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Trumka: A Labor movement for the people, not for politician or party

a little night musing's picture

In a major speech today, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka outlined a vision of what a true labor movement should be. Read the speech here:

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.

Working people want a labor movement strong enough to help return balance to our economy, fairness to our tax system, security to our families and moral and economic standing to our nation. Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country.

It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside—the outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be—now, in 2012 and beyond.

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jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

but it is a pleasant shift to hear the President of the AFL-CIO even utter the words "independent labor movement."

It occurs to me that we've reached around trying to build a movement, when there is a movement that already exists: organized labor. At its head it may be complicit with the elites, but the average unionized worker is the natural ally of a true political leftist.

And when have workers ever, ever made unreasonable demands? When have workers ever gone too far in asking for a better life? The ones at the top, the executives and the rentiers and the oligarchs and the bankers, they are the unreasonable ones. They deny the common dignity of evert human being. Their own wealth united with their desire to deny wealth to others is an expression of their belief that they deserve to live like kings and others do not, when in fact, every human deserves to live like a king. Because a common person and a king are no different.

Trumka has to put his money where his mouth is before I'll believe he's serious about this, but the idea- labor independence- has been missing for a long time from the United States, and I'm happy to see it return.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

It's the direction he has been taking since elected to head AFL-CIO.

For example, see here:

Trumka's AFL-CIO famously bucked the White House, supporting Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's unsuccessful primary challenge to Blue Dog Sen. Blanche Lincoln. When Halter lost, anonymous White House officials attacked labor leaders as "absolute idiots" who had been "humiliated" after flushing $10 million "down the toilet." In an interview last week Trumka seemed unchastened by attacks over the Halter bid, and he pledged the AFL-CIO to a new independence from Democratic Party organizations and candidates. He didn't spell out exactly what that might mean, citing decisions to be made by the federation's governing Executive Council. "You'll see us giving less to party structure, and more to our own structure," Trumka promised. "It's actually going to be fun."

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

it means that the constituent members of the Democratic coalition are waking up and drawing the obvious conclusion.

Submitted by Anchard on

That was an excellent thing.

My partner works for a big union here in New York, and they're nowhere near this level of organization and thinking. Here's hoping that was a down payment on more of the same.

cal1942's picture
Submitted by cal1942 on

from the ooze (if they're serious) can only be a good thing.

The Democratic Party chose Wall Street and it looks like labor is finally saying something in public.

Organized labor was without a major party ally in the beginning and in the last couple of decades labor's again had no major party ally. Maybe they're finally figuring out they have nothing more to lose so why not go back to basics.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

I remember Trumka from the health care effort as someone who talked a good game but seldom backed it up. Wake me when he says who he's supporting and who he isn't. From the TPM article, it sure looks like he's not interested in critiquing Obama's record, and he wasn't too eager to say that Democrats have failed utterly to support either organized workers or laborers.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

and then let down too many times not to be skeptical about whether labor will really form its own "movement". If, by movement, he would actually attempt to form a labor party, I am all ears. I'd be interested to hear what Tom Geoghegan, Chlcago labor lawyer, thinks about this.

Submitted by Hugh on

Yes, color me skeptical too. I think there is much less here than meets the eye. It looks like Trumka is saying labor will be choosier about which Democrats they support but bottomline they will still be supporting Democrats. This is very different from saying labor will look for and recruit progressive and pro-labor candidates and run them as third party or independents. This also looks like a play for leverage, but Trumka's past efforts at leverage have ended in dismal caving to this Administration. Again if Trumka had really wanted to make a splash, he could have said that labor would not be supporting the Democrats and that they would be running their own candidates in the future. He didn't so there probably isn't much here.

Submitted by lambert on

Time is running out for 2012. If Trumka wants to have any effect then he wouldn't be easing into it this way.

On the other hand, my nightmare of a third party led by Andy Stern, aided and abetted by Hamsher, could still come true!