Labor's Voice for Change (25) April 9, 2009

AFL-CIO and CTW Web Sites Are Mum on Huge Layoffs;
Won’t Mention Obama’s Corporate-Minded Advisers

By Harry Kelber

The AFL-CIO and CTW Web sites have not carried a word about the 663,000 jobs that were lost in March 2009, although the shocking report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 3 made front-page headlines in major newspapers and was a prime news feature on radio and television outlets across the country.

The BLS said that since the recession began in December 2007, a total of 5.1 million jobs vanished, with almost two-thirds (3.3 million) of the decrease occurring in the last five months. Was this a cause of concern to working families? Shouldn’t our leaders have raised questions about the adequacy of the stimulus package and the need to accelerate job creation?

It is impossible to imagine the writers on both Web sites ignoring the layoff story, unless they got direct orders from their top leaders. Indeed, national labor leaders have been conspicuously silent about the disturbing spike in unemployment. Why aren’t they speaking up in behalf of the jobless?

Here is one possible answer (and we’d like to hear yours): Massive layoffs are an embarrassment to the Obama administration, which is compelled to increase the number of jobs it has promised, Our leaders say it’s important to avoid criticism of President Obama, because he holds the key to passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. Is there a better explanation?

What Did Summers Say to Earn $2.2 Million in Speeches?

Lawrence Summers was paid $8 million by Wall Street firms last year for whatever services he rendered them. But what makes this of special interest to labor people is that Summers is the Director of the National Economic Council of the Obama administration and one of the president’s chief economic advisers.

Summers picked up 2.2 million last year in speaking engagements before audiences of bankers, financiers and big-time investors, and we can only wonder what he said to them that was worth all that money. (We’ll guess he didn’t talk about “card check” organizing.)

Summers is on record as stating that unions are responsible for long-term unemployment, yet has never explained that charge. He let his name to be used in a full-page anti-EFCA advertisement. There is no evidence that he has ever said a kind or friendly word about unions and the struggles of working families.

Why have our labor leaders decided to say nothing publicly about Summers’ record and ordered a strict blackout of his background and current activities on their official Web sites, even though he may be proposing policies that labor opposes?

The speculative answer is the same as with layoffs. We can’t afford to embarrass the Obama administration lest it spoil our chances of getting the Employee Fair Practices Act this year.

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If union members are kept in the dark about facts that affect their lives, the credibility of top labor leaders and their Web sites are severely damaged. And by not daring to publicize the layoffs and the Summers’ pro-corporate background, labor leaders will look week and defensive. That kind of timid posture won’t get labor a fair deal in the proposed solutions of the economic crisis. Haven’t we yet learned that continued silence is a losing strategy?

What the AFL-CIO Needs Are New Leaders
With Fresh Ideas and an Inspiring Vision

Article 26 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will be posted on Tuesday, April 14.