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Invitation to Surrender

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Several readers recommended this Doug Henwood piece, which is sort of a leftier-than-thou version of Ezra Klein’s fatalism, arguing that organized labor should cede the field of electoral politics. Henwood is generally worth reading, but I think this particular argument fails pretty badly. The central problem is readily apparent: Wisconsin is a particularly inappropriate context to argue that electoral politics doesn’t matter. I can understand why Glenn Greenwald tends to exaggerate the similarity of the parties, because with respect to the issues he cares most about the differences really are pretty marginal. But in this case, we have a labor-crushing policy instituted by a united Republican government, that had never been considered when Democrats controlled any branch of the state government and would not have been passed if they still did, and did pass not only without Democratic support but with a Democratic opposition that went to unusual lengths to try to stop it. To derive from this a lesson that electoral politics isn’t worth bothering with because a longshot recall election failed is, to say the least, wrongheaded.

I don’t have any objection to Henwood’s real talk about the popularity of unions per se, although as Rich Yeselson says we shouldn’t forget that the recent labor victory in Ohio; things aren’t quite as bad as all that. And I agree that, given the margin, Walker’s money advantage probably wasn’t decisive. But Henwood’s proposed responses are fundamental sentimental, and would make the problems of working-class Americans substantially worse.

I’ll take on a few individual arguments, not necessarily in the order he makes them:

Since 2000, unions have given over $700 million to Democrats—$45 million of it this year alone (Labor: Long-Term Contribution Trends). What do they have to show for it?

[Raises hand timorously] “The Aqueduct Collective bargaining rights not being removed in states where Democrats retain power? NLRB appointees who are actually pro-labor? Judges who might favorably decide employment discrimination claims? The Ledbetter Act? The idea that labor contributions to Democrats produce nothing is transparently wrong, and the idea that if the Democrats are to the right of a European social democratic party it’s not worth trying to keep the Republicans out of power is wrong, and was proven epically wrong in Wisconsin.

Now if the argument is that Democrats aren’t pro-labor enough, this is certainly correct. But “not enough” isn’t “nothing,” and more importantly one thing that won’t make the Democrats more pro-labor is if an even greater percentage of their money comes from corporations.

But lingering too long on the money explanation is too easy. Several issues must be stared down. One is the horrible mistake of channelling a popular uprising into electoral politics.

Suppose instead that the unions had supported a popular campaign—media, door knocking, phone calling—to agitate, educate, and organize on the importance of the labor movement to the maintenance of living standards? If they’d made an argument, broadly and repeatedly, that Walker’s agenda was an attack on the wages and benefits of the majority of the population? That it was designed to remove organized opposition to the power of right-wing money in politics? That would have been more fruitful than this major defeat.

What would have happened it is…Wisconsin public sector workers would also not have collective bargaining rights. Most voters would not have paid attention to this campaign, which if it showed any effectiveness could easily be countered by the better-funded right. I’m not crazy about the recall strategy, and I especially wasn’t crazy about it not being on election day, but say this for it: if it succeeded, it would have had a clear, tangible, major benefit. And even if we agree that the recall wasn’t a good strategy to infer from this that labor should completely abandon electoral politics is bizarre. It’s certainly not the lesson conservatives inferred from the crushing of Barry Goldwater in 1964, and look at us now.

Imagine if they’d spent that sort of money, say, lobbying for single-payer day-in, day-out, everywhere.

To state the obvious: we wouldn’t be any closer to single payer than we are now. Even if we generously assume that this lobbying campaign would increase public support for single-payer, a lack of public support for single payer is not the crucial barrier. You need, in concrete terms, to explain how this campaign would get a majority for single-payer in the House and a supermajority in the Senate. Under current conditions, no lobbying campaign is going to get single-payer the slightest consideration in the House. Henwood’s argument is like criticizing the NAACP in 1948 for using piecemeal litigation rather than putting all the money from the LDF into lobbying the Mississippi legislature. Even if we generously assume that we’re permanently dealing with the more favorable circumstances of 2009, this lobbying effort would still be a waste of money. An increase in popularity in single payer is irrelevant for Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman because they’re not running for anything. And even for the conservative Democrats that are, even if single-payer becomes more popular 1)it won’t necessarily become more popular in the more conserative, more anti-labor jurisdictions they’re likely to represent, and 2)just because an issue becomes more popular doesn’t mean your vote will depend on it. But wait — it gets worse. Remember than in Henwood’s dream scenario, these legislators are getting zero money from labor to counteract their corporate donations. Not only is there less than no chance of getting single payer in that scenario even if you could make it more popular than free beer (which you can’t), you couldn’t even get the PPACA. And, of course, labor will become steadily less powerful because Henwood is proposing that unions spend less of their members’ dues looking out for their interests and more engaging in lobbying that 1)many members will disagree with and 2)has zero chance of producing tangible results. Yeah, that’s going to be a real boon to labor mobilization.

