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AFL-CIO Wants to Form League of Extraordinary Liberals


The AFL-CIO, the biggest alliance of labor unions in America, is feeling feeble these days. You can tell because lately it’s been trying to regain some of its old clout by partnering with non-labor progressive groups, effectively bringing millions of non-union members into the fold. The problem is that some of the unions under the AFL-CIO umbrella are beginning to push back against this idea. The Hill reports:

“This is the American Federation of Labor. We are supposed to be representing workers and workers’ interests,” [president of the International Association of Fire Fighters] Schaitberger said. “We are not going to be the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”

We can’t help but remember being told that the Obama victory of 2008 augured 40 years of Democratic dominance and doomed the GOP to decades of internal decay. But stories like these make the Party of Blue look about as broken as the Party of Lincoln. Far from seeming like a strong, confident coalition, Big Blue seems more like it’s circling the wagons. Pleading with disparate factions of a party to stick together under a single, unwieldy umbrella is generally a sign of insecurity, not confidence.

If there were any doubt that a blue civil war is in fact underway, the AFL-CIO’s push will help bring it to the fore:

Others in labor, especially in the building and construction sectors, have aggressively pushed back against the proposal. Those unions have clashed repeatedly with environmental groups over building the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Does that mean we are going to turn energy policy of the AFL-CIO over to the Sierra Club? I have concern about that, as well as I should,” said Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA).

When Big Labor feels compelled to partner with groups that work against the interests of its own members in order to stay strong, we can say that the crisis has arrived. One factor that may accelerate blue rot is the aggressive efforts of its traditional defenders to preserve it.

[AFL-CIO sign photo courtesy of Djembayz]

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  • bpuharic

    WRM is washing a corpse. The U S labor movement is done

    Which is one reason we’ve had 30 years of wage stagnation in this country, and is one reason the recovery has been so weak.

    As Robert Reich pointed out, if we had the same income distribution profile 1975-2007 as we did 1950-1975, median US income would not be $50K, it would be $90K

    Golly. You think consumers would spend a bit more if their income was 80% higher than it is now? But the right wing enjoys seeing a weakened and impoverished ‘moocher’…ahem…middle class.

    • Tom

      Because, as we all know, the industrialization of China and India had absolutely nothing to do with this.

      • bpuharic

        Nor, of course, did right to work laws, the ‘secret’ ballot, the ability to fire workers for organizing…

        The fact Germany has triple our rate of unionization and out exports us with 1/4 of our population

        Yeah. YOu can see China written all over that, can’t you?

        • Tom

          Yes, because not having a secret ballot is such a good idea. Surely no one would abuse that…
          Also, surely Germany is oceans away from most of its possible export market.
          Also, surely there are no German industrial plants in the United States.
          Also, surely Germany has a much larger internal market than we do.
          Oh wait…

          • bpuharic

            And yet they still out export us

            Higher rates of unionization

            Smaller population

            Less inequality

            And they still out manufacture and still out export us.

          • Tom

            Your sarcasm detector appears to be broken.

          • cubanbob

            Except that in order to do that they created the Euro-a devalued DM so they could continue to export to their principal export market: the EU which also is to their benefit. If the America’s used the USD and there was an America’s wide EU equivalent we to would be running a trade surplus. Germany has less than a third of our population and a free trade zone with the size of our population.

          • bpuharic

            You ignore the effects of globalization. The EU has tariff free trading with the US on most items, and both are subject to sanctions if they violate the free trading terms.

            Moreover our largest export partner is Canada. And because of our great geniuses on Wall Street, the value of the US dollar has plunged in comparison to the more stringently govt controlled Canadian dollar so your argument really cuts both ways but does not explain the differential.

    • cubanbob

      When you figure out how the US can regain the position it had in that era of the world’s economy you might have a point.

      • bpuharic

        The question is why the 1% are making the middle class pay for the failure of the 1%? Why 30 years of wage stagnation, even though that hurts the economy and damages the country? Why does the right think that’s good economic policy?

        • Tom

          Why must it be the failure of the 1%?

          • bpuharic

            Because they tanked the economy; because their income has tripled in the last 30 years while that of the middle class has been stagnant. Because not only has their INCOME increased, so has their wealth.

            So as both the income and wealth of the middle class has, at BEST, remained stagnant, increases in productivity went exclusively to the 1%.

            Bad for America. Bad for the middle class

            Good for right wing economic thinking.

          • Tom

            You never did explain why.

          • bpuharic

            Yes I know. To a right winger, the idea that Wall Street greed (in Alan Greenspan’s words) could be responsible for any problem is anathema.

          • Tom

            To say that, somehow, the American right managed to destroy the post-World War II bubble by themselves is historically myopic at best.

          • bpuharic

            The American right functions as a drug pusher for Wall Street greed.

            The American right, with its supply side mythology, Ayn Rand theology and other fables, invents justifications for why a fabled ‘free market’, which can not, and does not exist in the real world, does exist and must be subject only to the laws of fundamentalist laissez faire capitalism.

          • Tom

            Thank you for that information. I never knew that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd were members of the American Right.
            This changes everything.

          • bpuharic

            Neither was president when the recession started

            BOTH have said it was a mistake to deregulate Wall Street. The right, however, thinks deregulation is the 5th Gospel

          • Tom

            So the two men most responsible for defending Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the contributing factors to the economic collapse and to Wall Street greed, bear absolutely no responsibility whatsoever.

          • bpuharic

            GSE’s were deregulated by a GOP congress under a bill signed by a GOP president. And they were of MINIMAL importance in the collapse. Would you like me to run the numbers for you or do you just go with what Rush (PBUH) says?

          • Tom

            I would feel that burn more if I actually listened to Limbaugh.
            But, since I don’t…

  • DirtyJobsGuy

    Remember Trumka is a former head of the United Mine Workers, yet has said or done little about Obama’s war on coal. Since Union internal elections long ago lost any semblance of integrity, once in the system the member can never get you out. So your interest is feathering your nest personally.

    • bpuharic

      There is no ‘war on coal’ except that waged by natural gas.

  • Pete

    I don’t think the AFL-CIO is much of a problem.

    The real danger to society is from the public sector unions, and it is these unions which need to be outlawed — as FDR would have said.

  • jeburke

    This is hardly a surprise, and it’s not just because labor’s membership has been shrinking. Increasingly over the past 25 years, the officers and staffs of major private sector unions like SEIU, UNITE Here, CWA, UFCW, and the UAW have been college-educated professionals who never spent a day working in a blue collar job and did not rise from the ranks. Such people are political progressives who viewed working in the house of labor as an obvious way to contribute to progressive causes and Democratic politics. The union shift toward “coalition” activies to operate politically, rather than concentrate on organizing workers and winning contracts, has been happening throughout this period. What’s new is that some unions, not surprisingly construction trades, firefighters and the like, are getting fed up. This will almost certainly end in some additional fracturing.

    • bpuharic

      What’s funny is watching the right, which has presided over 3 decades of wage stagnation for the middle class, pretend that the death of unions has been good for that same middle class. The Horatio Alger lie that the right tells has proven to be a falsehood that’s destroyed the earning power of a generation of hard working Americans. In fact a report just came out TODAY showing that the richest 1% took home an historical record share of national income.

      Thanks guys.

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