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  There isn't any other way of putting it: last night was a disaster for the labor movement and for its members and all working people. When the working class "hero" John Boehner choked up in recounting his humble roots, I said aloud, "will you remember that when you unleash Big Business to press its boot on the necks of workers?" Because that is the reality we face--and it means we will have to take to the streets.

  Here is the summary, as I see it.

  The Employee Free Choice Act is dead--perhaps for a generation. It isn't simply the Republican takeover in the House, where EFCA routinely passed in a Democratic-controlled House (partly because a lot of Democrats knew it would never pass the Senate and felt they had a free vote so they could cash labor's political contribution checks) only to be halted by the threat of a Senate filibuster. Even if, miraculously, the House flips back to the Democrats in a period shorter than a decade, the smaller number of Democratic seats in the Senate--including, at least for now, a few Democrats who are not ardent EFCA supporters--means that there is no chance to get within the vote or two of 60 where the extra mile might be accomplished by persuading one or two Senators to vote to let debate begin. And, though the political environment can change dramatically--as we know--the likelihood that the Democrats will lose the Senate in 2012 cannot be dismissed.

  At the state level, the sweep by Republicans of many key state houses is not just a redistricting problem. It means that there will be fewer state executives who are in power willing to use their executive order authority to grant union organizing rights or protect state labor laws, and certainly not expand them. We also have not heard much about how the state elections will hurt efforts to raise state minimum wages--the "deficit-cutting, we must help business" mania will blunt new campaigns.

  And we're likely to see Democratic governors be less likely to risk their political capital to assist labor--meaning, assist working people--given the penchant of many Democrats to be more likely to respond to cries from business to cut taxes and crucial spending, rather than ask the richest in the states to pay higher taxes. The 2-1 defeat of the Washington state initiative, which would have imposed a 5 percent income tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 annually or households earning more than $400,000 annually, will only make Democrats less courageous in taking on the richest people in society (as an aside, I acquired a new-found respect for Bill Gates Sr. who was out boldly out front pushing the initiative, calling on his class to be taxed).

  Indeed, in New York, the newly-elected governor--a Democrat--took a particular pleasure in making it clear that he would go after unions and workers' pensions. He made it clear that he would not demand that the richest in society pay a tiny bit more to easily close the state's budget hole. This will be an ugly fight. I applaud those unions that declined to endorse him--and shame on the Working Families Party for being willing to bend to his threats and give him the party line. I, for one, did not cast a vote for a candidate who will go after the livelihood and pensions of hard-working people (no, I did not vote for the true lunatic in the race). Never.

  Not to be too glum: please stand up and give an ovation for labor because without labor it would have been uglier--if that is possible. I won't go through each race but here is one I can say without hesitation: Harry Reid is keeping his seat because of the Culinary Workers, SEIU, AFSCME and all the other unions who put boots on the ground to turn out the vote. Period.

  So, here is where we are: we have no choice but to put a lot more effort, time and strategic thinking into non-legislative work.

  That means, in my opinion, flooding the streets--with the unemployed, the people whose pensions were ripped off by Wall Street, the people who will now see their pensions cut or changed, the millions of retired people, the people nearing retirement who are hearing the bi-partisan drumbeat to raise the Social Security retirement age.

  Every week. Every day.

  As I said yesterday before the votes came in, people across the political specturm are right to be angry: they've been ripped off. Not by our "socialist" president and "government" but by the relentless belief in the so-called "free market" which has been a clever cover for the plundering of our nation's wealth by a handful of people. And, rather than change that course, we are now empowering the acceleration of that rip-off

  We cannot allow that to happen anymore.

  To the streets.

Originally posted to Tasini on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 12:11 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Labor keeps enabling corporate Democrats. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They and their party need a new song and dance.

    Don't tax the rich, starve the poor.

    by dkmich on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 12:13:24 PM PDT

  •  That's what got the Democrats (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shirah, Tasini, Bob B, el cid, TomP, Sark Svemes

    their victories in 1932. The homeless, the unemployed, and the hungry took to the streets only to have the Republican government goons open fire on them. Online activism is not a substitute for people putting their very lives on the line.

