ATLANTA - Two weeks ago, I met with my friend Tom Geoghegan, the single best writer and thinker on labor issues in America, and a guy who should be a leading choice for Secretary of Labor in a Democratic administration. I turned our conversation into my newspaper column this week, which you can read here.
Tom, a longtime labor lawyer and author, has come up with a six-word way to re-balance the American economy - a stroke of genius that asserts the major problem for workers is New Deal policies lashing their union rights to a labyrinthine federal bureaucracy in Washington. His proposal subtly challenges the theory behind the Employee Free Choice Act by suggesting that no matter how much we reform the National Labor Relations Board and union elections - admirable goals, no doubt - we have to go much farther by giving workers the legal tools to defend themselves, regardless of who is at the NLRB or in the White House.
The concept cribs the best from both the Left and Right - and if Democrats championed it, they would avoid an esoteric argument over NLRB rules and force the Republicans to claim that the right to join a union shouldn't be a civil right.
I'll let you read the column to find out about the ins and outs of his proposal, and why Tom should be on the short list for Secretary of Labor. To conclude this post, let me focus a bit on progressive "meta" - and what Tom really symbolizes in that meta.
Despite his terrific books and work in the trenches, Tom is basically ignored by a national progressive movement too often trumpeting television and radio celebrities as ideological heroes. His lack of fame is a sad reflection on a progressive infrastructure that is based in - excuse the crass word - starfuckerism. So totally obsessed with what the media tells us is important, we neglect the people who we should be building into our nationally famous icons. It's really depressing to see truly talented people like Tom go largely unsupported/unnoticed by our movement, especially when you consider how the conservative movement has been so successful turning completely untalented ideological warriors like Bill Kristol, David Brooks, et al. into luminaries.
I've tried to use my column in all different ways to do my small part to turn this around. It's no easy task - but I think it's worth it. It's also worth promoting other emerging media voices, from Rachel Maddow on down (this, incidentally, is why I always ask folks for help contacting their local editors asking them to run my column). If we are really going to be a movement - and not simply an amplifier for Establishment-ordained famous people - then we need to do a much better job of promoting the ideological warriors within our ranks. Tom is just one of many of such geniuses who we need to build up if we are going to have a progressive pressure system on the next Democratic administration.
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