In an utterly unsurprising move, the AFL-CIO has started its own Super PAC. It intends to compete with the big corporate Super PACs, trying to use its considerable lobbying power to push for workers’ rights.
I only mention this because of my ambivalence about AFL-CIO political strategy. I understand all the reasons this kind of thing is necessary. Big changes happen on Capitol Hill and in the statehouses. Without labor’s lobbying skills, what voice would workers have in legislation? A Super PAC could make a considerable difference in lobbying for small but important changes, as well as larger legislation.
So what’s to be ambivalent about?
In the bigger picture, I think the labor movement has gone a bit astray in its political strategy. Again, I understand all the reasons for this strategy. And I can’t argue against any of them except to say that labor’s real power comes from organizing workers, not Capitol Hill. We all know that numbers of organized workers continues to decline, even if I have some optimism about this changing. Would diverting some money away from the political strategy in favor of increased organizing make a long-term difference for the labor movement? That’s a question I think is worth asking.
Again, I don’t want to sound political naive. If the AFL-CIO isn’t representing workers’ interests in Washington, no one is going fill that role. And that could have serious consequences. At the same time, I wish more of these resources went into organizing workers and less into lobbying politicians.