so we all have to sacrifice and tighten our belt, union workers first!"

Acting like crabs in a barrel, pulling down the other crabs that are trying to climb out of the barrel.

It's the exact same teabags saying both things, screaming them really, vociferously. They worship the super rich plutocrats who own Boeing, they think that if they suck up to the super rich, they'll somehow magically get some of that wealth-earning magic transferred to themselves by association, if they only adopt the 'right' values. And they hate anyone else who tries to rise above their 'rightful' station, who the plutocrats have declared the 'real enemy'.

We're fighting against those nazi imbeciles, the plutocrats who's asses they kiss, and the media who retails both of their double think statements as reasonable and not contradictory (because the plutocrats own that media.)

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Response to Mc Mike (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 12, 2017, 11:47 PM

2. Yes, but more and more people are getting wise to this shit.

And things will change eventually because when the people find out who is actually picking their pockets, they will force change. Once you KNOW about this stuff, you can't ever go back.

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Response to PatrickforO (Reply #2)

Fri Jan 13, 2017, 10:27 AM

5. I agree with your hopeful analysis.

Was just pointing out a mechanism the bad guys are using against the interests of the vast majority of the country's workers.

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Response to Mc Mike (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 13, 2017, 03:48 AM

3. "If I am miserable you should be too."

The biggest problem with this country is that we don't have a culture of solidarity. The Republicans have done a great job convincing Americans that union workers are an elite that needs to be taken down a peg, while shielding the people at the top of the economic pyramid who are causing all of the suffering. As you point out, even some union members think like this. Just an anecdote, but I know a truck driver, a Teamster, who scoffs at attempts by fast-food workers and other low-wage service workers to unionize. He says that they are just "burger-flippers" and don't deserve higher wages or better benefits. It apparently doesn't dawn on him that people often hold the same views on truck drivers and think that he is overpaid for the kind of job he does.

Another factor that is feeding into this mentality is the idea that those who don't obtain a higher education deserve to work bad jobs. This idea has been pushed for decades by politicians from both major parties who told the public that education was the only road to a middle-class lifestyle. So now we have an increasingly vicious competition for the few decent professional class slots available in our workforce while those who don't "make the grade" are seen as losers. I blame the Democrats for pushing this narrative too while forgetting that most Americans still have less than a 4-year degree and that even those who do are not necessarily in great shape financially either.

We need to get back to the old idea that all Americans deserve a decent standard of living no matter what job type or education level they have. Why do people scoff at janitors when they perform very important and necessary work, keeping our buildings clean? Millions of Americans love to eat out yet they despise the people who prepare their meals.

We need to put an end to the "culture of meanness" as Ian Welsh put it. Here is his blog post on the subject. I found it to be very interesting and useful for understanding the current American culture.


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Response to Willie Pep (Reply #3)

Fri Jan 13, 2017, 11:09 AM

6. Your reply title is the key mechanism the repugs use to get low income dum dums to vote

for billionaires' interests. Divide and conquer.

I agree with the Fight for $15 living wage.

The incredible boom in higher ed population, combined with the stratospheric rise in costs to attend, the huge concerted attacks on public ed for pre-k through high school, and the new normal that a grad degree is necessary to have a comfortable living when it used to be a bachelors -- mean that they are solidifying a stratified society, where there is a permanent serf class, like the societies in Europe that our founders rejected.

Thomas Frank's last book (Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?) made some good points. One discussed the false 'meritocracy' focus on 'eductation, working hard to get ahead, etc.', the results of which lead to the existence of a good number of people up top of our party, union structures, media, etc, who actually are part of the club, won't suffer too badly under opposition party rule, actually have no skin in the game, and aren't really revulsed by the clear hatred of and attack on the vast majority of our population by the tiny plutocrat class.

So it's a tough sell to rank-and-file lumpen, if someone knows and understands actual political reality, and is trying to encourage those rank and filers to support a party that is more in their interests. They could end up running into actual geniuses or savants among that group who see clearly with realpolitikal insights that they may have a terrible enemy in the repug party, but they don't have a real friend ally who is fighting for them in the 'opposition to the repugs politicians' they know themselves. I'm a half-a-loaf advocate, especially when it's half a loaf vs zyklon b. But that fake meritocracy bs makes it difficult to proselytize to the very best of the low income people that a lot of our party's best politicians represent. You can't spark a political wildfire when the key organizing tenets of the more 'populist' party are 'Give us money, give us volunteer time for free, show up, shut up do what we say.' And that wildfire should be so easy to spark, because the repugs have created social conditions that make for a tinderbox so very liable for a raging prairie wildfire of political change.

I read Mr. Welsh's analysis. It was very well written, and had a lot of great points, very well stated. The bullying, the punching down and puckering up. Thanks for the link, Will. Recommended.

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Response to Garrett78 (Reply #4)

Fri Jan 13, 2017, 11:23 AM

7. All organized progressive political advocacy groups have to work across their affinity group lines

to support all other groups, wherever they can. The asshole repugs are attacking the overwhelming majority of the country.

Thanks for the articles. For some reason, the aflcio stopped sending me their articles, though I've been getting and reading them for years, up til about 8 months ago. And have acted on hundreds of their e-action reqs, to boot.

Have you seen this org, Garrett:


Good combo of civil rights and labor activists. I interacted with a few of them, in past elections.

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Response to Mc Mike (Reply #7)

Fri Jan 13, 2017, 01:57 PM

9. I haven't. I'll check it out. Thanks.

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Response to PatrickforO (Original post)

Fri Jan 13, 2017, 01:17 PM

8. Before I listen to Levitt's criticism of Clinton...

...I will ask that he list any qualifications or competencies of Donald Trump, or any evidence that Trump has ever been interested in the Constitution or in anyone's welfare other than his own.

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