LaborTalk for December 2, 2011

Where is the 'Independent Political Voice'
That Trumka Promised AFL-CIO Members?
Who Decides Labor's Agenda for the 2012 Elections?

By Harry Kelber

At a Labor Day press conference, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka announced the formation of an "independent labor voice" that will promote its own economic and political agenda. Trumka was responding to union members who want to break with the AFL-CIO's dependency on the Democratic Party.

Yet three months later, there is no evidence that even initial steps have been taken to create "labor's independent voice." Nor has Trumka initiated the "year-round activity" of the AFL-CIO, still another of his unkept promises.

As a sign of labor independence, Trumka publicly stated that the AFL-CIO will support only candidates that will speak out in favor of measures that affect working families. It is not clear how such a policy will be carried out. In some instances, the Federation will run its own candidates.

With the 2012 election campaigns heating up, the AFL-CIO still has some policy decisions to make and how they will be carried out. Will state and city AFL-CIO affiliates and local unions have the freedom to choose their own candidates or will they be required to comply with the choices of the AFL-CIO Political Committee?

How Do AFL-CIO Volunteers Respond to Outsiders' Questions?

The AFL-CIO is performing a valuable service by sending an army of volunteers to workplaces and homes of working people around the country to tell them, directly and by phone, about labor's interest in their welfare.

How will the volunteers respond when they are asked about the prospect for massive jobs programs, huge domestic spending cuts, health care coverage, outsourcing, taxes, abortion, union organizing, charges of corruption and other issues? Will the volunteers be given standardized answers on how to respond when they are questioned?

* * * * *

The participation of union members in the electoral process is an important factor of union democracy — the right of members to decide who their leaders will be and the basis of their cooperation. Otherwise, the decisions of a roomful of members of the AFL-CIO Political Committee become the enshrined policies of more than 12 million union dues payers.

There is still 11 months before the election — time to open up a series of regional forums and the AFL-CIO News Blog to comments from members that can help clarify controversial issues.

Let members speak. After all, they, collectively, own the AFL-CIO, not their elected officers.

LaborTalk will be posted here on December 6, 2011 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

Powered by YMLP.com