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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

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Let's talk...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stalled agenda irks labor leaders; Unions see little action from Democrats in D.C.

This is a comment I made in response to the posting of this article which appeared in the Boston Globe.

This statement here, quoted in this article---below, needs to be emphasized over and over again; it should be put on blogs and websites and in leaflets and quoted in letters to the editor and posted on every single union bulletin board in this country:

“It’s beyond belief to me,’’ said Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. While Obama and Congress inherited “a big mess’’ from Bush, Haynes said, “there aren’t any excuses anymore. If you can’t deliver health care, and you can’t deliver jobs, and if you can’t deliver [card check legislation] , and you can’t figure out how to take care of the working people of this great city and country, you don’t deserve to stay in office.’’

Ok, sounds great; real militant... but, why hasn't anyone taken the next step and said to Obama and the Democrats:

If you don't deliver peace, real progressive health care reform, jobs at real living wages and card check; you will not be getting our votes?

This would be the very simple and common sense thing for anyone with the least little bit of organizing knowledge to bring forward because we all know that most people did not vote for Obama and the Democrats or for any of what they are presently doing--- all of which is against the interests of the working class, because Obama and the Democrats never articulated their agenda when seeking votes from working people which pretty much makes a mockery out of what is passing in this country for democracy.

Really, people were led to believe they would get one thing from Barack Obama and the Democrats and all they have received is a kick in the ass.

Even the Progressive Democrats of America in their statement released today, conceded defeat on single-payer and the Kucinich amendment and then go on to say... we will be back in several years... how convenient; "several" just happens to be three; just in time for these "progressives" for Obama to drum up a campaign in support of Barack Obama for his second term.

Again, we need to ask: Why wouldn't Tim Carpenter and the Progressive Democrats of America declare: We are organizing for the next three years--- organizing to make sure not one single Democrat who betrayed us doesn't get a single progressive vote.

Why the hesitancy to organize people around the issue: In a democracy, people are entitled to get what they need for a better life in return for their votes--- no peace, no health care, no jobs, no card check... no vote.

And, on top of this, the AFL-CIO and other unions, just today "released"--- it was supposedly leaked from UAW Region 8--- a letter stating that they would be backing Obama by essentially giving in to him by trying to pass off anything Obama and the Democrats do as some kind of victory for labor.

Well, if you keep agreeing to whatever Obama and the Democrats dish out to you, you kind of have to call this a victory.

The AFL-CIO leadership obviously doesn't have the back-bone to stand up for its members who overwhelmingly insist that nothing less than single-payer is acceptable--- and most Americans want an expanded public health care sector. People are not stupid; they know that any government spending so much money on these dirty wars can cough-up with the funds for free health care for everyone.

Just stop the wars and spend the money on health care.

Why is it so hard for the leadership of the AFL-CIO to take a stand for peace and reordering this country's priorities... do they think their members will not support this kind of leadership, or what?

And the entire process of sucking up to the Democrats who are nothing but a bunch of dumb donkeys starts all over again beginning in 2010, leading up to 2012.

With this kind of "strategy" it is no surprise that labor is at such a low point organizationally... here they are talking about organizing un-organized workers and how the labor movement needs "warriors for justice" and these very "leaders" can't even come up with something so basic as telling Obama and the Democrats, "Either come through for us or forget our votes; we will organize our own party."

Furthermore, it is the epitome of arrogance for the Democrats to keep blaming everything on Bush and the Republicans because they either supported everything the Republicans did or at least refused to try to stop them... usually it was support.

There is only one solution to putting an end to all of this crap: grassroots/rank-and-file organizing around a progressive agenda aimed at getting people to with-hold their votes from these politicians unless they get something that will make their lives better.

Health care is a very important issue because it unites all working people and the left should jump all over this issue.

In fact, I don't understand why Michael Zweig and Bill Fletcher didn't take this tact when they had the opportunity on Bill Moyer's nationally syndicated PBS program.

We keep hearing these people say that they are going to lean on Obama and the Democrats... well, what more appropriate way to "lean" than to tell them they will not be getting the votes from progressives; and then proceed to organize to demonstrate that they mean business.

What other accountability is there if we don't wrest this accountability through our votes. Our votes were important when Obama and the Democrats needed them to be elected; don't we have the right to now use these very same votes to hold them accountable? If we don't have this right and aren't prepared to exercise this right, elections mean absolutely nothing.

Maybe Howard Zinn would care to comment?

These labor leaders are "irked;" working people are suffering and people, mostly working people, are dying.

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
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Date: Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 3:20 AM

Another comment on this article by someone else from a post on a list server:

(The real question is why should anyone be surprised? As – since 1948 - NO Democrat President has ever delivered on his campaign promises.

(What Dennis Kucinich says below is correct, except – as usual - he doesn't draw the necessary conclusions.)

