Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom and the Debate About Labor's Future

I actually felt a bit cheesy today as my family celebrated Independence Day the traditional way, poolside in the sun cooking out with family, while I type out my thoughts on the vanishing of real freedom for the American worker.

Labor's crisis is bound up in the dramatic expansion of corporate power. The same forces that have sought to villify and portray labor as a special interest group are the same forces that are hijacking American Democracy with a tidal wave of cash funneled through a variety of corporate sponsored front groups unleashed by the Citizen's United Decision.

Gordon Lafer's latest contribution to the post Wisconsin  debate "Labor's Bad Recall?" does an exellent job of pointing out how Doug Henwood and many of the other critics of labor fail to acknowledge the impact of corporate power and its ability to impact public opinion through media outlets and pundits.

It can't be overstated that it is IMPOSSIBLE to understand labor's steep decline in influence and power without looking and the dramatic increase of corporate influence over American politics. The 2010 election that ushered in so many of the Governors, Congresspeople, State House Reps and State Senators who launched the offensive across the country against unions, voting rights, and public services was the first election carried out under the principles of Citizen's United.

Has labor been in a crisis since before 2010? Yes.
Has labor made mistakes? Yes
Do changes need to be made ? Yes.

But the sharpness of the attacks launched have blunted labor's ability to organize it's way out of the crisis, no matter who is at the helm and despite the best efforts of even what the critics would consider to be model unions.

Lafer rightly points out that the poll Doug Henwood uses to demonstrate his thesis that labor is losing influence due to it's supposed longstanding opulence and lethargy shows what are in fact more recent phoenomenon that are more the result of external factors. There is much anectdotal evidence that the uptick in spending by corporate front groups like the Center for Union Facts , the Koch Brother-funded Americans for Prosperity and other Superpacs has been able to successfully influence public opinion through media saturation aided by entities like Fox News and a host of right-wing pundits.

It is fair to say that labor could have done more to confront its crisis and to push back on this new offensive. The fact that the more recent slew of criticisms fails to even acknowledge that corporate influence has had even the slightest effect is telling about their motives. I would say it suggests a more fundamental difference of political perspective than a competing view of strategy.

Any discussion of restoring labor's power must begin from the standpoint that the primary source of labor's woes lies in the boarddrooms of corporate America, not in the union halls and International headquarters of the labor movement. The corporate cabal that is plotting labor's destruction is the very same threat to American freedom we are fighting to stop from stealing democracy from the American people. The solution to our crisis and the crisis of hope in America lie in defeating those forces

1 comment:

  1. Mostly I agree, but this gets into a chicken/egg discussion, since it's also clear that the decline of the labor movement, which has been underway for decades, is one of the factors that has led to the huge increase in corporate power.

    In any case, it's clear to me that most of the labor movement is now awake to what its tasks are and where it need to be going. This was not the case when I first joined a union in 1969.