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Pres of AFL-CIO What to Do About Anger of the Working Class

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by glynch, Apr 9, 2010.

  1. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/sp04072010.cfm

    This is a very good speech. On this forum we make fun and or alarmed by this anger. Of course the Tea Party folks are are a refelction of this anger and we have seen it used cynically by country club types in the GOP. This speech addresses what academics and folks who are not hurting (like some of us) might do to help keep this anger from turning to hatred or destructive toward progress and solutions.

    Edited for those afflicted w. internet attention deficit disorder
    *********


    Remarks by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka at the Institute of Politics, Harvard Kennedy School, "Why Working People Are Angry and Why Politicians Should Listen"April 07, 2010

    ...

    I am going to talk tonight about anger—and specifically the anger of working people. I want to explain why working people are right to be mad about what has happened to our economy and our country, and then I want to talk about why there is a difference between anger and hatred. There are forces in our country that are working hard to convert justifiable anger about an economy that only seems to work for a few of us into racist and homophobic hate and violence directed at our President and heroes like Congressman John Lewis. Most of all, those forces of hate seek to divide working people – to turn our anger against each other.

    So I also want to talk to you tonight about what I believe is the only way to fight the forces of hatred—with a strong progressive tradition that includes working people in action, organizing unions and organizing to elect public officials committed to bold action to address economic suffering. That progressive tradition has drawn its strength from an alliance of the poor and the middle class—everyone who works for a living.

    But the alliance between working people and public minded intellectuals is also crucial—it is all about standing up to entrenched economic power and the complacency of the affluent. It's an alliance that depends on intellectuals being critics, and not the servants, of economic privilege.

    I am here tonight at the Kennedy School of Government to say that if you care about defending our country against the apostles of hate, you need to be part of the fight to rebuild a sustainable, high wage economy built on good jobs – the kind of economy that can only exist when working men and women have a real voice on the job.

    Our republic must offer working people something other than the dead-end choice between the failed agenda of greed and the voices of hate and division and violence. Public intellectuals have a responsibility to offer a better way.

    The stakes could not be higher. Mass unemployment and growing inequality threaten our democracy. We need to act—and act boldly—to strike at the roots of working people's anger and shut down the forces of hatred and racism.

    We have to begin the conversation by talking about jobs—the 11 million missing jobs behind our unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.


    For a generation, our intellectual culture has suggested that in the new global age, work is something someone else does. Someone we never met far away in an export processing zone will make our clothes, immigrants with no rights in our political process or workplaces will cook our food and clean our clothes.

    And for the lucky top 10 percent of our society, that has been the reality of globalization—everything got cheaper and easier.

    But for the rest of the country, economic reality has been something entirely different. It has meant trying to hold on to a good job in a grim game of musical chairs where every time the music stopped, there were fewer good jobs and more people trying to get and keep one. Over the last decade, we lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs—a million of them professional and design jobs. We lost 20 percent of our aerospace manufacturing jobs. We're losing high-tech jobs—the jobs we were supposed to keep.
    ...

    And that was the reality for most Americans before the Great Recession began in 2007. Since then, we have lost 8 million jobs when the economy needed to add nearly three million just to keep up with population growth. That's 11 million missing jobs.
    ...

    President Obama's economic recovery program has done a lot of good for working people—creating or saving more than 2 million jobs. But the reality is that 2 million jobs is just 18 percent of the hole in our labor market.

    The jobs hole – and the decades-long stagnation in real wages -- are the source of the anger that echoes across our political landscape. People are incensed by the government's inability to halt massive job loss and declining living standards, on the one hand, and the comparative ease with which government led by both parties has made the world safe again for JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, on the other hand.

    ....

    The fact is that for a generation we have built our economy on a lie—that we can have a low-wage, high-consumption society and paper over the contradiction with cheap credit funded by our foreign trading partners and financial sector profits made by taking a cut of the flow of cheap credit.

    So now a lot of Americans are angry. And we should be angry. And just as we have seen throughout history, there are plenty of purveyors of hate and division looking to profit from our hurt and our anger.

    I am a student of history, and now is the time to remember our history as a nation. Remember that when President Franklin Roosevelt said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," other voices were on the radio, voices saying that what we really needed to fear was each other – voices preaching anti-Semitism and Nazi-style racial hatred.
    ...

    But in the United States, we chose to turn away from the voices of hatred at those critical moments in the twentieth century. In much of Europe, racial hatred and political violence prevailed in response to the mass unemployment of the Great Depression. And in the end, we had to rescue those countries from fascism-- from the horrible consequences of the failure of their societies to speak to the pain and anger bred by mass unemployment.

