Union membership among American workers is at a dangerously low level: in the private sector, less than 7% of workers are unionized. Despite Americans' strong and overwhelming belief in workers' right to organize, this is still the case. Why? Two reasons: primarily, corporate wholesale purchasing of an entire political party (the Republican party). Secondarily, labor establishment and "leadership" like this:
The most powerful union official in the country offered reporters his harshest critique of President Obama to date Thursday, questioning Obama's policy and strategic decisions, and claiming he aligned himself with the Tea Party in the debt limit fight.I would call Trumka uninformed, but I know that is not the case. The debt ceiling deal offered no changes on social security - none - either as part of the initial package or as part of the triggers. In fact, the President has never offered the Republicans or anyone else any cuts to basic Social Security benefits, and in fact, for the poorest retirees, proposed to increase their Social Security benefits, while guaranteeing a base benefit above poverty. By the way, the AFL-CIO supported the Clinton economic plan in 1993 that raised taxes on social security benefits (in other words, cut the dollar value of the benefit for some beneficiaries).
"This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
But Trumka is not ignorant. While it leaves me somewhat confused just what progressive thing Trumka thinks is gained by spending $800 billion a year on paying interest on the national debt alone, it's not Trumka's ignorance but his elitism that is the most striking. That comes off here:
Trumka dismissed Obama's recent job creation proposals -- an extended payroll tax cut, patent reform, free trade deals -- as "nibbly things that aren't going to make a difference," and said the AFL might sit out the Democratic convention if he and the party don't get serious.I hate to tell you this, Mr. Trumka, but while for someone who collects nearly $300,000 a year (search for Trumka on this labor reporting database) on union officer salary alone (and thus pays a payroll tax only a little more than a third his income), a cut in the payroll tax can seem like a "nibbly thing," I assure you for the average American family that it put $3,000 in the pockets of this are not going to have the same view. I assure you that the working poor - for whom this is the first tax reduction in a long, long time, don't think this is "nibbly." And because it most affects the working poor and the middle class, who have a higher propensity to spend extra dollars they have (due to their necessities), it certainly wasn't a "nibbly thing" to the economy.
Apparently, Trumka also doesn't care much for infrastructure or an infrastructure bank, because it apparently won't create any jobs. Said Mr. Trumka of President Obama:
He’s talking about things like patent reform and an infrastructure bank, but that’s not going to do anything for jobs.Oh. I see. Not only investments in infrastructure has the capability of creating a million jobs in the near term, Mr. Trumka of August 2011 may want to have a chat with Mr. Trumka of January 2011:
America's working families and business community stand united in applauding President Obama's call to create jobs and grow our economy through investment in our nation's infrastructure.
Whether it is building roads, bridges, high-speed broadband, energy systems and schools, these projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy. [ - Joint statement of Trumka and US Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. ]
I'm a little confused. Which Trumka am I supposed to listen to? The one who issued a statement on his website as official representative of his union, or the one he made to the Christian Science Monitor?
Trumka did not fail to take a potshot at the President's council on job creation, saying that he doesn't know if the council is making any difference. Interestingly enough, Trumka has not yet turned in his resignation from this panel that he doesn't know to be making a difference. And for someone eager to compare President Obama to the Tea Party (yes, the Tea Party people who show up to Presidential events with guns and display pictures of the President as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose are apparently doing all of those things as a display of their affection for Barack Obama), the American Prospect notes that Trumka refused to go after the Tea Party:
Trumka didn’t lay much-deserved blame at the feet of the Tea Party Republicans control the House of Representatives and thus set much of the legislative agenda.Of course not. He was too busy whining about the wording of the President's speeches to worry about the policies of the Tea Party that is hurting this country.
Maybe there's a reason some labor publications themselves opposed Trumka's rise to AFL-CIO's top post for what they noted were his essentially elitist attitudes.. The American labor movement has a problem - and it is not entirely attributable to the big business lobby in DC (although it is to a very large degree). Some of the problem lies within the leadership of the labor movement itself.
That part of the problem lies with people who badmouth the President whose Administration has been a steadfast ally of labor and the right of workers to organize - whether by proposing to speed up the union election process so employers have less opportunity to intimidate, by preventing Boeing from moving a plant just get non-union workers, by protectig coal miners, winning wage increases for agricultural workers, taking action against employers who fail to pay benefits or legal wages and/or put their hands in employee pension funds, or a myriad of other ways (hat tip for much of this goes to rootless_e). Ignoring the achievements and the dedication of this President to American workers and organized labor is the kind of "leadership" that reeks elitism.
The progressive movement is dependent on the labor movement and the labor movement on the progressive movement. Men like Richard Trumka may want to realize that President Obama is a friend of labor, not the enemy of it. Snipping at this President and pre-emptively attacking him for an economic plan that is yet to be released does not do any favors to the American worker or the organized labor movement. It only hands ammunition to the true enemies of labor and worker fairness.
UPDATE: Action Item - Call Trumka!
Hat tip to samcdc in comments - call the AFL-CIO at 202-637-5000 and ask for Trumka's office. Give him a piece of your mind. Tell him it is unacceptable to be launching pre-emptive, ridiculous attacks on the President.