If youíve been paying attention, you already
know that Vice President Al Gore is well on his way to winning the
2000 Democratic Presidential nomination. The Al Gore fundraising
program is pulling in millions, and challenger Bill Bradley, while
also on a fundraising binge, is lagging. Much of organized labor
has already lined up behind Gore, with most unions just waiting
for the signal to make it official. Political predictions are
dangerous, but Iíll make one anyway: We are headed for a
Gore-Bush contest in November 2000.
Now Iíll really go out on a limb with prediction
number two: The 2000 presidential race will pretty much amount to
dueling boredom. Thatís right, dueling boredom. Both of these
guys will show us their wives and families over and over again.
This is already underway. Both will be "for education."
Both will be "for family values." Both will be "for
continued prosperity." Gore will work hard to convince
everyone that his policies will be just like Clintonís. Heíll
work overtime to prove that his personal life is nothing like
Clintonís. Bush will go on and on about how he really is just a
softy, unlike all of the antilabor, right-wing fanatics from his
dadís administration that heís hired for his campaign staff.
Prediction number three: Neither of these guys will talk very much
about the real issues facing working people. And if they do, we
wonít get any specifics.
So Where Does Al
Given a Gore-Bush contest, I would hope I donít
have to convince you that Bush is solidly antilabor. But what
about Gore? What does he really amount to when it comes to the
problems of organized labor and working people? Letís take a
We want some SPECIFICS. If elected President, will you:
1. Guarantee that you will lead a major push for a workersí bill
of rights that includes "card check" union recognition
and real penalties for bosses who break the law?
2. Guarantee that you will double the staff of the National Labor
3. Guarantee that you will enforce the law and make union-busting
consultants disclose their finances and activities?
4. Guarantee that you will lead a major push to restore the right
to strike by enacting anti-scab legislation?
5. Guarantee that you will stop labor law violators from doing
business with the federal government?
Gore recently told a union audience that he was
once a member of the Newspaper Guild. That sounds pretty good. He
also says heís against all the Republican antilabor attacks of
recent years, like overtime pay repeal. Thatís good too.
However, Gore fully supports every job-killing "free
trade" scheme that has come along lately. Pardon me while I
gag. Whatís more, heís all in favor of firing federal workers,
I checked the Gore campaign website for his labor
positions, and found virtually nothing. Posted on the site were 43
of Alís recent speeches, including one to the antilabor
Democratic Leadership Council. But not one speech was to a labor
union. Why not? Could it be that Gore wants to downplay his
contact with labor so as not to offend the corporate bigwigs
financing his campaign?
And yet quietly, Al Gore has been working hard to
convince labor that heís on our side. A couple of months back,
he told the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Florida that he
supported our right to organize. He said we needed to "change
the laws." But he didnít give any specifics.
And this, friends, is the heart of the problem.
Clinton never gave us any specifics either, and you all know how
much progress weíve made under his regime. Without any
specifics, how can anybody get excited about supporting this guy?
Are the members of your union excited yet?
Donít worry, Iíll give you some specifics on
Mr. Gore. As you probably know, Gore has headed up the
"National Partnership for Reinventing Government," which
claims responsibility for eliminating thousands of federal jobs.
In early May, this Gore outfit gave an award to National Labor
Relations Board general counsel Fred Feinstein for figuring out a
way to handle labor board cases without enough staff to do the job
right. Because of the chronic backlog of NLRB cases ó due in
part to the acute shortage of staff ó Fred was forced to shift
cases between offices to try to get the job done. Fred deserves an
award for this heroic juggling effort. And Al Gore should be
denounced for this latest "reinvention" disgrace.
Does the Vice President support a real solution to
this outrageous backlog of NLRB cases? Not at all. Does Gore
support a doubling of NLRB staff so that union elections and
unfair labor practice cases could be processed in a week or two?
No. At least not yet. Instead, Gore decides to give an award to
Mr. Feinstein for stretching his too-small staff even thinner. The
next time I run into Gore, Iím going to remind him that me and
all the other union members out here who depend on the NLRB are
citizens, not just "customers" (as the Reinventing
Government people like to think of us) waiting in line for the
legal equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.
Another Sore Subject
On an equally sore subject, has Gore pledged to
enforce the already sorry labor laws that are on the books? Nope.
Just to take one example: Did Gore commit to enforcing the totally
unenforced law that says that union-busting consultants and the
companies that hire them need to file financial and activity
disclosure forms with the Department of Labor? Did you even know
that this law existed? While the financial information of labor
unions ó our LM forms ó are made public to every union-buster
who asks for them, anti-union "consultants" and their
employers have gone more than 20 years without complying with the
law that says they need to file similar forms. Instead of letting
Al Gore natter on about being "for continued
prosperity," why donít we make an issue of this? Letís
ask Gore about it and see what he says. As far as Iím concerned,
itís a hot campaign issue.
Build the Labor Party!
Whatís the lesson here? You know. We keep
electing Democrats who never give us anything SPECIFIC. And we let
them off the hook by never asking. So when they never deliver, itís
shame on us. When they get elected, they pretty much proceed to
ignore us, responding instead to the business tycoons who finance
their campaigns and make up their inner circle of confidants. And
organized labor looks ridiculous ó again. The average union
member reacts to this cycle by getting even more disgusted,
cynical, and demoralized.
Whatís the solution to this agony? Join and
build the Labor Party. Now. No excuses. Go to your next local
union meeting and put the Labor Party discussion on the agenda.
And get specific: Who are you going to ask to join the Labor
Party? And when Al Gore comes around on the campaign trail, make
HIM get specific.
Chris Townsend is Political Action Director of the United Electrical,
Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).