If We Were Like Them

Posted on August 6, 2011 by

Suppose union activists took over the democratic party and held the nation captive until radical labor law reform was passed? 

Though much of the nation would think we were lunatics, we were guided by a belief that only a re-unionized economy could close the wealth gap, rebuild America, restore worker power and save democracy. 

So certainly we would be willing to risk blowing up the works to get what we wanted and do right for the country. 

Now go to 2009, when we had majority support in congress – and a promised presidential signature – for modest labor law reform intended to make it slightly easier to organize workers.  

Here’s a scaled-down version of this political fantasy: 

In the face of an orchestrated attack by business interests, our newly elected president stepped up, declared the Employee Free Choice Act [EFCA] a top priority, defeated a senate filibuster and – at the signing ceremony – proclaimed that the new law would breathe life back into the labor movement. 

This is silly, right? 

So pick any issue you like: 

Health care, job creation, financial reform, climate change, and see what our congressional majorities and presidential leadership got us (on EFCA, the white house urged patience until “bigger issues” were cleared away). 

Then look at what the tea party achieved as the driving force in just a single house of congress. 

I think progressive activists are entitled to one last “would have been, could have been” rumination before we get down to our real task.

What’s that?

Convincing voters, of course, that electing this president – and fellow democrats – is the only way to stop a tea party takeover of the American government.

Comments (7)


  1. Brad Cagle says:

    Insightful, yet with a reactionary conclusion. Speaking of hypothetical political scenarios, how about the following.

    What if Labor advocates proactively. What if, nationally negotiated wage scales and benefits, i.e. agreements between Employer Associations, representing all vocations, and Unions, become law. These standards, now enacted into law, are then audited and enforced by Labor Unions. The enforcement costs are at the Union’s expense. The interest of workers to join the Union is one of Labor standards enforcement.

    Practical, straight forward concepts are more effectively advocated for, rather than abstract and convoluted legal concepts, such as the scam, sham, that the whole Wagner, Taft Hartley, NLRB legislation has become.

    Union Workforce of America, Keeping the Dream Alive!!

  2. Alan K. says:

    That will be an uphill slog until such time as Obama and the Democrats take a stand on ANYTHING and not cave or give an inch. The Gangster Party (read GOP and Tea Party associates) understand this one very well. They’ll put a gun to your head any time to get what they want. Obama and the Demos have to, in the vernacular, ‘Man Up.’

  3. Salvador Sanchez says:

    This is the reality, labor is about to die and can’t afford NOT do what conservative activists are doing. The Wisconsin’s crisis was a lost opportunity. We just made noise for a week and then we went back to sleep. Sadly, As much as I dislike to say this, the hope for the labor movement in America: LA innovative labor movement has lost its steam too.

  4. Today’s Op-Ed “What Happened to Obama” by Drew Westen in the New York Times is worth reading. Obama can’t make the choices we need if he continues with his “centrist” stand.

  5. Greg II says:

    Well it is clear to me, the way to move forward is to feel sorry for ourselves, get depressed and roll over and die. Don’t you think? GET A GRIP PEOPLE!!! The only way we will ever get what we want is to create the movement for ourselves. To wait for the President, whom I adore, To count on the Legislature, whose members have their own individual agenda, is stupid and lazy. The Teabaggers got traction because they were perceived as a grassroots organization. Never mind that they had the backing of the Koch brothers. But I dare say there are enough of us legitimately to get traction either by creating our own organization or falling in line with and become active with Move On or any of the other organizations that are growing now. We have to become activists. Sitting at the computer only goes so far I doubt that many of the teabaggers even own computers, but I bet they all own guns.

  6. Richard Slawson says:

    Comparing the Tea Party crazies with the Labor Movement is a false choice. First; the Tea Party Repos were willing to let America default on its debts – debts that were already accepted by Congress and previous Presidents – which, from the reaction of S & P, would have immediately driven the country into another recession or worse. What would labor be able to hindge its support for Democrats upon? Maybe a National Strike, however, that wouldn’t force any legislative action as the National Budget or Debt Limit required.

    Second, the national media raised the exposure of the Tea Party until it became a national obsession of elected officials and the public. Labor can’t get media exposure unless it is involved in a strike or defending wages and benefits for public sector workers who have been vilified for the last two years without an effective response. (By the way I would argue with anyone who believes that the Labor Movement in Wisconsin has failed or given up – on Tuesday of this week the Recall elections will be held and polls are looking good for turning out the Republicans who voted against workers’ rights. If any of you haven’t donated to the State AFL-CIO there is still time. Google them and you can make an online donation.)

    There is a way for the National AFL-CIO to change the national media and the national debate and that is to start a television media campaign to tell the American people what the American Labor Movement is about and what is does. A campaign called “America’s Unions” has the potential to inform workers of what we have to offer and about our successes. Companies do it every day. Why are they always advertising on television – because it works.

    What if every Labor Union asked its members to contribute $1.00 per month. Just think; if half of our 12 to 14 million members, active and retired, contributed; the AFL-CIO could have $6 to $7 million a month, $70 to $80 million a year, to run a continuous advertizing campaign. It would take some month or years, however, we would start changing peoples opinions about Labor Unions.

    We have the evidence about Labor’s success. We have proof of the positive effect of Unions and negotiations on our economy and families, we just need to sell it. If you saw Ed Shultz’s program last week, he displayed a chart that shows the parallel between Labor Unions decline in membership over the last 50 years and the decline in real wages of the middle class in America during the same period. The simple facts, the truth, can change everything.

    We need a change in the dynamics and advertizing can do it! We only need to convince our leaders that it is a model that can be sustained and will be effective as much as I and others believe.

    If Labor and any progressive political party is going to compete with the Reps’ money and organization then we need to begin by selling the great things we do and what we stand for. The American worker has to be informed about what works.

    We have to tell our story – if we don’t someone else will and we won’t like what they say. We are not like the Tea Party – we’re better than they are!

  7. ellen says:

    ‎70% of the wealth is own by 1%. These 1% have a very deliberate strategy much like Willie Lynch when he told the slave owners how to control their slaves. They want the other 99% fighting for the crumbs and fighting each other. Blame the immigrants, blame the unions, blame so called entitlement programs. Blame anybody and everybody but corporations who aren’t paying their fair share, don’t blame our elected officials for spending 60% of the national budget on defense. Fed up!

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