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CAPITOL HILL SHOP STEWARD


Capitol Hill Shop Steward

Let's Ask Al Gore ó
Which Side
Are You On?

As featured in
Labor Party Press


Al Gore is behind workers (But his back is turned!)
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 Gore Stand?

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 quick look.

Dear Al Gore:

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 Relations Board?

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, ASAP. Yuck.

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.

No 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).


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