The AFL-CIO has announced its unconditional endorsement of President Barack Obama in the 2012 elections. Richard Trumka, president of the union federation, explained: “As president, Barack Obama has placed his faith in America’s working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and our full potential. So we’re putting our faith in him.”
For the 14.9 percent of unemployed or underemployed U.S. workers, the families who have faced foreclosure, and every taxpayer who has had to foot the bill for the bank bailouts, this rosy assessment of the last few years must seem wildly out of touch.
Among the specific reasons for the endorsement cited by the AFL-CIO were the 2009 stimulus package, health care reform and new regulations for Wall Street.
Of these three reasons, the health care law is the most dubious. Far from the truly free and universal health care system working people need, the new legislation simply forces workers to purchase plans from the big insurance corporations. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, 23 million people will still remain uninsured on the ninth anniversary of the law's passage.
While the stimulus did modestly reduce unemployment and some vague regulations were imposed on financial speculators to moderate the manic boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism, these are flimsy justifications for lining up behind the Democrats. If creating good jobs were really a priority for the White House, truly massive programs for the unemployed could have been set up, funded by taxing and seizing the assets of the bankers and CEOs responsible for the present economic crisis.
Given that President Obama’s top donors include executives from Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, strict enforcement of financial regulations in the future would appear to be a long shot, to say the least.
Of course, cyclical economic crises and unemployment are inevitable under capitalism. The irrational and unplanned nature of a capitalist economy guarantees the periodic emergence of crises of overproduction, where competing capitalist seeking ever greater returns eventually produce more than can be sold at a profit. Unable to profitably sell what is produced, capitalists simply discard workers they can no longer exploit at an acceptable rate. That is why the Lindsay / Osorio 2012 Presidential Campaign calls for socialism—a planned, rational economic system that puts people’s needs first.
There are plenty of good reasons why it is not in the interests of the labor movement to spend millions of dollars and countless staff and volunteer hours campaigning for the Democrats. The reality is that Democrats have consistently broken their election-year promises and proven indifferent or even hostile to working people when we stand up and fight for our rights.
Take for example the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would have made it easier for workers to form a union and increased penalties for companies that bully their employees into voting against union certification. During the 2008 campaign, President Obama promised that “I will make [EFCA] the law of the land when I'm President of the United States of America.” However, the EFCA was completely abandoned by the White House and Democrats in Congress at the first sign of difficulty.
When the labor movement was engaged in major struggles against anti-union laws in Wisconsin and Indiana, the president failed to come out decisively and consistently on the side of working people. Days after protesters had taken the offensive and occupied the State Capitol, President Obama said, “Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions.” However, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney backtracked two days later, saying, “ [Obama] is very understanding of the need for state governments, governors, state legislatures to reduce spending, to make tough choices. … Public service workers need to make sacrifices just like everyone else.”
On Feb. 14, President Obama signed a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that contains new virulently anti-union rules that were supported by a majority of Senate Democrats. To certify a union, employees at a workplace are required to sign union cards to force the National Labor Relations Board to organize an election at which a final decision is made. The new law raises the threshold of signed union cards to call an election from 35 percent to 50 percent of employees, making it much more difficult for workers to organize.
All of the gains won by working people over the years have been the result of determined and militant struggle, not lobbying and support for the Democrats. Instead of following this consistently ineffective strategy, the labor movement could rededicate itself to independent organizing and reviving the mass workers’ struggle in the United States.
Imagine how much change we could effect if the financial resources and thousands of young organizers of the labor unions were redirected from the re-election campaign into struggles for immigrants' rights, against budget cuts and to make Wall Street criminals pay for their crisis. Workers in new industries could be organized, and the long decline of union membership could be decisively reversed.
The working class needs its own voice, and the Lindsay / Osorio 2012 Presidential Campaign is committed to fighting alongside the labor movement, raising the issues that matter to workers.