Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 27, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

LABOR CONFUSION....I'm confused. Nathan Newman, who I certainly trust to give me the labor side on labor issues, headlines a post today "Labor Triumphant" and says:

The power of organized labor is highlighted most by how little they've needed to talk about it, but how much of their agenda has been almost automatically included in the Democratic Party's platform.

He links to a Harold Meyerson article that practically glows about Democratic support for key labor issues this year, including nearly unanimous House support for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that allows unions to organize a workplace based on "card checks." This is a longtime labor goal that certifies unions if a majority of workers sign authorization cards, rather than requiring a lengthy election process in which employers can (and do) bring to bear a steady stream of intimidation, harassment and retaliation against workers and organizers.

What's more, as Robert Novak noted a couple of days ago, both Kerry and Edwards have also come out in support of card checks instead of elections. This is an issue that's of prime importance to, say, a service union that's trying to organize a ruthlessly hostile employer like Wal-Mart.

So why then is Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union, telling reporters that, all things considered, maybe it would be better for labor if George Bush got elected?

Breaking sharply with the enforced harmony of the Democratic National Convention, the president of the largest AFL-CIO union said Monday that both organized labor and the Democratic Party might be better off in the long run if Sen. John F. Kerry loses the election.

....Speaking of the effort to create new political and union organizations, Stern said, "I don't know if it would survive with a Democratic president," because Kerry, like former president Bill Clinton, would use the party for his own political benefit and labor leaders would become partners of the new establishment.

"It is a hollow party," Stern said, adding that "if John Kerry becomes president, it hurts" chances of reforming the Democrats and organized labor.

What's the deal? Is Kerry-Edwards the best ticket for labor in a generation, or would their election prove fatal to union goals? And if Stern really feels the way he says he does, why did he write on his blog a couple of weeks ago, "I am excited! Go Kerry-Edwards!" after a virtual paean to Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his vice president?

I'm confused.

Kevin Drum 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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