Monday, November 13, 2006

no accident

There's a lot flying around regarding the role of organized labor in the recent election cycle, including Greenhouse's recent NYT piece. I worked professionally on this cycle, and I work professionally in organized labor, so there's a limit to what I'm willing to post for public consumption. That, for Ana and others out there, is why I haven't written anything about our political climate -- because, even given my extremely minor position in the grand scheme of things, anything I post makes me a spokesperson for our union and I prefer to leave that to the communications professionals. Plus I don't trust the blogosphere.

Anyway, three things to point out:

1) Despite all the objections and worries last year regarding organized labor's reduced political might after the split, labor played a larger role (nationwide) in this election than any in recent memory. So much for that Republican wet dream.

2) In splitting off from the AFL-CIO, Change to Win representatives cited a desire to spend more effort and resources organizing and less on political work. Yet the Change to Win unions played a huge role, not just through grassroots mobilization but through endorsements, contributions, etc. For people who care exclusively about organizing campaigns, that's not entirely good news. But I've only met a handful of people who fit that description, and almost none in the labor movement. The truth is, government plays a fundamental role in the workplace, and it becomes very difficult to win battles (organizing or otherwise) there without some modicum of government support. It's not impossible by any stretch, but as the labor movement tries to rejuvenate itself through industry-wide fights, operating without decent legislation and friendly electeds may prove not just difficult but prohibitively difficult. Also, even given CtW's heavy political focus in the last 6 months, there's still a significant difference in platform between the AFL and CtW. For example, the Employee Free Choice Act (which Change to Win pushed hard throughout this cycle) has a lot more to do with organizing than the various trade and outsourcing restrictions which the AFL-CIO will likely push in the new session.

3) Labor's critical role in this election did not arise by happy coincidence, nor did it come about because the AFL-CIO and Change to Win signed an agreement to cooperate on the 06 election. The grunt work of these campaigns took place at the local level -- usually in labor councils, federations, and other organized union coalitions. Last year these coalitions had to fight to remain united as our national movement fractured, and those that refused to be weakened by the split were able to mount effective mobilizations for Democrats. In other words, they (and not so much Anna Burger and John Sweeney) deserve the credit for labor's success this cycle.

That's all. Back to the Beatles.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/11/14/18329700.php

Is that you with the drum?

Anonymous said...

I mean this

alek said...

Yeah. Drums aren't allowed on the picket lines in SF, but Local 49 specifically requested it, so I got a chance to dust the thing off.

zach said...

Rubber Soul?

Ana said...

thanks for the shout out Alek. i love that. love it. but really this just indicates to me that you should use this as an opportunity to talk about non-labor democracy issues, like say re-enfranchising people with felony convictions? do you like that?

Alek Felstiner said...

man, this feels just like junior high - which was no fun for me at all, by the way (c) Dogballs

Manuel Rosaldo said...

Good points, Alek--and nice pic drumming. My question is this: Was labor more effective in political organizing during this election than in 2004? Labor pumped a lot of resources into that election (I even spent a month in Florida canvassing with UNITE HERE!), and we lost big time anyway. Did labor and the dems do something differently this time, or does Republican self-implosion fully account for the difference in election outcome?