And the final problem with proposing a splendid isolation between labor organizing and electoral politics is that the latter greatly affects the former. The decline of labor isn’t just something that happened because labor leaders don’t know what they’re doing; it was the deliberate and predictable effect of Taft-Hartley. The most imaginative and effective organizing techniques aren’t going to make up for the ground that labor has lost in Wisconsin because of Scott Walker. Effective labor organizing, among other things, requires statutory protections. Ceding the field of electoral politics would be bad for the immediate interests of labor and bad for policies that favor working people more broadly. Labor can’t choose between electoral politics and other forms of politics and organizing; it needs to do both. And moreover, it’s not a zero-sum game, but involves virtuous and vicious circles.

Anyway, I think rather than labor trying this out I would invite the religious right and the Tea Party to give Henwood’s strategy of abjuring electoral politics a try.   Wisconsin’s public sector workers would get their collective bargaining rights back, and the prospect that hectoring people door-to-door or over the phone about the importance of limited government will produce results that are worth more than having Republicans in the legislature is a risk I’m willing to take.  Somehow, I don’t think they’re going to take him up on it.

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  • Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

  • david mizner

    I don’t agree with Henwood’s claim that “unions just aren’t popular.” For proof, he sites a Gallup poll showing that a relatively small number of Americans have confidence in unions. Well, I’m both pro-union and a union member (CWA) and I’m not sure I have confidence in unions (partly because I find labor too deferential to the Democratic Party.) Gallup also finds that 52% of Americans approve of unions — matching an all-time low but not bad. A majority of Americans still approves of American despite a half-century of political attacks on unions, efforts to break them, and corporate propaganda. (Chomsky is great on examining the postwar anti-union propaganda that stretched from text books to Hollywood.) “Unions” are a lot more popular than “liberals.”

    • Scott Lemieux

      Also true.

    • david mizner

      To be clear, I’m not saying labor doesn’t have problems. Yeselson is right when he says most people don’t dislike unions, they just don’t see them as important (not least because so few people are in them).

      But labor is doing a lot better, image-wise, than the left as a whole. The brand has held up amazingly well given the crap it’s faced. They’re the folks who brought you the weekend, baby.

    • tonycpsu

      This seems to be a major issue with how the press treats the left side of any issue. On healthcare, it’s “a majority of Americans disapprove of PPACA,” but you have to dig into the fourth paragraph (or, more likely, the crosstabs section of the poll reports) to find out that a lot of that criticism is coming from the left because it’s not single payer, doesn’t provide truly universal coverage, etc.

      Did this sort of thing happen under Bush 43 and I didn’t realize it because I was happy to see the numbers disapproving of his actions higher, even if a lot of it was coming from the right? Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind sound like the kind of things mainstream conservatives, if they had any ideological consistency, would have opposed in large numbers, but I seem to recall those being relatively popular when they were passed.

      I don’t know if this is the usual “conservatives are more cohesive than liberals” thing where the right wingers rally around whatever position their party leader holds, but it’d be nice if the press could bother to shed more light on where exactly the unpopularity of labor is coming from.

  • I think you miss the big picture here. Do you know about Honeywell? Have you been following Mike Elk’s reporting? The President is playing footsie with an strike-breaking dickhead of a CEO. Instead of making an appearance in Wisconsin, he was doing a plant tour only 90 miles away from the Wisconsin border at a Honeywell plant. And what about EFCA? The point is not the right that unions have now, as minimal as they are now, it’s building on the gains that are there. Say repeal the most onerous provisions of Taft-Hartley. Maybe unions should make that a priority.

    • Scott Lemieux

      And what about EFCA?

      It would be a very good thing. Can you explain how labor withdrawing from electoral politics will make passage more likely?

    • “Instead of making an appearance in Wisconsin, he was doing a plant tour only 90 miles away from the Wisconsin border at a Honeywell plant.”

      18 percent of Walker voters say they support president Obama*. Someone should have tried to flip their support for Walker. Who would be right for that job…?

      *http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/us/politics/walker-survives-wisconsin-recall-effort.html?_r=1&hp

      • tonycpsu

        The polls also showed that most people made up their mind before May. What percent of those Obama/Walker votes would have flipped to Obama/Barrett if Obama showed up that late in the process? Certainly not enough to change the outcome.

        • Then someone should have gone there earlier, especially if they believed in Looking Forward and Winning the Future. I can’t imagine who would be right for the job, though…

          • tonycpsu

            “Earlier” than May means before the primary, which means there was no candidate for Obama to campaign for.

          • Scott Lemieux

            There are people who know something about politics. There are people who think a visit from Obama could have produced a 14-point swing in a high-turnout election. And there’s certainly no overlap in those categories.

