LaborTalk for April 16, 2012

AFL-CIO's Rallies Pretend to Fight Wall Street;
When Will We Be Defended with Real Action?

By Harry Kelber

Over the past two years, the AFL-CIO has staged a number of rallies and marches to demand that the bankers and investors of Wall Street "pay their fair share" to compensate the millions of people who lost their jobs and homes because of their reckless, greedy behavior.

Remember AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's "Make Wall Street Pay" in front of the Bank of America? Trumka never confronted the bankers or suggested negotiations for a settlement. The Wall Street bankers and financiers never paid a dime. And Trumka dropped the AFL-CIO campaign two days later.

Now, AFL-CIO leaders have decided to call on some 100,000 union members and allies to demonstrate on Tuesday, April 17, "Tax Day" and also "Equal Pay Day." Unions across the country will be spending lots of time, money and resources to make the demonstration a success.

But does any union member believe that Congress and the White House will be listening? Haven't they heard the same speeches by our leaders many times before — and ignored them?

Does anyone expect Wall Street to respond to the April 17 spectacles by disgorging their two trillion dollars in cash that could be used to provide jobs for the millions of people it has victimized by its reckless, greedy financial behavior?

Trumka and the AFL-CIO Executive Council know that reliance on marches and e-mails won't win support in Washington. So why do they refuse to engage in actions that will command the attention of Congress and the White House? Their cool, soft-pedal activities underestimate the anger and despair that millions of workers are feeling, frustrated by leaders who have no plan of action to improve workers' lives.

There's No Evidence That Our Leaders Are Feeling Our Rage

While Trumka and other top labor leaders make militant speeches that present our demands, they are not accompanied by strong actions to re-enforce those demands. They have learned nothing from the civil rights movement and avoid non-violence actions.

It is hard to find evidence of Trumka's empathy with the plight of the unemployed. He has clung to his six-figure salary, not offering to take a 5 percent pay cut as a symbol of his solidarity with workers who have not seen a paycheck in months, maybe longer.

AFL-CIO leaders can be categorized as talkers. They are not "do-ers." The best of them can analyze a situation, and then leave it to others to try to turn the analysis into a winner. That's not enough leadership during the crisis that we are now enduring.

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What we desperately need is "do-ers," leaders who know when and how to take risks and come out as winners.

LaborTalk will be posted here on April 18, 2012 and on our two web sites and on

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