Mr. Trumka Goes to Washington


AFL-CIO blusterer in chief Dick Trumka takes both barrels from In These Times reporter and labor organizer Mike Elk over his loyalty to the Democratic Party: 

Trumka said that labor had not been "aggressive enough" in pushing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would give workers the option to unionize via card check rather than elections. The AFL-CIO even backed a primary challenge to Blanche Lincoln after she failed to back EFCA. (Although it was the only primary against a Democrat opposed to labor interests last years, and many claim labor's decision to primary her was made easy by polls that showed her already losing in a landslide in the general election.)

When Trumka's decision to oppose something actually mattered, he dropped the tough talk and did whatever the Democratic Party asked of him. Trumka threatened that the AFL-CIO might not support the final healthcare reform if it did not include a public option, an employer mandate, and was free of tax on healthcare plans. The final healthcare bill failed to do any of those three things—indeed, the healthcare bill President Obama signed into law in early 2010 hurt union members whose benefits would be taxed under the plan.

Trumka not only supported the bill, but threatened Democrat lawmakers on the left who were on the fence about supporting the bill.  

I interviewed Trumka at the October 2 2010 One Nation Coming Together Rally and asked him about whether he would criticize the Democratic senators who blocked a vote on ending those tax cuts in his speech. He said: "No I won't, today is about America coming together. This is not a day for a politics." Later in his speech, Trumka would indeed talk politics, but only by urging rally participants to get out and vote for Democrats without denouncing any of their bad policies.

Similarly, AFL-CIO was mute in criticizing CEOs close to the president who continued to export jobs overseas. After a speech at the National Press Club, I asked Trumka if he was upset with Obama for meeting with some of the leading job exporters in the United States and not denouncing them. Trumka responded: "We aren't going to denounce the president in public for meeting with the CEOs. The president doesn't communicate well with me in the press. I talk in private with the president about these matters."

As Elk points out, the AFL-CIO has always been Janus-faced in its support for Democrats, dating back to George Meany in the 1960s. But assuming the peons could replace Trumka with someone who wasn't Beltway baptized, then what? Would the AFL-CIO oppose electable Democrats and risk getting more Scott Walkers? Doubtful. 

NEXT: ObamaCare's Day in Court

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  1. Squawk! Citizens United!

  2. The peons, huh? Is that what libertarians think of people so low as to join a union?

    1. While I can’t speak for reason, I certainly do. Watch this and you will too, Assman.


      1. JEFFREY BROWN: As the end of the school year approaches, thousands of teachers across the country are facing the prospect of being laid off. And that’s prompting questions about the role of seniority in determining which teachers stay and who is let go.

        NewsHour special correspondent John Tulenko reports from Hartford, Conn.

        WOMAN: OK. You have got to take it piece by piece, remember?

        JOHN TULENKO: Last summer, when Helena Richie was looking for a teaching job in Hartford, Conn., she got a call from Principal Gerald Martin, inviting her to an interview late on a Friday afternoon.

        GERALD MARTIN, Rawson School: I needed a fifth grade teacher. And I was kind of pressed for it. She said, “Well, I can come Monday.”

        And I said, “OK, Monday?”

        And she said: “You know what? I can come today.”

        JOHN TULENKO: She was hired. And she hasn’t disappointed.

        GERALD MARTIN: She had, on the first round of testing, the highest number of increases of anyone in grades three, four and five.

        JOHN TULENKO: But recently, budget cuts forced Martin to eliminate two positions. And he knew right away who would have to go.

        GERALD MARTIN: And I’m saying, oh my God. I just hired her. I have finally got someone, you know, who is working out really well.

        JOHN TULENKO: And yet she’s the one who has to go.

        GERALD MARTIN: She has to go. And that’s — that’s — that kind of breaks my professional heart.

        JOHN TULENKO: Martin has no choice because in Hartford, as in most places, layoffs are based entirely on seniority. It’s last-in, first-out.

        And Richie was last in. But now, with yet another round of teacher layoffs coming in Hartford and across the country, opposition to seniority is growing.

        STEVE PERRY, Capital Preparatory High School: I don’t care how long someone has been teaching. I want results.

        1. And Andrea Johnson sucks ass. Just listen to this bitch:

          JOHN TULENKO: But seniority has defenders.