        • mark f

          The tally at the moment, which I’m not sure is official, is:

          Walker 1,334,450
          Barrett 1,162,785

          If we say the 18% figure is hard truth, that’s 240,201 Obama supporters who went for Walker.

          Barrett needed to flip 85,833 voters to beat Walker by a single vote. That’s about 36% of the Obama-Walker group. That might not be impossible but it does seem unlikely, especially given the number of people who said the recall was per se illegitimate.

          • Reilly

            You jumped a step in your calculation. The 18% isn’t derived from all Walker voters, it’s derived from the 51% of all voters (2,497,235) who said they would vote for Obama. That number is 1,273,590. 18% of that is 229,246. So Obama would have had to flip 37% for the one-point win. Your numbers and these are close, I know, but that’s because the percentage of Walker voters (53%) and the percentage of Obama supporters (51%) are close, otherwise there would be more distortion.
            If you want to throw a flag on me for nitpicking, I’ll accept the penalty but I thought it might be worth pointing out.

  • rea

    The decline of labor isn’t just something that happened because labor leaders don’t know what they’re doing; it was the deliberate and predictable effect of .

    Taft-Hartley was passed in 1947. It prohibited certain union tactics, and allowed state “right-to-work” laws. I think you have a timing problem, if nothing else, arguing that Taft-Hartley caused the decline of unions. The deindustrialization of America, and the general rightward movement of US politics, were more important factors. The willingness of union members, and some unions, to support rightwing politics based on foreign policy and culture war issues was also very important–union members’ support was important in electing people like Nixon and Reagan.

    • rea

      Cut-and-paste fail:

      it was the deliberate and predictable effect of Taft-Hartley

    • Scott Lemieux

      Taft-Hartley was hardly irrelevant to the rightward drift of American politics. Tim Noah is really good on this.

      • rea

        Tracing the rightward trend in US politics back to FDR’s last/Truman’s first term? Particularly as, it seemed to me back in the day (and I grew up in a very labor-oriented household) that unions were doing just fine back in the 60’s

        And I’m very skeptical that things like secondary boycotts and strikes, jurisdictional strikes, and closed shops are all that crucial to unions.

        • bradp

          I come from a different perspective here, but I consider the strength of unions to be measured in the amount of retaliatory activity, or at least the threat thereof.

          And from that point of view, union’s have been declining since the late 30’s.

          • rea

            so, your solution to the decline of unions is to get more union members killed?

            • bradp

              so, your solution to the decline of unions is to get more union members killed?

              I would prefer other manners of convincing workers to unionize when it suits them.

    • Steve LaBonne

      I think there’s a middle ground here which does a better job of capturing what happened. T-H wasn’t enough by itself to precipitate the decline, but it deprived labor of valuable tools with which to fight back once the decline started in earnest, and thus contributed to accelerating the decline.

      • Scott Lemieux

        T-H wasn’t enough by itself to precipitate the decline

        Of course not — I don’t mean to propose a monocausal explanation.

  • bradp

    The book he mentions by Bob Fitch: Should I read?

    • dhammer

      Absolutely, but as a taste of how good Fitch is on the left and labor, read this:

      • bradp

        Thank you.

  • scott

    I don’t disagree with your main point that ignoring electoral politics wouldn’t be smart. But he has a point too. How did this all start? The driving issue was Walker pushing to end collective bargaining rights, which drove the various recall efforts of the last two years. In this last recall, though, the chosen Dem nominee explicitly took CBR off the table, choosing to campaign against Walker as being vaguely extremist (how?), and himself had a local record of trying to limit collective bargaining rights. From the unions’ perspective, this could all legitimately feel like buying a pig in a poke, taking the focus off your issue and subordinating it to the personal interests of a bog-standard Dem office-seeker who wasn’t very interested in what you wanted. Picking up your ball and never playing again might not make sense, but investing fewer hopes and resources in something like that isn’t an irrational thing to think about.

    • rea

      In this last recall, though, the chosen Dem nominee explicitly took CBR off the table

      Flatly untrue. This claim apparently goes back to a selectively edited, misleading video of Barrett circulated by AFSCME during the primary.

      One of the things that went wrong with the recall is that the unions invested almost as much effort in beating Barrett as they did in beating Walker.

      • scott

        I apologize if I gave the impression that I relied on that video, but I wasn’t aware of it and didn’t. But Barrett did not by any stretch of the imagination make CBR the centerpiece or major focus of his campaign. He could have but didn’t. From the unions’ perspective, providing major electoral support to candidates who give you only tepid support on the issues you care about can seem like a very inefficient way of spending your resources. Electoral politics is a very hit-and-miss proposition for achieving specific goals, and it still doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to think hard about how much weight as an organization yoou want to assign to it.

        • rea

          No, you made no reference to the video, but you explicitly said, “the chosen Dem nominee explicitly took CBR off the table,”, which in plain English, means that he said something like, “We’re not going to change the law to reinstate collective bargaining for public employees–that’s off the table,” when in fact, he stumped the state, calling for reinstating collective bargaining for public employees.

