Labor Reform Movement: August 8, 2012

AFL-CIO Pins Its Hopes on Obama in 2012,
After Disappointment with His First Term
Defeat of Romney Is a Major Objective

By Harry Kelber


The AFL-CIO is planning to take a political gamble, spending as much as $60 million in the hope that, if President Obama is re- elected for a second term, he will be able to deliver the labor “goodies” he promised but failed to deliver in his first term.

To stiffen Obama’s loyalty to organized labor, the AFL-CIO and its 43-member Executive Council gave him a royal welcome at their meeting on Oct. 1, interrupting the pro-union statements in his speech with prolonged applause.

Still upset over Obama’s failure to press for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as certain health care and pension reforms, pragmatic labor leaders figured Obama was still their best bet for political gains in the 2012 election.

What unions agreed on was that a Romney victory for the White House would be a catastrophe for our nation’s economic future and a death warrant for the American labor movement. There was some random talk about an educational campaign among the thousands of union members to diminish their support for the Romney campaign.

AFL-CIO Offers No Policy Role for Union Members

With only three months before Election Day, the AFL-CIO has still not worked up a political agenda that it will push for at the Democratic Party nominating convention. It has yet to decide what issues, if any, it will voice about jobs, an increase in the minimum wage, health care or retirement benefits.

Even worse, AFL-CIO leaders have not allowed union members to express their views on any of the issues on the labor federation’s web site. Without the widespread support of union members, the AFL-CIO will not have the muscle to make its influence felt at the Democratic convention.

If Obama is re-elected for a second term, organized labor could properly claim credit for contributing funds, resources and an army of volunteers to ensure his victory. Defeating the Wall Street-funded Romney campaign is no small achievement.

But will labor get the special treatment that it expects from an Obama’s second-term presidency? Probably not, according to skeptics. They point out that Obama still values his ties with the Wall Street bankers, pharmaceutical industrialists and major corporate CEOs, and that he won’t jeopardize his connections with them by being too overtly friendly with labor.

Many AFL-CIO’s leaders are easily beguiled by being invited to the White House and listening to the President’s soothing pro-worker rhetoric.

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Will workers’ lives improve significantly after an Obama victory? I think that depends more on the AFL-CIO itself than on Obama. If AFL-CIO leaders make no effort to rebuild the labor federation (and they haven’t in the past few years), workers’ income and benefits will continue to stagnate or decline.

In the final analysis, it is up to the 12 million AFL-CIO members to defend themselves. We are ready to help by building a reform movement that will challenge the passivity and corruption that now prevails within the AFL-CIO.

If you are interested in joining the Labor Reformers, send us an e-mail to hkelber@earthlink.net and we’ll tell you what’s involved.