On Liz Cheney & the Vicious Circle

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It’s quite the spectacle watching Republicans eat their own with the ouster of Liz Cheney — a new milestone in the deepening disintegration of the two parties and mainstream politics in general. I know it seems like the GOP is uniquely fucked up, to be blunt, but the Democrats have their own problems. Does anyone really expect the Democrats to pull us out of this collective tailspin? Obama was the beacon of hope and change for many. After eight years as President there were some improvements — Obamacare for one — but when the 2016 elections rolled around the overall conditions and prospects in people’s lives had not improved. Clinton came off as arrogant and entitled, slamming workers as “deplorables,” so they decided to take a chance on Trump. And here we are now.

We’ve been going ‘round and ‘round this vicious circle our whole lives, cycling through the two parties over and over. Our parents did the same. Remember when it was said that each generation would do better than the last? You don’t hear that now! The two parties have had ample opportunity to make good. It’s time to break free of this vicious circle. It’s time for a Labor Party not beholden to the established powers or to the employers. It’s time we take our collective fate into our own hands. In just the past 45 days these labor struggles have been taking place around the country. These actions are admittedly scattered and only involve a relative handful of workers so far, but they point the way forward:

  • 1,300 United Steelworkers members strike against Allegheny Technologies in Pennsylvania.
  • Over 1,100 coal miners in United Mine Workers strike against Warrior Met Coal in Alabama.
  • Teamsters Local 120 is locked-out by Marathon Petroleum in Minnesota.
  • Over 1,000 food-delivery workers protest in Manhattan demanding a livable wage and decent working conditions.
  • Over 200 UAW members strike against Prysmian Group in East Texas.
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and supporters picket Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis demanding a contract.
  • 800 nurses strike in Worcester, Massachusetts. (See image)
  • Medical technicians, therapists and other workers at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon, win their first union contract.
  • United Steelworkers Local 1016-3 signs a 4-year contract with NLMK Steel in Pennsylvania after a 6-month strike.
  • Teamsters Local 89 strikes against DSI Tunneling for a contract in Kentucky.
  • Amazon workers conduct a widely-publicized election in Bessemer, Alabama. They lost this round but gained experience for next time.

All comments are welcome. I only ask that we remain civil and respectful of one another. If you clicked over from Facebook, please comment here rather than back there.

2 thoughts on “On Liz Cheney & the Vicious Circle

  1. I’m for unions in general, but not for forced participation. I was forced to join the IBEW when I worked for Verizon. I got paid the same as everyone else even though I had 10+ years experience. The only thing that made the job worth it was the incentives offered by the company, not the union. Unions are in so deep with the Democratic party, union dues are just a way to give to the party.
    The Democratic party in turn gives massive amounts to unions. I don’t see a way to break the cycle with unions and Democrats. They traded their ties with mobsters to politicians.

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    1. The problem you describe dates all the way back to the beginning of World War II. The labor bureaucrats at that time subordinated the needs of workers to the war effort, pledging their loyalty to the Roosevelt Administration. They gave Roosevelt a ‘No Strike Pledge’ that was supposedly only temporary but has continued on until this day. Most union contracts today include a No Strike clause that hamstrings workers. Employers can violate contracts with near impunity, bogging workers down in endless grievance technicalities — during which workers must continue working. I was a member of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) for 27 years. I was involved in three grievances during that time, none settled satisfactorily. In one case, the union’s in-house attorney blatantly sold us out.

      The problem, long-standing and serious as it is, is not in the unions per se — that is, the workers — but in the leadership which is in bed with the employers, including the connection in some cases to organized crime. There is a way to break this cycle, though. I mention one in my post: creation of a Labor Party not beholden to the employers. It is critical that the unions break with both the Democrats and the Republicans. Despite their surface differences, both parties serve the interests of the employers against workers.

      And the unions must adopt a class-conscious orientation and strategy. The immense power of this approach was demonstrated in 1934 in Minneapolis and in subsequent struggles. For this I refer you to a post on my other blog entitled The Proven Power of Labor. There will find, if you’re interested and want to take the time, a 4-part talk that describes this perspective and its application in Minneapolis. There’s also a 4-book series linked there that covers the same. Both the talk and the books are by Farrell Dobbs who participated personally in all of it.

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