  • bradp

    [Raises hand timorously] “The Aqueduct Collective bargaining rights not being removed in states where Democrats retain power? NLRB appointees who are actually pro-labor? Judges who might favorably decide employment discrimination claims? The Ledbetter Act?

    Flip the tables on them. Push the issues until they have public support and the democrats will have to come along.

  • I find this “Get out of politics” stuff very very very odd.

    We want corporations out of politics (or less in politics) because their participation inclines political action their way. We want policies that are good for labor (at least for workers), why wouldn’t we want GREATER participation?

    “Channel popular uprising into electoral politics” is bad? Isn’t that, y’know, democracy? Isn’t our big problem is that all our popular uprisings fail to translate into electoral (or any other sort of) gain?

    It’s bizarre. It feels like some strange sort of faint union hating. I.e., buying into the unions are corrupt or special interests etc. (even while denying it).

    • bradp

      “Channel popular uprising into electoral politics” is bad? Isn’t that, y’know, democracy? Isn’t our big problem is that all our popular uprisings fail to translate into electoral (or any other sort of) gain?

      Maybe the failure of popular uprisings failing to translate into electoral gain is a feature and not a bug that can be fixed.

      That would certainly make an attempt to “Channel popular uprising into electoral politics” into a bad idea.

      • There’s a time to channel popular uprisings into electoral politics. When the candidate on offer is a “I’m not quite as bad as the other guy”, that isn’t one of those times.

        • bradp

          There’s a time to channel popular uprisings into electoral politics. When the candidate on offer is a “I’m not quite as bad as the other guy”, that isn’t one of those times.

          That’s kinda my point. It seems like there is always going to be a tendency for candidates to approximate each other and aim for “not as bad as the other guy”.

          Instead of spending money on the guy who is not as bad as the other, which most often is all of them, why not spend money on what it means to be bad or good.

          Like it or not, a lot of the right wing’s success today has to do with shifting public opinion to where a sizeable chuck of the population reflexively think of a number of republican platforms (small government, low taxes, states rights, less spending) as being good. And most of that progress, at least that which they have over the Democrats, comes from spending directed at shifting public opinion.

          • There is often that tendency, but not always. And labor can always run its own candidate.

            “a number of republican platforms (small government, low taxes, states rights, less spending)”

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Democratic president bragging about how low government spending has been under him?

            • bradp

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Democratic president bragging about how low government spending has been under him?

              That’s what I’m saying. Spending on those issues were heavily directed at shifting public opinion rather than winning elections.

              Now, at least for that issue, electoral spending is pointless as both candidates are going to circle around public opinion, merely trying real hard to not be as bad as the other guy.

        • tonycpsu

          To be fair, Barrett wasn’t labor’s guy. Would a Falk victory have changed things? I dunno. But if labor had known that all their hard work was just going to give Barrett a second bite at the apple, I reckon they might have kept their powder dry for the next fight.

          • rea

            And yet, Barrett was in favor of restoring collective bargaining with public unions.

            • tonycpsu

              I’m not sure what your point is.

              • Scott Lemieux

                The point is that Barrett wasn’t just “slightly less bad” unless you think the issue that motivated the recall is trivial.

                • tonycpsu

                  Sure, but Barrett undercut the rationale for his own candidacy by complaining about the “Civil War” that got his ass a second chance. If the issue that motivated the recall is important, then own it, and own the movement that brought it to the forefront of national politics. Instead he moved his rhetoric to the center. What kind of strategery is that?

      • “All” is a bit strong. But…

        …what else do you expect to do with the popular uprisings? Seriously, what’s plan B?

        “Fuck shit up”? Unless the uprising is seriously mass there’s no way.

        At least, I don’t see how.

    • DrDick

      Exactly. The Democrats may have been largely indifferent to labor issues for the past 40 years, but they are not overtly hostile to labor like the Republicans are. Also, short of violent revolution, how are we supposed to actually effect legal change other than through electoral politics?

      • “how are we supposed to actually effect legal change other than through electoral politics?”

        There are more than two parties.

        And if you think the modern Democratic Party is not hostile to unions, you need to read up more on current events. Obama’s first education secretary was an anti-union stooge. And many Democrats would rather take donations from rich anti-union figures than support unions:

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/25/us-usa-campaign-obama-teachers-idUSBRE84O12Y20120525

        • tonycpsu

          The Democrats aren’t exactly champions of labor these days, but I fail to see how labor backing an existing third party (or creating a new one bottom-up) could (a) produce better results than labor’s current relationship with the Democrats or (b) credibly pose a threat to Democrats such that they would listen more to labor issues.

          Creating party apparatuses in 50 states is hard work, and would face opposition from both of the established parties. The Democrats know this, and would pretty much respond by saying “good luck with that, and come back to us when you realize you’d prefer a third of a loaf to no loaf at all.”