Stalled agenda irks labor leaders
Unions see little action from Democrats in D.C.


By Susan Milligan
The Boston Globe
October 12, 2009

WASHINGTON - With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, organized labor had hoped to be celebrating a long list of legislative successes this year. Instead, labor’s agenda has been pushed down on the priority list by the very lawmakers they helped elect, leaving some union backers frustrated.

Labor is eager to win passage of a “card check’’ bill, a measure that would make it easier for workers to form unions, but the White House and Congress took up a Wall Street bailout plan first.

In the health care debate, labor is seeking to avoid a tax on expensive health care benefits. But President Obama, who slammed the idea during the campaign, this summer indicated he might be open to such an idea.

The Obama administration is also encouraging creation of some charter schools, a long-time concern of teachers’ unions, who fear money will be diverted from other public schools. And an increase in the minimum wage, which supporters pushed in the last Congress, when Republican George W. Bush was in the White House, hasn’t even been introduced in this Congress.

“It’s beyond belief to me,’’ said Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. While Obama and Congress inherited “a big mess’’ from Bush, Haynes said, “there aren’t any excuses anymore. If you can’t deliver health care, and you can’t deliver jobs, and if you can’t deliver [card check legislation] , and you can’t figure out how to take care of the working people of this great city and country, you don’t deserve to stay in office.’’

The poor economy and the attention demanded by such issues as health care, Afghanistan, climate change, and the pending closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison have put labor unions’ concerns far down on the list in Washington, analysts and lawmakers say.

Many labor union leaders say they still have faith that Obama will push for their legislative wish list, especially the so-called card check bill to allow workers to organize unions without a secret ballot, once he gets a health care bill signed. And while unions are anxious about provisions in the health care bill that might affect union members, leaders say the larger goal of getting closer to universal health care is most important.

The White House is reassuring. “We’ve been able to make tremendous progress on issues important to the labor community,’’ said White House spokesman Bill Burton. “We have a good partnership, and we’re going to continue to work hard on issues important to the labor community.’’

Still, some labor advocates within Congress are venting their frustration.

“Labor is the core of the Democratic party. Labor has always delivered for the Democratic party. But the Democratic party doesn’t always deliver for labor,’’ said Representative Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio. Obama “still has time,’’ Kucinich said, but he added that he thinks Democrats need to step up and help workers to merit the campaign help unions can provide.

Only a small portion - 12.4 percent - of the workforce is unionized, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Excluding public employment, the percentage is even lower; just 7.4 percent of private-sector workers belong to a union. Union organizing is especially tough during a recession, said Vanderbilt University labor specialist Dan Cornfield, since people are more focused on getting and keeping a job than on securing workplace organizing rights.

But despite their low numbers, unions still corral their members to provide Democrats with crucial election help: phone banks, canvassing, and get-out-the- vote drives.

Union-sponsored political action committees are still heavy campaign contributors. In the 2007-2008 election cycle, PACs representing labor unions doled out $66.4 million to federal candidates, with 92 percent of it going to Democrats. Less than a year into the 2010 election cycle, the PACs have given almost $16 million to federal candidates, with 93 percent going to elect Democrats.

White House aides say that Obama remains committed to passing the Employee Free Choice Act, the formal name for the card check bill, and note that the president signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act early in his tenure. That law makes it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination for a longer period of time after the alleged violations occurred.

But the bill is languishing, as Democrats and White House negotiators focus on health care and financial regulatory legislation. Obama, while giving verbal support for the bill, is not putting political muscle behind it, at least for the moment.

“A lot of folks on the left . . . thought that it would be this complete revolution in American society, and things just don’t work that way,’’ said Glen Spencer, executive director of the workforce freedom initiative at the US Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the card-check bill.

“The president is looking at some very significant issues, the kinds of things that really shape a legacy. This bill would be very tough to do, may not be successful, and is only going to be seen for what it is: a payoff to this large interest group that put a lot of money into their campaigns.’’

National labor leaders want to take advantage of the rare political advantage of having such Democratic dominance in Washington. But they say they are willing to be patient.

“The administration has been dealt a really tough economic hand. They’re doing the best they can,’’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said the health care bill was also important to the union, and she understood that Obama needed to get it finished first. Other leaders said that Obama has put strong union advocates in key jobs at the Department of Labor.

“On balance, he’s been a very pro-labor president ,’’ said Chuck Loveless, director of legislation at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. But if Obama and Congress do not deliver for labor, lawmakers may lose the campaign help they will need next year, when Democrats face serious electoral challenges, Kucinich and Spencer each said.

Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, acknowledged the labor strides Obama has made but said it was not yet enough. “The president could do much more to give visibility to the cause of working men and women in this country, and their plight,’’ Kaptur said.

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.