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Tag: Jesus G Garcia

Rahm’s Win in Chicago: Does It Say Something About Americans?

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel

I’m sure there were a lot of reasons for this…the unions splitting and Rahm having far more money than Garcia must rank high.

But anyone who has paid any attention knows that Rahm is a right-wing asshole. At some point, about America, one must say: “Most Americans tend to prefer right-wing assholes.” When was the last time, nationally, that anyone who wasn’t a right-wing asshole was President?

Let’s cut to the chase: Obama is worse on civil liberties than Bush II was; the no-fly list started under Clinton, who also cut welfare drastically and was the first president to have “free speech zones.” He may have been charismatic, but a lot of his policies were drastically punitive to the poorest and weakest. The last President one can make a case for was Carter–but remember! The great military buildup we often credit to Reagan started under Carter.

Yes, money played a role, but money wasn’t the decisive factor in many of those elections and money only excuses so much–especially when you’re re-electing a President (as by that point you should know what he’s been doing).

Today, one can argue that America is effectively an oligarchy with a democratic gloss, Citizens United having made it official. But it wasn’t always, and a lot of elections were required for it to become one. And the democratic mechanisms for overthrow are still in place, with many regional elections being in play.

Chicago was in play. Rahm won anyway.

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Union Fear, Betrayal, and Decline

Strikes involving more than 1,000 workers

Strikes involving more than 1,000 workers

The 2008 primaries were a lesson to me. Neither Clinton nor Obama were particularly pro-union, but they received many of the union endorsements. I remember in particular the firefighters, who didn’t endorse any of the big three (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), but endorsed Dodd, whom they knew had no chance of winning. I called them on it and was told by their media guy that it was a case of true belief.

The other candidate they had been considering was Edwards, who actually had a chance of winning the nomination.

The thing about Edwards is that in order to win the nomination he needed the unions; it wasn’t going to happen otherwise.

He didn’t get enough of them and he lost.

Obama won and the unions didn’t get their number one priority: card check union certification.  One can argue it wasn’t doable, but there was never any sign it was a priority for Obama.

Why should it be? He hadn’t needed the unions to win, he had just needed them not to coalesce behind another major candidate.

Edwards, having won, would have owed his victory to the unions and he would have known it.  You dance with the one who brung you, as Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney once remarked.

Obama spent his first four years largely ignoring unions. One he didn’t ignore was the teachers union. Instead, the Obama administration acted very favorably towards the idea of charter schools (the bulk of the research shows that charter schools perform slightly worse than public schools). So, before the deadline for nominations of democratic primary nominees for the 2012 election, the teachers national decided to support a primary candidate to send a warning shot across Obama’s—no, they didn’t do that. They endorsed him pre-emptively.

Unions are risk-averse. Extremely risk-averse. They have spent the last 35 years in decline (since 1980) and, as a group, they never make any serious attempt to make up lost ground. Internally, too many of them acquiesced to and negotiated for two-tier contracts, which favor older workers over newer ones, and split union solidarity.

They are unwilling to take a run on anyone who might actually help turn their situation around.

I was reminded of this by the way Rahm Emanuel has retained much union support in Chicago. Some unions were heavily behind his challenger, Jesus G. Garcia, but many have backed Rahm. As a result, Rahm is almost certainly going to win (unless the polls are way off). Rahm was terrible, especially for the teachers (who, to give them their due, are fighting him, hard), though he did throw some scraps to a few unions.

Still, again, Garcia would owe the union movement his victory if he won and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t act on that debt. Rahm, on the other hand is the status quo—slow (and sometimes not-so-slow) decline.

If you won’t fight when your life is on the line (and card check was and is an existential issue for unions), then you will die. Unions have chosen, again and again, not to fight, or, more accurately, enough of them have chosen to collaborate. The first, second, and last rule of unionization is solidarity. Union members must negotiate and fight together and so must unions. Their failure to do this internally or externally is why their decline continues. It will continue, virtually irreversibly, until they learn two elemental lessons:  1) act with solidarity and; 2) never collaborate with your oppressors.

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