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Labor Bureaucrats Endorse Obama, but will Rank & File workers do the same?

March 16, 2012

Within the past few days several of the larger US labor unions publicly endorsed President Barack Obama in his bid for re-election.

For many, this is disturbing news, not just because unions have been under attack throughout the first three years of his administration, but because Big Labor has suggested in the past year that they would not put their money and hopes into an increasingly corrupt electoral process.

On Wednesday, Brian Tierney, a labor journalist, writing on CounterPunch, had this to say about the Labor endorsements:

Both Republicans and Democrats have been ratcheting up the war against unions, a fact that is making it increasingly difficult for union leaders to justify their support for Obama to their rank-and-file members.

“Notwithstanding all our disappointment with the Obama presidency, it’s clear that the clowns on the Republican side would be devastating to working people,” a Communication Workers of America (CWA) official told In These Times last month. “But we’re anticipating a tougher challenge motivating people because there is a lot of disappointment and letdown,” he admitted.

That’s probably because workers are hard-pressed to imagine what could be more “devastating to working people” than what they’ve seen in the last year alone. Workers have faced the erosion of collective bargaining rights, the first state in the Midwest passing “Right to Work” legislation, an FAA reauthorization bill signed by Obama that makes it more difficult for airline workers to organize, plans for massive layoffs of postal workers nationwide, and ramped-up attacks on public education.”

This morning on Common Dreams, Trade Unionist Shamus Cooke wrote an excellent piece on why many Rank & File workers will not work for Obama’s re-election. Cooke was particularly responding to comments made by AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka.

If the AFL-CIO President really wanted to assess Obama’s first four years in relation to working people, he should have included the following points:

1) He bailed out the bankers, and his administration has refused to prosecute any of them for the crimes they committed.

2) The shameful lack of action to create the 25 million full-time jobs the AFL-CIO demanded, until recently, to address the jobs depression.

3) The truth of Obama’s health care plan; it slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare; forces working people to buy shoddy corporate health care, and taxes the health care of union workers (so called “Cadillac” health care plans).

4) The Wall Street “reform” bill was weak enough to allow Wall Street to continue acting as it had been before the crisis, thus re-creating the conditions that will inevitably lead to another crisis.

5) Obama was complicit as Democratic governors attacked the wages and benefits of public sector union workers across the United States, rather than raising taxes on the wealthy to handle state deficits. The continuing attack on public sector unions aims at the heart of the labor movement.

6) Obama’s national deficit reduction plan threatens to cut additional hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare and reduce Social Security benefits.

7) Obama’s badly named Race-to-the-Top education program is a direct attack on public education and unionized teachers, since it rewards states for creating privately administered and non-union charter schools, while attacking the seniority of union teachers in publicly administered schools through new “teacher evaluation” schemes.

8) Obama pushed to pass the pro-corporate South Korea, Colombia, and Panama free-trade deals.

9) Obama promised to pass the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act, but never aggressively promoted it. A broken promise.

10) He promised to renegotiate NAFTA, another broken promise, because he did not even go through the motions of pretending to try.

11) He promised to make immigration reform a top priority and did nothing, again without trying.

12) He campaigned against the Patriot Act and then turned around to support it when he was elected.

What is Obama promising unions this election? Nothing. Why make promises to organizations like labor that don’t seem to care if you break them?”

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