Democrats and progressives who see labor as just another special interest to be tapped for funds during election season and then negotiated with (or more often, forgotten about) when it comes time to govern have forgotten ... that unions represent millions of working Americans, struggling under the weight of austerity policies and a stagnant economy, who are getting increasingly fed up with their treatment by politicians.Sarah Jaffe's point here is one that's especially important as election season heats up. While unions are crucial to electing Democrats—at least, ones who will represent workers with some regularity—and while electing politicians who will support pro-worker legislation is crucial to unions' mission to represent their members, politics isn't most of what unions do.
“Most people's idea of a union is what we do politically. Let's face it, politics is now a 365-day-a-year sport, so that tends to get most of the focus. It's not sexy to talk about somebody's 4 percent raise or somebody who just got health care for the first time,” Jason Perlman of the Ohio AFL-CIO told AlterNet.Unions aren't above criticism, of course, but it's important to remember in assessing their electoral work that electoral work is not what unions exist to do and that the Democratic party is not their top priority. They exist to represent working people—their members, people who might become their members, non-union workers in the industries they represent whose wages and working conditions are tied to those of union members. Their day-to-day work is in those "grinding organizing campaigns and lengthy negotiations with management," in representing members with grievances, making sure workers facing discipline get due process, in fighting for laws that will give working people, union and non-union, a little more power in the workplace.
Most of those little victories -- those 4 percent raises and new contracts with health care benefits -- are won day by day, inch by inch, in grinding organizing campaigns and lengthy negotiations with management. They don't make headlines the way a multimillion-dollar ad buy does. As Perlman pointed out, unions are workers' organizations that do politics, not political organizations.
- Union workers at Lockheed Martin are on strike. Because giant defense contractors obviously can't afford to pay their workers' pensions.
- Taxes for union-busting by government contractors.
- A group of Verizon workers rescued a cat from a tree where it was trapped with a noose around its neck. Cats everywhere respond:
- As discrimination suits go, this one, by a black, Jewish, female charter school principal, is a doozy:
Knowing that plaintiff was a black, Jewish female, one of the teachers decided to put a Holocaust exhibit at the school. He chose the hallway of plaintiff's office despite there being several other options. The first thing that was painted on the wall was large swastika. Plaintiff complained to the co-principal as well as to board members and the superintendent about this project and continued to complain as the 'project' developed. When all was said and done, order for plaintiff to get into her office and around the school, she had to go through doorway. Her door was painted black with a white peephole. To the right of her office was a picture of a lever that was what was used to put chemicals in the gas chamber in Germany that killed thousands of Jewish people. Over the door of her office were the words 'Majdanek Bad Und Desinfektion' which was a concentration camp gas chamber. Directly over her door was the German word for women.Also she was paid less than other people at her level, denied basic professional supplies, and excluded from meetings.
- California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill banning bans on Project Labor Agreements. That is, you don't have to use PLAs for big California construction projects, but cities and towns can't pass laws banning them.
- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is such an asshole:
- A few noteworthy National Labor Relations Board actions for you. A federal magistrate recommended that the Pacific Beach Hotel of Waikiki pay more than $250,000 in attorney fees to the NLRB and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. A Jimmy Johns franchise in Minnesota illegally fired six workers because they exercised their legal rights campaigning for paid sick leave. And a Chicago bus company was ordered to reinstate two illegally fired drivers and quit interrogating workers about their union activity.