The Leninist leader of today's labor movement, the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka, is not happy with the progress of progressivism that the hundreds of millions of dollars his union members have forked over to buy the Democratic Party should have produced. So, he says, unions' aren't going to be in the business of party building anymore.
In a speech to the National Press Club Friday afternoon, Trumka stayed mostly on his pre-released remarks, slamming Republicans, the Koch Brothers, bankers, corporations, Wall Street, the wealthy and the upper-middle class.
Then, he laid out his agenda for labor's future:
Here's what we are going to do. First, we are going to use that voice to end the Scott Walker agenda as a viable political strategy by winning recall elections in Wisconsin and citizen vetoes of destructive legislation in other states and retaking state houses.
Then we will spend the summer holding elected leaders in Congress as well as the states accountable on one measure: Are they improving or degrading life for working families?
And moving forward, we are looking hard at how we work in the nation's political arena. We have listened hard, and what workers want is an independent labor movement that builds the power of working people—in the workplace and in political life.
During the question and answer phase, Trumka was a bit more specific about union bosses' plans.
“We are actually redoing our entire political program and the way we do things,” Trumka said. “We will change the way we spend ... the way we function in a way that creates power for workers.”
The AFL-CIO, which spends most of its funds on member education and get-out-the-vote efforts, wants to better coordinate with their affiliated unions that tend to make direct campaign contributions to candidates. In addition, the labor federation wants to mobilize its members year-round to campaign on issues dear to labor, instead of dismantling its political program after every election, which makes it harder to motivate workers when the next election comes around in two years, Trumka said.
Trumka mentioned the AFL-CIO's Working America as one of the tools that union bosses would be deploying as part of its constant campaign. Working America is the AFL-CIO's version of ACORN, OFA and MoveOn.org combined, but on a smaller scale.
"Just ask Blanche Lincoln," Trumka responded when asked if unions were serious about pulling support from Democrats who don't do labor's bidding.
“What we are saying is for people who supports workers, we’re going to be with them. And candidates who don’t support workers, we’re not going to be with them,” Trumka said. “The difference is we are not going to spend precious resources helping candidates that don’t stand up and help us.”
When asked whether or not he sided with Arianna Huffington or the Huffington Post strikers, he stated that he stood with the strikers' right to be paid and to negotiate a contract with Huffington Post.
Much of Trumka's rhetoric we've heard before—including the threats to Democrats and the vow to campaign year-round—and have seen more frequently from the SEIU. It will be interesting to see whether Trumka's move toward the permanent campaign will actually take place, or whether it will be more hot air.
If it does take place, it will likely only turn more people off toward unions. So, in that regard, campaign away, Rich.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776