First the news, then my very mixed feelings.
From the LA Times (my emphasis):
Last May, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stood a few blocks from the White House and issued a stern warning: Union members could not be counted on as the Democrats' foot soldiers anymore.This despite the following:
"If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, then working people will not support them," he said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Flash forward to today: Labor appears squarely back in the Democrats' corner for the 2012 election — pushed there in large part by Republican attacks on collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Per Channel 14 News in Charlotte NC (h/t commenter ezpz; my emphasis):I haven't written about the 2012 election lately; I'm planning a series of posts staking out the viable positions, some of which conflict. I want to help avoid the 2008 PUMA Wars the left savaged itself with last time.Thirteen unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO voted to sit out [the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina] because the members objected to selecting a right-to-work state as a host.Note that the battle is not between the "unions" and the Democratic party — it's between 13 individual unions and the AFL-CIO. As we noted here, the AFL-CIO is the original sinner in endorsing (in effect) Ronald Reagan's history-making union-busting PATCO strike in 1981.
(This year's version will be called the Obot Wars, by the way, and they've already started. We'll have to be careful not to kill our coalition-hopes with them — as surprising as it is for us ex-grad school types to believe, not everyone who disagrees with us is evil. A lot depends on the reasoning. Word to the wise.)
That said, as a 2012 strategy, there's a logic to the unions taking this stand.
On the seriously other hand, though, if unions aren't thinking long-term about (not) supporting the Democratic party — in order to wrest control of it from the labor-hating NeoLibs who run it (yes, Bill Clinton, I'm looking right at you) — then unions are looking at the end of unionism in the U.S.
It's just that simple. Obama made the Employee Free Choice Act a high-priority promise in his 2008 campaign, then told Rahm Emanuel to tell unions to wait until health care "reform" was done. By then it was too late. Here's Jane Hamsher, who covered it closely at the time:
The fate of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) over the course of the past year and a half [2008–2010] has been largely determined by the White House. Rahm Emanuel would not let it come up for a vote until after health care was passed, and by that time the Democrats no longer had 60 votes in the Senate....Bottom line — Obama got his hamburger today, thanks to Trumka, but it's never going to be Tuesday at Democratic party headquarters. Unions and progressives are playing the same loser game; they ask and wait. And wait.Richard Trumka: The President/and Emanuel have both said they dont intend to bring Employee Free Choice Act up until Health Insurance Reform is done. Which gives us an additional reason to do Health Insurance Reform now!
That's not a 2012 problem, it's a long-term survival problem. If unions and progressives don't get off their Dem-serving kiesters and force concessions from the NeoLibs (yes, Mr. Obama, I'm looking straight at you), the only union members will be found in museums — next to your civil rights.
I said I'd be writing about the election shortly. I'll also be writing about what an effective Progressive Coalition looks like.
Effective — you know, one that plays to win. (Unions used to do that I hear, back in the day.)