Saturday, January 29, 2005

AndyW: The Importance of Labor to Progressives

Chris Bowers makes a good point: Democratic apathy on labor issues- and litmus tests for everything but labor issues- has contributed to the decline of the Democratic Party:

…one of the main reasons Democrats are losing elections is because it is okay to
be pro-environment and anti-labor, it is okay to be pro-Roe and anti-labor, it
is okay to be anti-war and anti-labor, it is okay to be anti-patriot act and
anti-labor, but it is never okay to be pro-labor and anti-any of these other
things. It has literally come to the point where you can be pro-liberal, but
anti-labor, and no one seems to care. We can have millennialist rhetoric about
the abolishment of our rights in so many areas, but never in labor, even though
the erosion of labor rights is far more clear than the erosion of nay of our
other rights.

I’m not sure how one can be “pro-liberal, but anti-labor.” I always thought that ‘pro’ the one implied ‘pro’ the other. But I have seen a lot of Democrats who are "pro-liberal, labor-(shrug)." Big Labor corruption in the 60's and 70's probably turned many progressives off to unions which came to be seen as just another arm of Big Business. But, living in Arizona (a “right-to-work” state) we should be working to strengthen the union movement as well as trying to raise the minimum wage. Without card check, binding arbitration, and a Labor Relations Board that works for Labor not Business we’ll have very few jobs that earn much more than the minimum wage. Without strong Labor rights this state will continue its race to the bottom trying to entice businesses with cheap labor as well as low taxes.

Quite frankly, the leadership of our party, in an alliance with the
Republicans, sold unions down the river for middle-class liberalism. Further,
the massive decline in union membership is directly tied to the massive decline
in the Democratic Party, especially at the grassroots level. For the love of
God, unions were our Left Wing Noise Machine, and we destroyed them to protect
our middle class causes at every turn.
[emphasis mine]

The leadership of the party always took it for granted that labor would always be part of the Democratic coalition. So, without pressure from the grassroots to push labor issues, the Democratic leadership ignored labor in a rush for corporate contributions and in an attempt to dodge the Republican smear that Democrats were ‘slaves to Big Labor.’ Greed and cowardice (the usual DLC motivations) led to the decline of the Party. The party needs to return to the roots of the progressive movement: labor and unions.

…. if we are not pro-labor, and loudly pro-labor, the Democratic Party
will die no matter what Noise Machine or grassroots movement we bring to bear.
Period. It is time for a new litmus test, and quite frankly, as far as I know,
the only candidate for chair who passes that test is Howard Dean.
Howard Dean was the only candidate for president who seemed proud to support unions. He talked about the need to repeal right-to-work laws. He is the only candidate for DNC chair who sees labor rights as essential to a progressive revitalization. At DFA we should be “loudly pro-labor,” working with unions and legislators not only to raise the minimum wage but also to strengthen labor rights for everyone in Arizona.

Strong unions make life better for everyone.

Support labor rights at


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