          • “Creating party apparatuses in 50 states is hard work”

            So is banging your head against a wall and hoping it cures your headache.

            If labor wants to start a third party in just a few states, that would be fine. Or they could keep funding the Democrats no matter how many Arne Duncans and Michelle Rhees and Eli Broads they hold up. A hundred million here, a hundred million there–pretty soon we’ll be talking about serious money.

            • Scott Lemieux

              So is banging your head against a wall and hoping it cures your headache.

              I have to give him credit here — he has the perfect metaphor for the transparently idiotic belief that third parties can advance progressive change.

              • Just because it’s failed every single time it’s ever been attempted is no reason to stop trying now. This might be the fabled one-in-a-million shot! (bets everything, rolls the dice, blames black people)

        • joe from Lowell

          And while we wait for the Super Awesome Party that Will Give Me a Pony to quadruple its electoral share up to 2.5%, should the unions make no effort to prevent Scott Walkers from taking over the other 49 states?

          Or is the additional suffering that would cause a feature, not a bug, to you?

          • Do you think the way to stop Republicans from destroying teachers unions is to help Democrats destroy teachers unions?

            Obama Campaign Proud of Bashing Teachers’ Unions

            “Obama has promoted initiatives that encourage districts to tie teacher evaluations to student performance and to expand the number of charter schools — actions the teacher unions have long been against, and which Romney himself promoted Wednesday in a speech in Washington outlining his education platform “

            • tonycpsu

              The Democrats occasionally take Sistah Souljah-style jabs at labor to curry favor with idiots in the Democratic/unaffiliated electorate who believe all their money is going to bad teachers. I don’t think this gets them that many votes, but whatever. The Republicans would just kill unions outright if they ran the show, and a labor that abandons the Democrats and backs some third party spends years tilting at windmills and maybe wins a few municipal races if they’re lucky. I’ll take the shitty Democrats we have, thanks, and vote for better ones.

          • joe from Lowell

            You didn’t answer the question. This probably because there is no possible way to defend your position, so you decided to change the subject.

            Yes, the Democrats’ record on teacher unions is dramatically better than the Republicans’. Go ask any teacher in Wisconsin.

            Meanwhile, I’ll just keep asking my question over and over, to drive home the point of just how little you give a crap about this subject you’ve decided to try to talk about:

            And while we wait for the Super Awesome Party that Will Give Me a Pony to quadruple its electoral share up to 2.5%, should the unions make no effort to prevent Scott Walkers from taking over the other 49 states?

            Or is the additional suffering that would cause a feature, not a bug, to you?

        • Scott Lemieux

          There are more than two parties.

          Yeah, we can have the Green Party throw an election to the Republicans again; who can forget the worker’s paradise that emerged after 2000? Not quite as good as a Paul administration would be but…

        • DrDick

          I am sorry, but to all intents and purposes, at least if you want your vote to count and anybody to pay attention to you, there are only two parties that matter. When and if any third party gets serious about organizing nationally successfully, then we can talk. FWIW, I cast my first vote against Nixon and third parties have had no lasting impact on American politics during that time. Indeed, if you vote for them, politicians assume that you can safely be ignored.

        • UserGoogol

          There’s a big difference between being against the existence of unions and being against what unions want. The point of unions is allow workers to be able to negotiate fairly. Labor isn’t good or bad, they’re just people, and liberalism is about treating all people equally.

          • UserGoogol

            Which isn’t to say that the Obama Administration is right, necessarily, but if progressives aren’t allowed to implement technocratic reforms that step on the toes of existing people, then I don’t know what progressivism is supposed to stand for. If progessivism doesn’t stand for technocratic reformism, then

            • UserGoogol

              And of course, in that post I somehow hit submit halfway through writing my post. Maybe I would have toned down that post in the editing process, since I really am intensely neutral about education reform, and as much as technocratic reformism in general is totally awesome, the half-expressed sentiment there might be a bit much.

          • No no no. If you aren’t in 100% agreement with every policy preference of every union out there, it’s functionally equivalent to be opposed to their right to collectively bargain at all! That’s Real True Progressivism 101 man!

            • Auguste

              Ironically, I just had the EXACT opposite conversation: If you don’t agree 100% with everything the unions have ever done, that fully justifies the position that all unions are evil. It goes both ways.

              • Perhaps, but I think that the idea that you have to be anti-union if you don’t agree with every union on policy matters (especially public sector unions), as opposed to the beneficial nature of unionization to be obviously worse, if only because there’s a rather glaring example (police unions) that would apply to most progressives/civil libertarians.

                • Linnaeus

                  Sure, you don’t have to agree with every position a union takes to be pro-union. Hell, I consider myself very pro-union and I think that unions make mistakes, take wrong positions, etc., just like any institution made up of fallible people.