    Why did our democracy endure through the Great Depression? Because working people discovered it was possible to elect leaders who would fight for them and not for the financial barons who had brought on the catastrophe. Because our politics offered a real choice besides greed and hatred. Because our leaders inspired the confidence to reject hate and charted a path to higher ground through broadly shared prosperity.

    This is a similar moment. Our politics have been dominated by greed and the forces of money for a generation. Now, amid the wreckage that came from that experiment, we hear the voices of hatred, of racism and homophobia.

    At this moment of economic pain and anger, political intellectuals face a great choice—whether to be servants or critics of economic privilege. And I think this is an important point to make here at Harvard. The economic elites at JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and the other big Wall Street banks are happy to hire intellectual servants wherever they can find them. But the stronger the alliance between intellectuals and economic elites, the more the forces of hatred—of anti-intellectualism—will grow. If you want to fight the forces of hatred, you have to help empower the forces of righteous anger.
    And at this moment, the labor movement is working to give voice to the justified anger of the American people. We need help. We need public intellectuals who will help design the policies that will replace the bubble economy with a real, sustainable economy that works for all of us.
    ...
    We in the labor movement have to challenge ourselves to make our institutions into a voice for all working people. And we need to begin with jobs. Eleven million missing jobs is not tolerable. That's why we are fighting for the AFL-CIO's five point jobs program—extending unemployment benefits, including COBRA health benefits for unemployed workers; expanding federal infrastructure and green jobs investments; dramatically increasing federal aid to state and local governments facing fiscal disaster; creating jobs directly, especially in distressed communities; and finally, lending TARP money to small and medium sized businesses that can't get credit because of the financial crisis.
    ...

    When it comes to creating jobs, some in Washington say: Go slow—take half steps, don't spend real money. Those voices are harming millions of unemployed Americans and their families -- and they are jeopardizing our economic recovery. It is responsible to have a plan for paying for job creation over time. But it is bad economics and suicidal politics not to aggressively address the job crisis at a time of stubbornly high unemployment. In fact, budget deficits over the medium and long term will be worse if we allow the economy to slide into a long job stagnation -- unemployed workers don't pay taxes and they don't go shopping; businesses without customers don't hire workers, they don't invest and they also don't pay taxes.
    ...

    Government that acted in the interests of the majority of Americans has produced our greatest achievements. The New Deal. The Great Society and the Civil Rights movement -- Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage and the forty-hour work week, and the Voting Rights Act. This is what made the United States a beacon of hope in a confused and divided world. In the end, I believe the health care bill signed into law last month is an achievement on this order, one we can continue to improve upon to secure health care for all.

    But too many thought leaders have become the servants of a different kind of politics—a politics that sees middle-class Americans as overpaid and underworked. That sees Social Security as a problem rather than the only piece of our retirement system that actually works. A mentality that feels sorry for homeless people, but fails to see the connections between downsizing, outsourcing, inequality and homelessness. A mentality that sees mass unemployment as something that will take care of itself, eventually.

    We need to return to a different vision.

    ... If you are worried about the anger in our country, if you don't want the forces of hatred to grow, be a part of the fight for economic justice and a new economic foundation for America. Be a critic of power and privilege, not its servant.

    ...

    Think about the great promise of America and the great legacy we have inherited. Our wealth as a nation and our energy as a people can deliver, in the words of my predecessor Samuel Gompers, "more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures."

    That is the American future the labor movement is working for. Let me be clear: There is no excuse for racism and hatred. All Americans need to unite against it. The labor movement must be a powerful voice against it. But you cannot
     
    #1 glynch, Apr 9, 2010
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2010
  2. thadeus

    thadeus Contributing Member

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    This country is in desperate need of a resurgence of unions.
     
  3. ROXRAN

    ROXRAN Contributing Member

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    One stick, easy to break. Many sticks, hard to break.
     
  4. Nook

    Nook Member

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    Sure... always good to have a situation where there are jobs that require menial jobs that require limited training making well above what the market rate would be.... especially when corruption and nepotism are figured in.... Unions are part of the problem.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. MoonDogg

    MoonDogg Member

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  6. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

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    Can there ever be a balance between unions and coporations? When unions are weak, we get runaway corporate greed. When unions are too powerful, we get restrictive rules that keep corporations, and new businesses in particular, from growing.

    When I came out of college, I went to work for a unionized newspaper. There was tremendous pressure by union members on me to join. However, the dues were, to me, a significant portion of my salary -- with no explanation for what the dues would be used other that to fight for worker rights. I felt I was on a fast career track, so I didn't understand why I needed any protection. In short, the strong-arm union tactics completely soured me on unions for the rest of my non-entrepreneurial career.

    While I am now more favorable to unions, they continue their public relations mistakes. For example, getting a sweetheart deal on their pensions is irritating. When a law is passed, it should apply to all people equally. I know, I know. I am an idealist in that regard. I am just as appalled by sweetheart corporate laws as well. (Why do we substidize tobacco farmers and then do all we can to suppress smoking? Craziness.)

