Waging Class Warfare Through Double Standards

The barefaced hypocrisy of the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and other big business groups is astounding when you consider the double standards most business leaders compel upon the rest of America.  Especially when it comes to their opposition to contracts with their employees.
Journeying down memory lane, the recent uproar over the $210 million Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli took home with him is still fresh in our minds.  While ordinary Americans and shareholders reacted with unanimous outrage, you would have been hard pressed to hear hardly a word of this from the rest of corporate America.

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The barefaced hypocrisy of the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and other big business groups is astounding when you consider the double standards most business leaders compel upon the rest of America.  Especially when it comes to their opposition to contracts with their employees.
Journeying down memory lane, the recent uproar over the $210 million Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli took home with him is still fresh in our minds.  While ordinary Americans and shareholders reacted with unanimous outrage, you would have been hard pressed to hear hardly a word of this from the rest of corporate America.

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Meeting Andy Stern

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.  

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Bonior, Edwards, Michigan and the Unions

Sandra Svoboda wrote a very interesting article in today's Detroit MetroTimesabout DaveBonior, his relationship with John Edwards, and the roll unions may play in the 2007-2008 Democratic primaries: http://www.metrotimes.com/editorial/stor y.asp?id=10103

Here are some excerpts, summaries and my commentary:

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Unions Selling Out NY Dems

Long Island's Newsday has an article about big NY unions selling out the Democrats and Gov. Spitzer.  These folks are endorsing the GOP nominee for an open State Senate seat in Nassau Co.  The vacancy was arranged by the new governor, when he appointed St. Sen. Balboni to a spot in his administration.

CSEA, NY's largest public employee union, and Dennis Rivera's SEIU 1190 are the latest to back the Republican County Clerk in the February special election.

Fortunately, UFCW & CWA are sticking with Democratic County Legislator Craig Johnson.

Lots of you folks criticized Hillary, Spitzer, NY Democrats, etc. for not taking the State Senate majority in November.  This union backstabbing and significant gerrymandering are the major obstacles to a Democratic takeover and more favorable redistricting next time around.

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Card-Check Organizing (or, Too Many Goliaths)

With Bayh dropping out, citing the possibility that there would be just "too many Goliaths" in the 2008 race, Americans have been spared the burden of struggling to tell him and John Edwards apart in photographs for the next two years. That's the latest good news for Edwards, who seems to have been having a great run of late. It's no secret here that Edwards wants to enter the election season as a champion of American labor, a friend to the union movement. He talks easily about the relationship between Wal-Mart and its workers -- though I don't know if he's specifically addressed the company's "we do not believe there is a need for third party representation" stance. He's courting the big-boy unions. And he's turned to former House Whip Dave Bonior to lead his possible presidential run. (I say possible because one thing I've learned -- first with Warner, now with Bayh -- is that when potential candidates say that they're just considering a campaign, they might actually mean it.) Bonior's the chair of American Rights at Work, a group whose raison d'etre is to help workers get unionized.

But it's no secret that unions in America today are struggling. Union membership has dropped from 20 in 1983 to 13 percent last year. And the bulk of unionized America is made up of teachers, firefighters and other public workers -- compare the 37 of government workers who are unionized with the 8 percent of private employees who have collective representation. The problems of the American labor movement are many, many. But one big one is the hurdle that individual workers face just trying to organize themselves into a union. That's where card check comes in.

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