When someone joins the Labor Party or when a union decides to
affiliate, it’s always the "main course" issues that help them
make up their minds. I’m talking about the main reasons any working person
would want to join the Labor Party. Here’s a review of the "main
course" as far as I’m concerned:
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans supports a national
health care system. Both have fired vast numbers of public-sector employees
via "privatization" and "reinvention." Manufacturing
workers have been slaughtered by the millions as Republicans and Democrats
push trade schemes that help corporations export good U.S. jobs. Presidents
from both major parties routinely break railroad and airline strikes. Neither
does anything about desperately needed labor law reform. George W. Bush and Al
Gore both want government to offer "private savings accounts,"
opening the door to the destruction of Social Security. And let’s not forget
that Big Business and rich people provide virtually all financial support for
the Republican Party and most of it for Democrats.
But these things, my friends, are only a few of the dishes on
a very big, very ugly buffet table. In just about every newspaper I find new
items to add to what I call the "appetizers" list — all kinds of
little tidbits and snacks that would turn your stomach, if only you knew about
them. All are reminders that the Democrats are hell-bent on imitating
Republicans on issue after issue. Try these:
THE OLD SWITCHEROO
Back in April, the Washington Post reported that the largest
single donation received by the Democratic National Committee was $350,000
from SBC Communications, the West Coast telephone giant. And in the same
newspaper, it was revealed that a class-action lawsuit was filed against the
company on behalf of 40,000 current and former employees. It seems that SBC
pulled a switcheroo with stocks in employees’ 401(k) plans, apparently
switching valuable for less valuable stocks. By the way, did the DNC return
the donation pending resolution of the lawsuit? Well, what do you think?
AN ENRICHING EXPERIENCE
In mid-June, the Wall Street Journal reported that USEC Inc.
— the company that won the privatization sweepstakes and runs two government
uranium enrichment plants — is going to close its plant in Piketon, Ohio.
More than 1,700 workers, most of them members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial,
Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE, a Labor Party union), will be out on the
street. When the Clinton Administration doled out the sweet privatization deal
to USEC in 1998, they gave the company a loophole that allows it to close one
of the plants if company bonds ever hit junk-bond status. They did. Never mind
that such a flimsy outfit should never have been handling such important
material in the first place, or that USEC’s CEO was paid a salary and bonus
package in 1999 amounting to $1.2 million. Has the Clinton Administration or
Al Gore made a pledge to end this out-of-control privatization experiment?
HOW ABOUT A LITTLE DISCIPLINE?
A couple of weeks ago, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call
ran a cover article entitled "Absentees imperil GOP’s advantage."
It seems that so many Republican members of Congress are missing work that the
party is concerned about their ability to get things done. But don’t worry.
Toward the end of the article it is revealed that Democrats Matthew Martinez
of California and Jim Traficant of Ohio have been jumping in to prop up the
Republicans on party-loyalty votes. Fortunately, Martinez is on his way out
after losing in the primary to a pro-labor Democrat. Traficant is under
federal investigation and is rumored to be switching to the Republican Party.
JUST IN TIME FOR THE COOKOUT
Right before July 4, the Washington Post reported that the
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE, another LP union) won a
federal appeals court ruling stopping the Clinton Administration from turning
over most meat inspection to the same companies that are slaughtering and
packing the nation’s meat and poultry. The AFGE case literally saves lives,
since now AFGE members will continue to check for contamination
carcass-by-carcass. The Agriculture Department wanted these civil servants to
check for germs from behind their desks. Let’s ask Al Gore if he supports
boosting the number of inspectors checking our national food supply.
UNION BUSTERS AGREE
In late June the union-busting Gannett USA Today
"newspaper" ran a story headlined "Gore/Bush: When it comes to
economics, the differences are hard to find." That’s as far as I got,
because I don’t read USA Today in support of our fellow workers in Detroit.
The hotel drops it at your door every day even if you tell them not to.
At the end of June, the Washington Post reported that General
Electric had hired former members of Congress Bob Livingston (R-LA) and Vic
Fazio (D-CA). It seems that GE needed help killing an amendment to a bill that
would have forced them to hurry up with plans to dredge PCBs from the Hudson
River (GE polluted the Hudson with this deadly toxin decades ago). In the end,
GE’s bipartisan investment in these two gentlemen paid off, with the
amendment failing by 208 to 216. President Clinton likes to play golf with GE
chairman Jack Welch. I wonder if Al Gore likes golf?
And to top off the list of goodies, let’s not forget that Al
Gore recently bade farewell to his campaign manager, the scandal-plagued
former congressman Tony Coelho. And to the delight of working people
everywhere, the Gore campaign has replaced him with none other than William
Daley, the current friend-of-big-business Commerce Secretary. Daley, the
Clinton Administration’s chief salesman on the China trade bill and the WTO,
was architect of the 1993 passage of NAFTA.
Feeling a bit queasy? It must have been something you ate.
Maybe it was one of the appetizers. So better get busy on the only cure I know
of — go ask someone to join the Labor Party.
Chris Townsend is political action director of the United
Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).