    Stupidity has a knack of getting its way-Albert Camus

    by beltane on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 12:13:46 PM PDT

  •  "Secret Ballot" (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lzachary, shirah, Tasini, Bob B, el cid, TomP

    I noticed that a few states had measures to protect the "Secret ballot" in union elections and that they passed overwhelmingly.

    This is another example of how difficult it us for us to get our message out because it can't be summed up in a 5 second sound bite like the phrase "secret ballot" can be.  I mean how can anyone be against something so positive sounding as "secret ballot?"  It is hard to fight against something that sounds so harmless which is why we start off with such an uphill climb.

    •  personally (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ray Radlein, RoIn, shirah, Bob B, TomP

      I think it was a huge mistake for labor to get caught in arguing against a "secret ballot". This, in my opinion, was a mistake from the beginning--and all the rationale used to explain it took 20 sentences...which no one heard after "secret ballot".

    •  The smart strategy would have been (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob B

      I addressed this issue a couple years ago when Save Our Secret Ballots props were popping up all over. As Jonathan says, opposing those props is a loser for unions. I suggested they support them. The props would probably be preempted by federal law - i.e. the NLRA.

      I suggested that unions support the props and worked to interpret the language so it would apply broadly against people who try to disenfranchise voters.

      The way they see it, it will give employer groups the moral high ground. But way, way more important, it will force labor to defend the Employee Free Choice Act by trying to argue against the secret ballot in state after state. And doing this will make unions look undemocratic and unAmerican.

      Here is how SOSB is putting their case:

      "When you have a chance to decide who's going to represent you -- be it in the state legislature, Congress or your place of employment -- it ought to be decided by secret ballot," Mooney said Monday.

      Mooney declined to identify specific financial contributors to Save our Secret Ballots, saying generally that the group was backed by small businesses and entrepreneurs. Its advisory board includes members from the conservative Heritage Foundation, Goldwater Institute and Americans for Tax Reform.

      The group is proposing a 47-word amendment to state constitutions, saying: "The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

      And this will likely succeed. A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial quickly expressed support for the ballot initiative.

      More on SOSB here.

      Now if Labor Wanted to Be Smart in Responding

      So what is labor to do?

      Here is my suggestion.

      The proposed amendment is very broad and would apply to all elections. Read the language again.

      "The right of individuals to vote by secret ballot is fundamental. Where state or federal law requires elections for public office or public votes on initiatives or referenda, or designations or authorizations of employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

      "Shall" is mandatory language. Strong stuff.

      Now one thing we know is that the forces behind this provision are against wide access to ballots and voting. They are all about disenfranchising voters in political elections.

      So unions should come out in strong support of this amendment. They should work hard to get it passed. It would give labor and its allies one more tool to fight election devices that
      disenfranchise voters - usually hitting hardest minorities. It might even get rid of the convict disenfranchisement.

      Meanwhile unions can be secure that any of these amendments that pass would absolutely be preempted by federal law - as long as the National Labor Relations Act is in place. Once blogger suggests that it would be necessary to write into EFCA a statement on its preemptive force. While that might be useful, the courts have held the NLRA's preemptive reach to be very broad, so even without it, there should be preemption. And sometimes statements of this sort can be held by the courts to narrow preemption to specifically what is said. So care is warranted.

      The full post is here.

  •  State Level (0+ / 0-)

    Even by the low, low standards of recently bright-red and never very labor-friendly Georgia, this election was a disaster down here. We actually wound up with a Republican Labor Commissioner down here this time. Hope to God Delta's new unions can win their vote and certify before he gets sworn in.

    "I play a street-wise pimp" — Al Gore

    by Ray Radlein on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 12:33:52 PM PDT

  •  Good post. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Deoliver47, quoting Bernice Johnson Reagon: "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition"

    by TomP on Wed Nov 03, 2010 at 12:40:55 PM PDT

  •  Unemployment summit... (0+ / 0-)

    AFL-CIO should begin by calling an unemployment summit to set strategy for organized labor and its allies.

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