It's bitterly cold here in Iowa City, and I'm here with Andy Stern, the President of SEIU. He's on a book tour to promote his new book, 'A Country that Works', as well as to try to shape the 2008 campaign debates around the concerns of SEIU members and working Americans. I'm going to be spending time with Stern over the next few days here in both Iowa and New Hampshire because the agenda of the netroots and that of labor is intertwined more than either group realizes. Labor is the one major institution in this country aside from the Federal government that systematically improves conditions for workers, and unions are there to elect Democrats in almost every race in the country. They provide the bodies, the money, and the institutional memory that makes our politics possible.
Unions are also, more than any other major power center in American politics, structurally aligned with what we're doing. They are fighting against economic insecurity, and that drives a lot of where we are right now. They are fighting against corporate and political elites, and we are fighting against a related set of elites, the bobbleheads on TV who spout the profitable right-wing line or the party hacks who keep people out of the political process. And they are paying attention to politics when the electorate is tuned out, which gives them immense power to shape the agenda of the Democratic Party. We pay attention to politics, all the time, somewhat obsessively. Stern himself is a leader who doesn't give in to the usual excessive caution that dominates our politics, and that alone sets him apart.
So anyway, with such new groups as They Work for Us serving as places where the netroots and labor can work together, it's time to get to know our allies.
Stern Introduces SEIU to MyDD, Slams Baucus
I asked Stern to talk about how SEIU handles its relationship with the political establishment. Stern represents a union, which is a genuinely democratic structure and one with economic interests. Unions are not appendages of the Democratic Party, they are independent collective bargaining units. Here's Stern, with a greeting and a discussion of how SEIU relates to the political process. He also gives a nice little dig at Max Baucus, who was holding up a minimum wage increase so that business could get tax breaks.
Advice on Shaping the Debate in 2008
I asked Stern about how activists can help shape the debate in 2008. He talked about SEIU's strategy, what they did in 2004 to force candidates to address their issues, and encouraged us to speak truth to power.
On 'A Country that Works'
Here's Stern discussing his new book and why he wrote it. He believes that America is undergoing a radical transformation, and that we are totally unprepared as a nation to deal with the global forces headed our way.
On Heath care Debates in Iowa and in Congress
We can't forget about Iowa and issues. Earlier today, there was a health care discussion earlier with Congressman Dave Loebsack, a strong single-payer advocate, in which they discussed state-level initiatives and the unwillingness of the Democratic leadership in Congress to tackle health care.