Organized labor delivered its votes to President Obama nine days ago, as did voters who at least sympathize with the causes of labor. Now the question is, will Obama deliver back—and by deliver, I don’t mean coming through for the elites who run the unions and profit off the dues, but for the authentic interests of the rank-and-file. There’s little reason for optimism.
The reports surfaced earlier this week that labor leaders met with Obama regarding what to do about the “fiscal cliff” the overly dramatic Washington term for a needed deficit reduction package that will automatically trigger on January 1 if the White House and Congress don’t reach an alternate accord. Nowhere in the reports was it evident that labor was willing to flex its muscle in to pressuring the president into a change on the trade policies that continue to gut Midwestern manufacturing.
Both parties have a record of running roughshod over manufacturing workers, and Obama has continued in that bipartisan tradition. The most recent example came in October 2011 he submitted free trade deals with South Korea, Panama & Colombia to Congress for approval. All three nations, particularly the latter two, have lower wage & environmental standards than the United States. The lowering and elimination of tariff barriers (taxes placed on imports) mean corporations are free to move plants to these countries, pay substandard wages and ship back into the lucrative American market without penalty.
The Congress, led by the Republican House, enthusiastically passed all three agreements. Apparently Speaker Boehner and Obama can play nice together on certain topics. And the agreements themselves all had their origins under George W. Bush. Apparently this is one mess Obama wasn’t anxious to blame on his predecessor.
It probably comes as no surprise to the average voter that the GOP elite would do the bidding of corporations. The leadership of the Democratic Party, the current White House occupant included, have done a much better job spinning themselves as defenders of the working class, even as they cooperate with the implementation of policies that continue to destroy the Rustbelt.
The reason Obama—and the Democrats in general—are successful in this bait-and-switch game is that the leaders of organized labor cooperate. The elite leadership is more interested in a radical left-wing political agenda, while its members want wages, benefits and job security. The elite leadership knows they can keep their power base just as easily by bringing more government workers into the mix, thus making their private sector counterparts expendable.
Right now is the time for the rank-and-file in the Midwest to stand up and be counted. They handed Obama a win in every state except Indiana. It is he that is properly subservient to their economic interests, not they to his left-wing agenda. Demand that Democrats in the Senate and in the White House start the process of repealing these agreements and replace them worker-friendly trade policies that base tariff rates on the trading nation’s wage and environmental standards.
I didn’t vote for President Obama, first and foremost because of his radical pro-abortion posture and his assault on religious liberty, but also because I’ve been quite convinced of his double-talk on working-class economic issues. Those that did vote for him ought to call in their chits now.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com