The break within organized labor is just about official. On Sunday afternoon, press reports said that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Teamsters would – on Monday—announce their official departure from the AFL-CIO.
[UPDATE: the break is now official].
Two other dissident unions, the Hotel Workers and the Food Workers may immediately follow suit. These four unions have already decided to boycott the AFL convention which formally opens on Monday.
The showdown, which has been brewing for months, now seems to be coming to a head. In my world, this is Big News.
I am among those who are encouraged by and who fully support the break. It’s not only because my wunderdaughter is on the SEIU team. But also because it is now or never for American labor. The dissidents argue, and I agree, that a new labor movement must be more consolidated, more powerful, more focused, more committed to organizing and less a political satellite of the Democratic Party.
SEIU President Andy Stern, who is leading the split has taken plenty of heat from baying "progressives" who now seem absolutely terrified of change. For two decades they have moaned about the need to shake up the Democrats and jump-start Labor; but now when the largest and most successful union in America decides to do exactly that, these same liberals start to whine about “unity.”
What Stern proposes as an alternative may or may not be the right prescription. What we do know is that the current course of the AFL-CIO is not tenable. It’s stagnant, stalled and mostly a piggy bank for Democrats, many of whom don’t give a damn about labor.
On that note… let me refer you to the posting immediate below this which details some weekend masturbating by thousands of Democrat activists. On the same weekend they are meeting in 350 nationwide prayer circles reading each other excerpts from the Downing Street Memos and chanting “Impeach Bush,” the American labor movement is (choose one) a) being reborn b) ripping itself apart or c) engaging in its most important debate in 50 years.
Every single Democrat activist ought to passionately subscribe to one of the above views. Because any Democrat with an IQ above room temperature ought to know that without a rejuvenated labor movement there will be no significant political change in America.
So can you imagine…? instead of wanking over the Downing Street Memos if these same Democrats had come together in 350 national meetings to discuss what the hell is going on in the labor movement this same weekend and what they should and could do about it?
Oh… you say you can’t imagine such a thing? No kidding. The sad truth is that there are damn few links between organized labor and liberal activism. Most of those huddled Democrats wouldn’t know what to think about organized American workers because they have no real connection to them in any case.
It means that both the Democrats and Big Labor need to undertake some serious changes. At least a portion of the latter – the unionists willing to break with the AFL-CIO – have taken a first step.
P.S. Five years ago I wrote a cover story for The Nation magazine on the new Teamsters regime of Jimmy Hoffa Jr. I took a lot of heat over it from knee-jerk lefties who didn't want to know any facts and only wanted to demonize Hoffa. Little could they have guessed that five years later Hoffa would wind up allying with what it essentially the labor "left." History can sure be a bitch.