                  But Auguste has hit upon something I find frustrating, i.e., the Very Serious position that lauds unions in the abstract, but voices disapproval when they actually act upon the principles the Very Serious Person says she/he supports.

  • Murc

    You know, I do wonder if the people who think unions should get out of electoral politics and focus on organizing is that organizing is (deliberately and beneficially) violent and disruptive.

    If politicians won’t return their calls, the way unions get what they want, and the only reason they were ever invited to take place in electoral politics in the first place, is by people taking to the streets and raising hell. Eventually the powers that be got real sick of that and offered organized labor a seat at the table so that would stop happening.

    I truly think the reason so many people have a babe-in-the-woods understanding of how this dynamic works is because we’ve had a good seventy years or so of unions having a big buy-in to the system, which means there really aren’t many people who are 1) still alive and 2) have real influence who personally remember that a strike didn’t used to be a bunch of people walking in circles half-heartedly yelling slogans while their union reps talked with management and a single police cruiser looked on, bored. It used to involve shit getting WRECKED.

    Because wrecking shit is how you effect political change if you’re locked out of the legitimate process.

    • mark f

      wrecking shit is how you effect political change if you’re locked out of the legitimate process

      And it seems to me that wrecking shit carries a greater than 50% chance of effecting political change against your interests, or at least against you personally.

      Brad P writes about Kevin Carson’s contention that labor would be better off, i.e. have a stronger bargaining position, if it didn’t accept dropping its more radical tactics in favor of the legitimacy conferred by the NLRA. That might be true, but I’m not willing to accept it on its face. But even if true it ignores the fact that most people would rather accept concessions than live in a state of constant warfare, which, as Erik’s series demonstrates, was often literally true.

      • bradp

        But even if true it ignores the fact that most people would rather accept concessions than live in a state of constant warfare, which, as Erik’s series demonstrates, was often literally true.

        While I concede that there is truth to this, the violence was more about rapid change than from the animosity between the two sides.

        Once labor has established that disrespect of workers comes with a cost, which it had to some degree in the 30s and 40s, management and capital will eventually internalize those costs, rather than engaging in warfare against them.

        Let me also point out that, NLRB or no NLRB, one would hope that mowing down workers in the street would be treated as the heinous crime that it is. The warfare directed at labor went WAY beyond simply stripping workers of their labor rights.

        • mark f

          Let me also point out that, NLRB or no NLRB, one would hope that mowing down workers in the street would be treated as the heinous crime that it is. The warfare directed at labor went WAY beyond simply stripping workers of their labor rights.

          Right, which is why I used the word “literally,” although I do admit that alluding to a return to those days was a bit hyperbolic. Nevertheless, the consequences of pitched battles, even when falling short of the Death Special, can be pretty devastating to the individuals who suffer them.

  • Collective bargaining rights not being removed in states where Democrats retain power? NLRB appointees who are actually pro-labor? Judges who might favorably decide employment discrimination claims? The Ledbetter Act?

    Plenty of Democrats are eager to destroy collective bargaining rights, especially for teachers (ask Michelle Rhee). Obama jettisoned the unions’ contracts when he bailed out the auto companies. What has the NLRB done–did it stop Obama signing a law that made it harder for FAA workers to organize, or singing free trade agreements with countries that assassinate union leaders? Obama has been worse about appointing judges than any president in ages; just look at all the vacancies that haven’t even seen a nomination yet. And the Ledbetter Act was a fix for a nonexistent problem.

    • AAB

      The Ledbetter Act overturned a Supreme Court decision that dramatically curtailed the circumstances in which pay discrimination suits could be brought. How exactly was that a fix to a non-existent problem?

      • DrDick

        It is “nonexistent” because it does not affect him and is not one of his hobby horses. This is the lesser child of soulite and jeer9.

      • The “pay gap” is a myth, that’s how.

        • A 2009 report commissioned by the U.S. Labor Department concluded that such “factors account for a major portion and, possibly, almost all of the raw gender wage gap.” The gender gap shrinks to between 8 percent and 0 percent when the study incorporates such measures as work experience, career breaks and part-time work”

          http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-oped-0607-chapman-20120607,0,4609289.column

          • mark f

            I agree: Linkless wingnut op-eds are a good & honest source of statistics.

            • The quoted statistic comes from the US dept of labor and a university in New York City.

              • mark f

                Neither of which is linked to, or even referenced by titles, so Chapman’s representations of them can be evaluated. As it is, one of his quotes states that the gap may be as high as 8%; for an uncompromising maximalist such as yourself that should seem awfully high. His argument is also nothing more than “women in the aggregate take more time off so of coure their aggregate pay is lower,” which doesn’t address cases of individual discrimination that the laws were written to correct.

                • Someone should invent a way to search the internet for studies and articles.

                • tonycpsu

                  Shorter TK421: My debate opponents should do the hard work of making my points for me.