    With luck, unions will eschew the Hoffas of the world and stimulate positive economic goals (for example, help curb the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to other countries). Unfortunately, I fear unions will do more harm than good (for example, speed the outsourcing process rather than stop it). These new "protective" laws. if precedent prevails, will force the feds to enact even more legislation and thereby restrict our freedoms even more.
     
  7. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    If you are working at union job but don't the union, it's kind of a slap in the face to the union members. You enjoy a contract and benefits that some union members sacrificed (certainly in hours put in negotiating, and possibly moniarily if they ever had to go on strike) in order to get. Yet while you enjoy the benfits you aren't willing to contribute.

    That is the way it can seem. Your salary, possibly health insurance, retirement plan, vacation days, etc. were won by sacrifice of the unions. So to enjoy the benefits but not be part of what earned those benefits can be seen as insulting.
     
  8. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

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    That's probably true in some cases but not in mine. The printers had a strong union, but the newsroom was maybe 25% (or thereabouts) union. We probably needed better benefits, but at 21 I wasn't looking down the road at anything other than getting promoted and getting laid.
     
  9. DonnyMost

    DonnyMost not wrong
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    Find me a union that can take care of that and I'll be a life member.
     
  10. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

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    Concur -- if legal, that would be a top-notch inducement. ;)
     
  11. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

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    Do you think it would work if we collectively bargain with our wives?

    ;)
     
  12. bnb

    bnb Contributing Member

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    those of you pining to be screwed by the union should be cautious.

    your partner might be chosen on the basis of seniority rather then preference.
     
  13. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

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    Ouch! And don't forget about other forms of discrimination in addition to not getting the age or gender of choice. :grin: Maybe that's why I've always been motivated to accomplish goals on my own.

    Now let's get back to the serious aspects of glynch's thread because the need to regulate unions is just as necessary -- or sometimes just as unnecessary -- as the need to regulate commerce.
     
  14. FranchiseBlade

    FranchiseBlade Contributing Member
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    I'm confused. If the newsroom where you were was only 25% union where did all the pressure come from? 75% seems like it would be hard for the minority of union members to pressure.

    That being said I know unions have done horrible, and illegal things to people who were not members.
     
  15. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    The newsroom is/was only a small part of operating a newspaper. The people that physically produced the paper and got it out (eventually to the kids with bicycles that make sure it ends up on your lawn) are much more numerous, usually members of the union, and had a wage that could support their families.

    Your comment "I know unions have done horrible, and illegal things to people who were not members" reflects the paranoia towards unions that frequently exists in those who know little about them, other than what they've seen in the movies and on TV. A lot of the good things you enjoy today are there because, at one point in our history, unions fought and often bled for them.
     
  16. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

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    Throughout the history of the world, a passionate few have imposed -- or tried to impose -- their will / ideas on majorities who were not on the same page. In other words, the 75% was usually just trying to steer clear of a water cooler harangue. In my case, my boss was a union organizer and his supervisor was very sympathetic to the union cause. However, their boss became my "godfather" in the business, so I was somewhat immune. I never cared for office politics.
     
  17. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    Ah the sincere belief in one market under God. Can't mess with the labor market as in Europe to give most folks a decent life or everyone will poor. Didn't happen in Europe, but the belief is strong here--even among the majority of Americans who would have a better life if the belief would be discarded.

    What a victory for the billionaire funded think tanks and their propaganda.

    Google the Koch brothers conservative foundation funding for a sterling example. See also Murdoch and his Fox News.
     
  18. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    Hey I more or less felt the same way about unions at 21, but one can learn from experience in the working world. Can't one?

    Sorry the union was not strong enough to help you, but if you had joined you would have made it stronger.
     
  19. thumbs

    thumbs Contributing Member

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    I don't believe there is any doubt that unions have shaped the American dream and changed the American landscape in so doing. IMO the positives outweigh the negatives, but the negatives cannot be dismissed or overlooked. The same can be said of Wall Street.

    Personally, I have always had better luck with associations because associations have less need to wield "power" over people or property. Power through money or influence always corrupts whether union or corporation or political party. That is why I would love to see a balance between union and business. It won't happen ... but I would love to see it.
     
  20. glynch

    glynch Contributing Member

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    Well we were closer to having a balance before conservatism and anti-unionism gained strength in the last 30 plus years.

    The resources of the AFL-CIO are probably much less than 1% of that of the large corporations. Equating their power is at best sloppy thinking. Those who know on the corporate or right wing think tank side do this as clever spin.

    Given your confusion over the Tea Party thing, I am tempted to give you the benefit of the doubt, though I'm sure "sloppy thinking" is not much praise.
     

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