          ANDREA JOHNSON, Hartford Federation of Teachers: Experience has to count for something.

          JOHN TULENKO: Andrea Johnson heads the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

          ANDREA JOHNSON: If you were going to have an operation, I’m sure you would want the doctor with the most experience and the most time in the surgery to be your doctor. That’s the way we look at teachers.

          And I need to ask you about your latest grievance.

          JOHN TULENKO: Johnson’s union has rejected appeals from the district to base staffing decisions in part on teacher performance.

          ANDREA JOHNSON: Children come to us as they come to us. We’re just part of an equation. You have teachers. You have children. You have families. You have poverty. You have very disruptive situations within our country. It all mixes together.

          1. ANDREA JOHNSON: Children come to us as they come to us. We’re just part of an equation. You have teachers. You have children. You have families. You have poverty. You have very disruptive situations within our country. It all mixes together.

            WTF? I have no clue what exactly this is supposed to mean. I watched the video seeking some context, but found myself even more confused. That might be the dumbest statement I’ve ever heard uttered.

            1. “…and it all comes together in that great big blender we call life.”

            2. I was stunned to learn that this idiot holds the position she does.

              Her basic argument was that teachers who have ten years experience should never lose their job no matter how shitty they are because they have ten years of experience so it would not be fair.

              Just look at her doctor analogy. As I was hearing it last night I thought, whom would I want? The doddering old alcoholic surgeon with forty years in the OR, or the young guy (think Goovus Maximus) with the latest educational advances, techniques and steady hands?

            3. Children come to us as they come to us.

              It means that they admit that they can only do so much for any given child of fuck-ups and that they shouldn’t be paid less because they can’t work miracles.

              Which, in turn, means they shouldn’t be paid much more than glorified babysitters and babysitters certainly don’t need a union. They already have a club, after all…

              1. Oh, I actually get it now. I guess I just didn’t expect that candid admission that there is nothing a teacher can do, cuz like you said, it would kinda fuck the whole lion they’re a-towing about how important, critical, highly-skilled, and ergo valuable teachers are.

                But now that I think about it, she doesn’t strike me as the type who would connect those dots.

                1. JOHN TULENKO: But the Hartford School District hasn’t seen it that way and two years ago asked the state to intervene in the teachers’ contract, to change bumping and give principals more power to make staffing decisions on their own.

                  Do you trust principals to stick to education reasons?

                  ANDREA JOHNSON: No. No. And that’s where seniority comes in. There has to be something that’s fair for everybody, and I feel that that is the one. Otherwise, we get favoritism or nepotism. That — those “tisms” start jumping in there, and that’s very frightening.

                  1. “tisms”

                    That is one dumb bitch.

              2. Hey, you go to class with the children you have, not the children you wish you had.

          2. Does this woman even have a clue on how difficult it is to become a surgeon? Besides, only 5% of teachers have advanced post-graduate degrees. They can’t teach us all, can they?

            1. ANDREA JOHNSON: I don’t believe seniority is a problem. But, you know, unfortunately, folks don’t like to talk about anything but — let’s just talk about that teacher, because somebody has got to be to blame.

          3. ” If you were going to have an operation, I’m sure you would want the doctor with the most experience and the most time in the surgery to be your doctor.”

            I want the person with the most skill and knowledge to be my doctor, and while experience hones knowledge and skill, it is not a standard for it. Otherwise, the best surgeon would be an octogenerian.

    2. Hey Alan, don’t you have a review of Newsies to go write?

    3. It’s what union leadership thinks of dues-payers.

  3. The only way Trumka could look more like a union guy would be if a whistle blew in the distance and he reflexively sat his ass down on the floor for a mandated 15 minute break.

  4. Trumka takes both barrels. No surprise their.

    1. Its speled “they’re” LOL

      1. your


      2. There.

  5. None of those 3 things help unions. If everyone had rich benefits, unions have less relevance.

  6. Is that what libertarians think of people so low as to join a union?

    I prefer “parasite”.

  7. Wait, the unions exist primarily to help politicians and people in power? Well, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening before, except everywhere and all the time. Hell, it’s an explicit feature of the corporatist/fascist system.

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