Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Tale of Two Cities

The Moose invokes Joe Hill who once suggested "don't mourn organize."

The labor movement desperately needs Joe Hill at the moment. The split in the AFL-CIO at their Chicago convention can only bring a smile on the faces of the K Street crowd. At a time of the Second Gilded Age and when big money is riding high in the saddle, one of the critical progressive institutions is imploding. Where is the counter-balance to the power of the dollar?

Harold Meyerson captures the danger of the moment,

"But yesterday's announcement by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that they were quitting the AFL-CIO was no less stunning for its absence of theatricals. What we know is that the split -- which is likely to grow as several other unions announce their own disaffiliations over the next couple of weeks -- sunders a union movement that is already weaker than it has been since the 1920s. What we don't know is whether the new organization that the SEIU, the Teamsters and their allies will form in the coming months can and will do anything to bolster the power of America's indispensable, if enfeebled, labor movement.'

While the Moose has his differences with labor, he is an old union mammal (as an organizer for the United Farm Workers, a union steward and a staffer). It is imperative that the union movement gets its act together because the K Street crowd certainly has. Labor needs to focus on bread and butter issues and not be diverted by secondary concerns. Many working people are "progressive traditionalists" - socially conservative and economic progressives. They may be pro-life and pro-gun but also experiencing deep anxieties about their economic plight. Can labor connect with them? The Moose certainly hopes so.

While there is discord in the House of Labor in Chicago, "Solidarity Forever" was the theme of the DLC's confab in Columbus. Democrats gathered with a united determination to end the reign of the Bushies and the Delayicans. The Moose was struck by the seriousness of state legislators, city councilmen, mayors, and county executives from red states to convert their turf to blue.
Speeches by red state governors from Oklahoma, Iowa and Virginia demonstrated that the progressive center message can resonate in conservative territory.

With apologies to Dickens, this is the "best of times and the worst of times." It is distressing to witness the disunity in the ranks of those who should be taking on big money rather than each other. But perhaps the union movement will take inspiration from the re-energized New Democrat movement which is coming together to take back America from the Republicans who are committed to comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

Joe Hill lives!
-- Posted at 9:28 AM | Link to this post | Email this post