LaborTalk for March 15, 2011

Moore Tells Us How We’ve Been Screwed,
But AFL-CIO Won’t Print a Word About It

By Harry Kelber

You can search the AFL-CIO web site and news outlets, as well as statements by its leaders, but you won’t find a single comment, or even a word, about the speech that Michael Moore, the popular documentary filmmaker, said at the enthusiastic fight-back rally in Wisconsin to save labor’s collective bargaining rights.

What Moore was saying was vitally important information that should have been broadcast to the attention of all Americans, especially unions and their members who are in a fight for survival. Moore emphasized five points in his speech:

(1) “Today 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’etat, then you are not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.”

(2) “The nation is not broke, my friends.. Wisconsin is not broke.. Saying that the country is broke is repeating a Big Lie… The truth is there’s lots of money to go around. LOTS. It’s just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits in their well-guarded estates. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them.”

(3) “They control the message. By owning most of the media, they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream is that you too might be rich some day — this is America where anything can happen if you apply yourself. They have conveniently provided you with believable examples.”

(4) ”Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone who tells us America is broke and broken. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave. Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

(5) “So how do we make this happen? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on a government by billionaires for billionaires as an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.”

What Is the AFL-CIO’s Reaction to Moore’s Analysis?

Michael Moore, the popular filmmaker, raised several important challenges to current economic and political beliefs in his speech that dealt with the current attacks on working people, both in Wisconsin and in other states.

He cited eye-popping figures to show that America is no longer a democracy, but a plutocracy, controlled by corporations and the wealthy. Can that be denied? And if so, should it be a concern of the labor movement? Why isn’t it?

There’s lots of money around, but it’s in the hands of the rich, and they mean to hold on to it, by hook or by crook. Is Moore right? If so, ought we to do something about it?

* * * * *

The challenges that Moore raised are serious enough to warrant public debate throughout the labor movement. If he is right, labor’s goals must be broader than safeguarding collective bargaining and other fundamental worker rights. Winning better wages and benefits will remain a high union priority, but we have to develop a reform movement that will remove the economic and political inequities that now prevail in our society.

It is important that we hear from our labor leaders what we should be doing next. How do they propose to direct the new energy that has been created among union members by the events in Wisconsin? Why have they remained silent? And where are our labor activists?

At this critical moment, our energized union members are waiting for leadership. Silence and the status quo are no longer options.—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk will be posted here on March 18, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

P.S. Moore’s entire speech can be seen on video and text by calling them up from Google. HK