Editorial: Waiting for Organized Labor to Rediscover its Mojo

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Organized labor is finally trying to get off its collective ass and become relevant to the 99 Percent again, according to a recent article in The Los Angeles Times. However, union leaders have become so fat and lazy in recent decades, and such a part of the ruling political machines, that regaining their credibility and relevancy with decent working people is no easy task.

Much like predatory elites, union leaders often reside in an echo chamber of their own creation, where they’re insulated from the harsh realities of the 99% by generous pay and benefits, and by fawning subordinates. Instead of working for the greater good of society, or even for the greater good of their own unions, the worst advance the interests of a small cabal of politically influential workers at the expense of everyone else.

This predatory behavior – let’s call it by the right name – is one of the main reasons organized labor in the U.S. hasn’t been worth a collective damn for so long. Unless you’re a political hooker looking for a sugar daddy.

Now, the largest federation of U.S. unions is finally talking about rethinking the way it works with the two ruling political machines in a bid to regain labor’s lost mojo. Instead of just funneling donations to the same national Democratic Party that helped facilitate the heinous North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, the 11-million member AFL-CIO is finally thinking about financing its own independent political efforts at the local level.

Talk about being a day late and a dollar short.

Organized labor has thoroughly undermined its social standing in recent decades by trading favors with political hookers for corrupt practices that enrich older union members at the expense of the greater good. How does this legalized corruption differ from the legalized bribery the treasonous U.S. Chamber of Commerce ecourages in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across the nation?

It doesn’t. Not from the collective viewpoint of the 99%. Sadly, the only difference is in the size and scale. Not the intent.

These corrupt practices include allowing government workers to accrue unused sick time during the course of their careers and cash it in after they retire, and basing their pensions on their final year of employment – when totals are further inflated by disproportionate overtime assignments.

Why do the political hookers allow these practices? Because they’re for sale and unions have been purchasing them via block votes and huge donations. In that respect, organized labor is just as guilty of fostering our present culture of corruption as the Fortune 500.

It all has to end.

Organized labor’s Robin Hood approach to tax dollars works great when theyPhoto By Cursed Thing‘re political outsiders. Not so much when they’re running things as they do in New Jersey – the so-called “Soprano State” – where the 99% is saddled with the nation’s highest tax burden. Then it just becomes another type of corruption.
 
The AFL-CIO is finally looking to become more independent from the Democratic machine by financing its own efforts instead of just writing large checks to national candidates and the national party. Danny Donohue, who is battling for leadership of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the union has become too “Washington-centric” under its current leadership. AFCSME is part of the AFL-CIO.

“That’s not where our members live, where our members work,” Donohue said, according to the LA Times. “We need to have a greater emphasis on state and local campaigns.”
 Photo By Brooke
Several major unions now have their own independent political action committees and many union officials are arguing for the creation of a permanent presence in communities across the country to beat back the kind of anti-labor attacks launched in Wisconsin, even at the cost of devoting less money to electing national candidates.
 
It’s about time.

It’s always entertaining to listen to national labor leaders rail against the apathy of the middle class for not supporting them more enthusiastically, as if they have any credibility with us. As if we don’t know they’ve been exploiting us just as relentlessly as the investor class. As if union boys in blue aren’t breaking the heads of nonviolent Occupy protesters across the nation to insulate themselves from the unequal division of burdens and benefits that’s ruining this once great nation.

The Cynical Times is still waiting for a single police union leader to stand up for anything but their own money. Looking for personal integrity and brass balls in a police union is like watching the attendance scene in the film Ferris Bueller: “Personal integrity? Anyone? … We see you Ray Lewis …  Anyone else? Personal integrity? Anyone? Anyone who is not retired?”
 
The painful truth is that many of the best paying unions are riddled with nepotism, racism and graft, and led by overpaid elites, many of whom have never worked in the trenches. These “favored unions” only belong to the 99% when it’s convenient for them, just as Jack London foresaw in his novel “The Iron Heel.”

Instead of battling for the greater good, they regularly betray it to advance their own narrow interests.

Think this editorial is out of line?

Here’s a simple test. Try finding a black face in a hardhat among the steelworkers who regularly take home six-figure salaries at the World Trade Center construction site in lower Manhattan. Sure, they employ African Americans in low-paid security positions, but where are the black faces in the hardhats? They’re virtually invisible. Same thing is true for the union workers that build the president’s inauguration grandstand every four years.

Why?

It’s a safe bet this imbalance is due to the longstanding practice of passing down the best union jobs from parent to child. Securing a high-paying job in a favored union is all about who you know, just like the national correspondent positions MSNBC recently filled by silver spoons Chelsea Clinton, Meghan McCain, and Jenna Bush – who haven’t got a single journalism or communications degree between them.

What’s the difference between the self-appointed union aristocracy, political aristocracy and business aristocracy?

There is no difference for those of us who don’t belong to them. They’re all about hiring and promoting on the basis of nepotism instead of merit, and coddling their sheltered kids so they don’t have to compete with the rest of us on a level playing field.
Photo By Martin Addison
Does it really matter to those of us who are graduates of the imperfect U.S. public school system whether the silver spoons attend the elite prep schools favored by political hookers or the Catholic schools favored by union leaders? Nope. Not when both groups are insulating themselves from the societal burdens created by their corrupt leadership.

The nefarious police unions which have run the City of Newark like a plantation for decades are a perfect example of the kind of greed that’s been rotting organized labor from the inside-out. Its Fraternal Order of Police balked at a deal in 2010 that would have given each of its 1,300 officers five furlough days, opting instead to force New Jersey’s largest city to layoff 162 of its youngest officers – the idealistic ones who could not be bought.

When the young cops held a protest afterward outside Newark FOP headquarters, union leaders didn’t even have the decency or brains to make up a politically palatable storyline.

“An officer who has been on the job 15 years is not going to fight for you,” James Stewart, the union vice president, told the group according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “Veteran guys are not giving up a dime.”

The layoffs claimed the last three classes of the city police academy – virtually all the officers who joined the force after reformist mayor Cory Booker took office in July of 2006. The city’s innovative police chief, Garry McCarthy, resigned a few months later to take a similar position with the City of Chicago.

None of it advanced the greater good, but it did allow older cops to avoid sharing the societal burdens created by the worst economic climate for the poor and middle class since The Great Depression.

It’s really hard to have much enthusiasm for organized labor when older workers use internal union politics to ruthlessly exploit their own in this manner.

And it’s high time for labor leaders to start paying attention to those of us in the 99% who don’t belong to a union, instead of claiming to be our allies when it’s situationally expedient.
 
Organized labor doesn’t like to be taken for granted by a Democratic Party obsessed with advancing its own interests at the expense of unions. Well, those of in the 99% don’t particularly like being exploited by an organized labor movement obsessed with advancing the interests of older union workers at the expense of the greater good.
 
To paraphrase the character Eliza Doolittle in the film My Fair Lady: “don’t talk of love, show me.”
 
That means don’t just print up signs that say “defending the middle class” when your personal interests are threatened. It means standing up for the greater good all the damn time.

Don’t piss on the middle class and tell us it’s raining. And don’t call youself middle class or union while you break middle-class heads for money at a nonviolent Occupy march.