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Harry Kelber
The Labor Educator|laboreducator.org
Opinions
Leaders have no plan to attract recruits; Trumka still gets his $293,000 annual pay

With the loss of 400,000 union members in only one year — 2012 — we are witnessing the final stages in the collapse of the AFL-CIO.

The evidence of its growing irrelevance is clear enough. It did not mobilize its members in a national campaign to fight against the corporate-right-wing offensive to cripple unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and several other Republican-controlled states.

Leaders like Rich Trumka, Liz Shuler and Arlene Holt, with six-figure salaries, knew that even if union members lost wages and benefits, they would get their full annual pay and pensions, win or lose.

There still is no sense of urgency at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington that something must be done to make union membership appealing to the millions of workers who say they’d like to be union members. But no one, including Trumka, has come forward with a plan to increase recruiting new members. read more »

 

If President Obama, as predicted, wins his election for a second term as President of the United States, he will be less beholden to American labor for his victory than for his first election in 2008.

In 2008, he hungered for the financial support and army of volunteers that the unions freely gave him. He desperately needed unions to help him carry the key industrial states that assured his election as president.

President Obama did very little to express his appreciation for labor’s support, except in an occasional speech. He forgot his promise to press for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) within 100 days of his election. AFL-CIO unions, under heavy attack, were counting on EFCA to “level the playing field between labor and management.” read more »

 

It’s been nearly four years since we were being told that the economic recession was officially over; yet today, there are 14 million people who are still listed as unemployed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (And we’re not counting the additional 12 million who are part-timers and temporary workers, and those who finally gave up looking for work in a bleak job market.)

Labor Leaders were virtually unanimous in praising President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill, with some economists estimating that it would create as many as 2 to 3 million jobs by the end of 2013. But with Republicans strongly opposed, the Jobs Act has little chance of being approved by Congress, especially since there is no agreement as to who would pay for the $447 billion bill. read more »

 

Let’s take an inventory of what we’ve done and where we stand in our top priority campaign for jobs for our unemployed.

We’ve tackled the jobs issue with a record number of conferences, workshops, strategy sessions, rallies marches, picket lines, sit-ins and vigils, We’ve distributed tons of leaflets and pamphlets, used radio and TV programs, created videos and messages on Internet web sites, all designed to educate union members and involve them in the fight for jobs. read more »

 

Although the unemployment rate edged up to 9 percent in April 2011 and 13.9 million Americans are still officially listed as unemployed, the issue of job-creation has virtually ceased to occupy the attention of Congress, the Obama administration and the national media.

As for the labor movement, unions have dropped their campaign for jobs, focusing their efforts on fighting the anti-labor laws that Republican governors and their controlled state legislatures have enacted. read more »

 

So the AFL-CIO has developed a partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of its worst enemies, that has opposed labor legislation for longer than most of us can remember.

What we gain from this strange partnership is the lobbying power of the three-million member Chamber in the fight for a job-creating, costly infrastructure, while it continues to lobby for cuts in government spending. Are we blind to the contradiction? read more »

 

In its expensive, high priority campaign to get Congress to approve the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), the AFL-CIO made important strategic blunders that virtually assured that EFCA would end up as still-born legislation.

Its initial mistake was to inform members of Congress that unless it received government assistance by passing EFCA, it could not organize millions of workers who wanted to join unions, but were afraid that their boss would take revenge and probably fire them.

To make their case, union leaders displayed workers who had been fired for trying to join a union. read more »

 
Conflict between the two crafts intensifies

More than 600 union electricians in St. Louis formed a moving informational picket line around the headquarters of the Carpenters District Council, whose Local 57 had been created to perform electrical work at prices and wages about 20 percent lower than the scale set by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

With IBEW’s Local 1 and Carpenters Local 57 both competing for electrical work in the St. Louis region, the fear is that the continuing dispute will cause non-union contractors to flood into the area, putting in jeopardy the jobs of 30,000 construction workers in the region. Construction unemployment is over 30 percent in St. Louis. read more »

 
Could Provide Thousands of Construction Jobs

Over the last 15 years, 150,000 public housing units have been lost, because of a lack of repairs on buildings that were erected a half century ago. Those dilapidated buildings were sold or torn down, because housing agencies did not have the funds for the extensive repairs they required. An additional 5,700 units are to be removed from federal housing programs.

The housing authorities have fallen so far behind in their repair schedule that a gaping ceiling hole with dripping water won’t be fixed for a year or more. New York City alone has a three-year backlog of repair requests. read more »

 
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