                • mark f

                  Such a tool would be useful if someone’s dubious statistics actually supported his arguments. Fortunately, Chapman’s didn’t.

            • joe from Lowell

              And strongly demonstrate a genuine commitment to the liberal/labor ideals one purports to be interested in supporting.

        • Scott Lemieux

          The “pay gap” is a myth, that’s how.

          Ah, I think we can see why the misogynist would-be leftier-than-thou is Paul-curious. Hell, all federal civil rights laws are solutions to non-existent problems! Not that there was any reason to take him seriously before this, but…

          • rea

            And, you know, if the pay gap is a myth, there’s not point in allowing anyone to go to court and use evidence to prove that they are not getting paid as well as their comperable male coworkers.

    • Richard

      “Obama jettisoned the unions’ contracts when he bailed out the auto companies.”

      Absolutely not true. Where do you come up with this shit? The bailout KEPT the union contracts in place unless the unions negotiated some changes which they did in exchange for ownership interest and promises of money in the future (which have been paid). The alternative – letting the companies file for bankruptcy – WOULD have allowed abrogation of the union contracts. Ask the unions whether they supported the bailout or not. The opposition to the bailout came from the right who were claiming that it was far too generous to the unions.

      And, of course, the NRLB has no authority over free trade agreements. None. None at all. And it has no authority to stop Obama from signing an agreement. Do you have any clue what the NRLB does?

      And, as stated above, the Ledbetter Act addressed a real problem – a Supreme Court decision that forbade women from suing over pay discrimination when they had no knowledge that the pay discrimination had occurred.

      • “And, of course, the NRLB has no authority over free trade agreements. None. None at all. And it has no authority to stop Obama from signing an agreement.”

        I know. I was pointing out that Obama’s “good” appointees haven’t done any good on those fronts.

        • Richard

          But they HAVE done good on the fronts where they have authority.

          • Like what? I’d love to hear some good news.

            • Richard

              Look at their rulings. their . I dont have time to educate someone who makes crazed accusations without any factual basis but if you’re actually interested in facts, read this.

              http://unionwatch.org/unprecedented-nlrb-rulings-to-aid-unions/

              • mark f

                BUT HAVE THEY STOPPED DRONE STRIKES!!!! CHECKMATE!!!!

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Has Sonia Sotomayor repealed Taft-Hartley? No? Then elections don’t matter! IMPEACH OBAMA NOW!

      • And it’s funny how unions have to make concessions for a bailout but Wall Street doesn’t.

      • “Treasury officials were involved in decision-making that led to more than 20,000 non-union workers losing their pensions”

        Link

        Okay, those were NON-union workers. What a friend to labor the Obama team has been, huh?

        • Malaclypse

          What’s that you say? Salaried managers took a hit? Unpossible…

          • They aren’t savvy businessmen like Jamie Dimon.

            • Malaclypse

              As long as you admit that salaried managers are not what most people thing of when they hear the word ‘workers.”

      • joe from Lowell

        So you aren’t even going to attempt to defend your claim about the auto bailout?

        Does this mean you won’t be making it any more in the future?

        • Ooh! Ooh! I know this one! Give me a minute . . .

      • Scott Lemieux

        In fairness, just letting the companies go under would have been great for labor. Mittens ’12!

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  • TT

    Labor withdrawing from politics in order to focus on organizing is the very definition of a false choice. They are two sides of the same coin. Organizing is itself a political act in that it reflects the desire of workers to assert their rights and those of their compatriots within the broader political economy. And it is a political economy. Everything corporations and their champions/enablers accomplish lies within their mastery of this framework, whether at the local, state, or national levels.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Labor withdrawing from politics in order to focus on organizing is the very definition of a false choice. They are two sides of the same coin.

      Precisely.

  • joe from Lowell

    $$$

  • joe from Lowell

    All the unlimited spending in Wisconsin couldn’t save the Republicans’ senate majority.

    All of the unlimited spending in Wisconsin couldn’t manage to unseat a single Democrat – unlike the Republicans.

    • Anonymous

      Nobody cares about the Senate majority. Even the MSM recognizes what a sea change this election is for 2012–and it bodes poorly for Obama.

      When he’s being outspent 10, 11, even 12-to-1 in the fall by wall-to-wall Super PAC ads and campaigns, what is he going to do? It’s well known that outspend someone by that much and they will lose every time.

      Citizens United means the end of the Democrat Party.

      • joe from Lowell

        Nobody cares about the Senate majority.

        Actually, your beloved SuperPACs poured a shit-ton of money into the senate races.

        And failed miserably.

        • Anonymous

          You won by one percentage point. In the most liberal district that was contested. Whoopie.

          Just wait until the fall.

          It will make what happened in Wisconsin look like a walk in the park.

          Karl Rove, the Koch Bros. and ALEC are JUUUUUST beginning to open their fat checkbooks to utterly obliterate Obama.

