After the November 6 Election: Critical Challenges Facing the Labor Movement

After the   November 6 Election: Critical Challenges Facing the Labor   Movement

The   November 6 election was a devastating defeat for the far right, but was it a   victory for the working class?

Clearly,   the Republican Party leadership is the avowed enemy of labor. Romney attacked   unions throughout his campaign. He opposed every public program designed to   promote the health and welfare of the American people. He advocated   privatizing Social Security and voucherizing Medicare. He urged turning   Medicaid entirely over to the states. He supported union-busting Scott Walker   in his bid to remain governor of Wisconsin   and he hailed enactment of a “right-to-work” law in Indiana. He blasted the   teachers’ union in Chicago and elsewhere. He called for   trillions in tax breaks for the millionaires and billionaires, while cutting   workers’ benefits to fund it. He endorsed government’s dictating to women on   questions involving their reproductive rights. He denounced undocumented   workers and called for their “self-deportation.” He argued for additional   billions for the military and a more belligerent foreign policy, escalating   the threats against Iran. And the positions he espoused   were all part of the far right’s creed.

But is   the Democratic Party the answer to Romney and the far   right?

Labor has   been in the forefront of the fight to preserve Social Security, Medicare,   Medicaid and other social programs. Yet President Obama has already made clear   his desire to join with Republicans in cutting these programs, declaring in an   October 24, 2012 AP interview that he is “prepared to make a whole range of   compromises,” even though this will rankle his own party. Harry Reid and Nancy   Pelosi are already on board.

The   AFL-CIO has issued a strong and uncompromising statement opposing cuts to   Social Security and Medicare so the scene is set for a major confrontation   with the Obama administration and its Congressional supporters on this   issue.

None of   this should come as a surprise. Political parties represent classes and both   the Democrats and Republicans are corporate parties. The Democrats get 72% of   their funding from big business — the Republicans get an even higher percent   — and who pays the piper calls the tune.

What the Past Four Years Have Wrought

For the   past four years (and well before then), the labor movement has been under   savage assault on every conceivable front. At a time of economic crisis — and   with severe austerity measures directed against the working class and the poor   being unleashed — it is no exaggeration to say that labor is fighting for its   very survival.    

We see   this on the collective bargaining front, where major employers like   Caterpillar and Verizon demanded and received significant concessions from   their unions, despite the companies making record profits.  

We see it   in Wisconsin‘s and other states’ assault on   public employees’ bargaining rights, and Indiana‘s vote adopting “right-to-work”   legislation.

We see it   in the escalating bipartisan campaign to undermine and cut Social Security and   Medicare, along with measures to destroy retirement security.  

We see it   with the foreclosure of millions of homeowners and the imminent foreclosure of   millions more.

We see it   with enactment of a deeply flawed health-care program, which, despite   containing some positive features, will drive up costs and fail to guarantee   quality health care coverage for all.

We see it   with the record number of deportations.

We see it   with the declining standard of living for the working class while corporate   profits and stock prices have soared.

We   see it with the “Free Trade” agreements with Colombia, South   Vietnam and Panama ─ vehemently opposed by   labor ─ that Bush couldn’t get approved but Obama pushed through with   bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, labor’s   priority issues have been ignored. These include a jobs program that would put   tens of millions of workers back to work; Medicare for all; reform of the   labor laws and restoration of the right to strike; the Employee Free Choice   Act; repeal of repressive anti-labor legislation; and retirement security   ─ not robbing Social   Security while cutting into federal workers’ pension funds to pay for payroll   tax cuts.

One of   the greatest scandals of the 2012 presidential campaign was the refusal of the   Obama administration to press measures to bring relief to the tens of millions   of impoverished Americans, whose numbers grow rapidly by the   day.

On foreign policy, Obama   promoted the corporate, anti-worker agenda: an expansionist policy designed to find new areas of the world to   exploit, indiscriminate use of drones, continued occupation of Afghanistan for   more than two years, threats and preparations for war against Iran while   tightening sanctions, support for right-wing and repressive governments around   the world that repress unions and protect U.S. corporate interests (e.g.,   Colombia, Bahrain), and maintaining the astronomical Pentagon   budget.

Considering all of the above, can it really be   claimed that winning four more years for this administration was a victory for   the working class?

What Lies Ahead?

Labor’s subservience to the Democratic Party has cost   the working class heavily, so we in the Emergency Labor Network welcome   AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s call for a break with that state of affairs   and for building an independent labor movement.  For us, this includes giving   consideration to establishing a new political party – a workers’ party led by   the organized labor movement and its community partners, with a program that   truly reflects the needs and interests of the great majority.  

Regardless of which of the corporate parties controls   the government and dominates its branches, the November 6 election solved none   of the big issues confronting the American people. The hunger and   homelessness; the home foreclosures; the corporate foreign policy; the   assaults on the environment; the attacks on labor and on Social Security and   Medicare, the need to expand Medicaid in all states; and the Bush tax cuts.   All of these issues and more will still be with us after November   6.

As for the AFL-CIO and its taking a strong stand   against cuts to Social Security or Medicare, this is all to the good. But it   is just the starting point and it will not mean much in the absence of an   all-out campaign that goes beyond traditional lobbying. It is high time that   in accordance with our best traditions, labor mounts street demonstrations of   the most massive kind, akin to Solidarity Day I and II actions in the nation’s   capital. Imagine the potential in reaching out to the more than one hundred   million people on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to join in such an   outpouring, along with labor’s community allies.

We have demands to raise: Hands Off Our Cherished Safety Net Programs!   Expand Medicaid Coverage in Every State! Put America Back   to Work by Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure and Implementing a 21st   Century WPA Program! Money for Jobs, Health Care, Housing and Education — Not   for Wars and Occupations! Bring All the Troops Home From Afghanistan Now! No War on   Iran! Amnesty   for all Undocumented Immigrants! For a   Safe, Clean and Healthy Environment! Freedom and Justice for   All!

We must not let Obama’s victory on November 6th delude us   into thinking our fight is over.    Indeed, with both the president and the Congress ─ in varying degree only ─ determined to follow Corporate America’s lead in imposing severe   austerity measures on our already severely wounded working class, we dare not   let down our guard; dare not fight for anything less than real political   change…and fight for it even harder than before November 6.  

No less than the very lives and fortunes of working   people, the unemployed and underemployed, and of all rank-and-file Americans   are at stake. And only a united movement of the working class, joined by   hundreds of thousands of its community supporters, can win the tough battles   that lie ahead. But such a movement can win them!  So let us waste no time in organizing   it!

Issued by the Emergency Labor Network   (ELN)

For more information write or   P.O. Box 21004,   Cleveland, OH44121 or call   216-736-4715 or visit our website at Donations gratefully   accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above P.O.   Box.

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