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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Labor Needs Its Own Party

Dan Gillespie

The President, Barack Obama, spoke at the AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention yesterday.  He said a lot of the same things he said to congress in his address on health care reform; I haven’t heard that there were any rude interruptions.

Being a political speech to labor he expressed the things we want to hear, health care and the Employee Free Choice Act.  I believe his sincerity, and in his opening remarks he congratulated those new officers elected adding “I’m looking forward to working with all of you.”  I feel that he is one of us.

He called us brothers and sisters and said that we are in this together.  I believe in him as a man, and I trust in him as a politician.

But I no longer trust party politics.

Later in his speech President Obama made what I think is the statement that we as rank and file members of the labor movement should consider as the most important:

“Few have fought for this cause harder, and few have championed it longer than you, our brothers and sisters in organized labor. You’re making phone calls, knocking on doors, and showing up at rallies”.

He was referring to the health care campaign, but it is true of all political and policy campaigns that we commit to.  That is what we do.  We organize, stump, doorbell and phone bank.  We give time, money and personal commitment to win the political influence in our municipalities, counties, states and at the federal level hoping to affect legislation favorable to American Labor.

But, it has become obvious to this observer that we and our efforts have been taken for granted.  We participated and celebrated in victories on the national level and in our own states that would not have been possible without us.  They need us to win.

It is disheartening to see the political party that’s “Labor’s best friend” turn their backs on us and pass legislation that only serves corporations.  Well, get a dog because nobody else is gonna love ya.

My proposal is this: form our own parties in each state of the union.  Labor councils and locals come together in convention to create our own political entities, run our own candidates.  Drop support for the two major parties and refuse to support any of their candidates.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and the political scene is vacuous indeed, so we should fill it.

The process that we’ve had for wielding our political influence has broken down to the point we do the bidding of party bosses that advance their own agendas.  There have been many cases where the only time they think of us is for money and volunteers.

You cannot ask someone to fight for you and expect to get what you want.  So, I would like to end with another quote from the President: “Now is the time for action.” Strap on your boots and toe the line.

Coalition of Fair Trade Organizations hold Telephone Press Briefing

As a part of the Trade Stories Project, a coalition of fair trade organizations, including the Washington Fair Trade Coalition, held a press briefing via telephone conference call.  On this call were several speakers, including Rennie Sawade, Communication Chair of WashTech.  The purpose of the conference was to express the need for Fair Trade that protects American workers, as President Obama prepares for the G20 conference.

Speech by Richard Trumka – mentions importance of WashTech

At about 13 minutes into this video, Trumka talks about contingent (temp) tech workers and WashTech’s role in organizing tech workers.  Text from this section of the speech is below:

When we talk about the problems facing contingent workers they
really listen: and for good reason – after all, a man or woman working
as a temp or a freelancer today may as well be walking a tightrope
without a net.

They know workers with unions make more money and have better benefits; they just don’t think unions fit the way they work. And you can’t blame them because we haven’t really focused on the way they work.

Well, we can’t ask them to change the way they earn their living to meet our model for unionism; we have to change our approach to unionism to meet their needs.

One union that’s pioneering in this is the Communications Workers. They have an affiliate called WashTech. It began as a grassroots movement of temps working at Microsoft in Seattle. Now, thanks to the Internet, it has members from Boston to Silicon Valley and it’s evolving into a dynamic, new union of tech workers dealing with problems ranging from job security and health care, to offshore outsourcing and visas.

But, you know we can’t only address their needs where they work. We need to address the fact that a lot of young people going to college today are drowning in a sea of debt by the time they come out….

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