          • joe from Lowell

            You won by one percentage point.

            Oopsie. Anonytroll forgot about the last round of recalls, in which two Republican senators lost their seats.

            While every Democrat being challenged retained theirs.

            Net result of labor and SuperPac involvement in Wisconsin recalls: +3 Democratic seats in the senate.

            • Anonymous

              The Governor’s mansion was the big prize. Super PACs utterly obliterated the Democrats and their Union thugs.

              Walker for VP anyone?

              • joe from Lowell

                “The big prize” was managing not to lose in the middle of his term?

                This is what you’re bragging about – that you lost in Wisconsin, losing control of the ability to pass legislation, but hey, you didn’t lose as big as you could have? There were totally some seats you didn’t lose!

                Behold the power of the SuperPACs!

                • Jesse Levine

                  A substantial majority of exit poll interviewees did not like the recall process itself, except for demonstrated misconduct. The substantial delay betwen filing th epetitions and the election cooledthe partisan ardor for recall.

                  On the larger issue, it would be insane for labor to abandon electoral politics. How can you organize where the game is rigged against you? More states turning to right to work laws would completely doom organized labor in both the public and private sectors.

              • Walker for Veep? Oh no, not the briiiiarr paaaaatch…

        • Anonymous

          Meanwhile, Democrats have given up trying to recall Gov. Snyder in Michigan, and Romney and the RNC outraised Obama and the DNC last month. And SCOTUS is primed to strike down ObamaCare.

          Democrats are panicked and in disarray as the Republicans roll on to victory after victory.

          Have fun being outspent 12-to-1 in the fall.

          • joe from Lowell

            If being outspent 12:1 in the fall means the Republicans fail to gain anything, while losing 3 Senate seats, I’m all in.

            • Anonymous

              It means Obama a one-term President, Republicans build their majorities in the House and take the Senate, and a conservative majority on SCOTUS for the next generation.

              • joe from Lowell

                Oh, did the Republicans’ spending advantage gain them seats in Wisconsin? You’d think I would have noticed that.

                Or did every single Democrat win their elections, while 1/6 of the entire Republican delegation lost their seats?

            • joe from Lowell

              Actually, when you scale up from 33 seats in Wisconsin to 100 in Washington, what labor and the Democrats accomplished in the recalls is the equivalent of gaining 9 U.S. Senate seats.

              By way of comparison, the Democrats gained 6 U.S. Senate seats in 2006 and 8 in 2008.

              • Anonymous

                You’re an utterly delusional fool. Has the shocked not worn off yet or something? Every Democrat office holder in the country and the DNC are in full-on panic mode over Wisconsin and the Super PACs. Why do you think that is?

                • Every one? That’s a pretty bold claim.

                • Surely you’re not suggesting that a carefully-nameless Repub troll would engage in untruths?!

              • Malaclypse

                You see, Joe, JenBob is in on the secrit plan where the Republicans wanted to lose control of the Senate. He’s insiderey. By losing the Senate in a wipeout, they set the stage for something really big later.

          • chris

            There’s just a tiny bit of difference between outspending the mayor of Milwaukee 12 to 1 and outspending the incumbent President 12 to 1.

      • rea

        Citizens United means the end of the Democrat Party United States as a constitutional republic.

        Fixed it for you.

        • Davis X. Machina

          The final triumph of the Party, via the Revolution of which it is the Vanguard, is supposed to be followed by the withering-away of the state, silly.

      • those grapes were sour, too.

  • bradp

    Anonymous, we are all very well aware that you gloat about republican victories because you can find nothing in yourself to be proud of.

    All the false fronts you can muster will never hide your shamefulness, so please, stop trying.

  • It seems to me that this is a great example of why the best organizers devote a fairly large amount of energy to managing expectations. It would appear that a fairly large number of people on the left were far too optimistic about the recall’s chance of success, and that a) led to some bad (but ultimately irrelevant, probably) decisions being made by activists and b) people taking the loss much harder than they should be now.

    The more interesting thing to me will be how activists and labor respond now. Will they realize that this was always an uphill fight they had very little chance of ever winning, or will the narrative that they were stabbed in the back by the DNC et. al. set in? If it’s the latter, they may well wind up even more marginalized in the larger party.

    • joe from Lowell

      Physician, heal thyself!

      Will they realize that this was always an uphill fight they had very little chance of ever winning

      This is only true if you define the “fight” purely as getting Walker out of office.

      The Republicans and corporate donors spend something like $40 million to lose the senate and manage not to lose the governorship.

      • This is only true if you define the “fight” purely as getting Walker out of office.

        Well maybe I’m wrong, but it certainly seems like quite a few people did just that. Or did I imagine all of that gnashing of teeth over Obama/DNC “refusing to help in Wisconsin?”

        • joe from Lowell

          No, they did that.

          They were just wrong to do so.

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