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Capitol Hill Shop Steward

The New Administration
Mr. Bush and
His Bad News

As featured in
Labor Party Press

From Tax Cuts for the Rich ... 
... to Attacks on Organized Labor ...

Now that George W. Bush is in office, we have a pretty good idea where we are heading. None of it is good news, and of course we were not expecting any. And since good news from Washington D.C. has been in short supply for many years, we all know what to do.

Like many of us in the labor movement, I’ve spent the past two decades fighting one battle after another, always against tremendous odds. While we have lost more than we have won over the past 20 years, our movement is always better off putting up a fight. No resistance only invites more Republican assaults on our unions, our jobs and living standards, and our threadbare safety net. Too little resistance also allows corporate Democrats to sneak over into the Republican column, as some of them are prone to do, with little price to pay. Besides, fighting is more fun than giving up.

The Bush regime has several attacks lined up and ready to go. Here’s some of what I would expect to see in the coming months.


The New Year celebration had barely died down when Bush invited his best corporate friends to an economic summit meeting in Texas. At least he takes some of his orders from corporate America in public. In a no-nonsense, no-shame-at-all style, the three dozen assembled business bigwigs told Bush exactly what to do. General Electric CEO and near business god Jack Welch sat next to Bush during one photo session just to reassure the nation’s business leaders that all was under control.

These guys want massive tax cuts, ASAP. Get ready for a big battle on this one, folks. This tax-cut scheme amounts to nothing more than a plan to put hundreds of billions of dollars into the hands of corporations and rich people. The same corporations and rich people who are already some of the least taxed on planet earth.

Bush has already dusted off the old Ronald Reagan speeches/lies about giving rich people tax breaks so they can invest the money and create jobs, blah, blah, blah. We will have to get busy to make sure that the public relations stampede over our looming recession doesn’t sweep dozens of corporate Democrats into the tax-cuts-for-the-rich column. Some of them are already there.


Inherited from the Clinton administration, the so-called Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) would essentially expand the North American Free Trade Agreement to include Central and South America, finishing the job that NAFTA started. If it passes, hundreds of thousands more U.S. manufacturing jobs will pass along with it. The fight to stop the FTAA will be uphill, but not impossible. Once again, we’ll have to launch an all-out effort to stop corporate Democrats from caving in to big business demands to help them speed up the movement of U.S. factories to the global sweatshop network.


The first Republican attacks on public education are already being cooked up in some not-so-secret talks with members of the pro-business Democratic Leadership Council. Andrew Rotherham, director of education policy for the group, told The Hill newspaper that "if you are looking for an issue where early on there can be a bipartisan consensus, then education seems like a likely compromise." Be on the lookout for an expansion of federal aid to the states with few strings attached. More funding is great, but the no-strings part gives antilabor and anti-public school elected officials at the state and local level maximum wiggle room with federal money.

As expected, Bush is already pushing hard for all manner of "high-stakes" testing for our school kids. Keep in mind the real purpose of these "tests": Once you establish that millions of children in our underfunded schools can’t pass, you create the panic to solve the problem with vouchers, privatization, etc., thus further sapping the strength of public schools. The Republican attacks on public education can be turned back, but we’ll have to keep the heat on lawmakers regardless of which party they belong to.


Specifically anti-union legislation drafted by the Republicans is currently at the print shop. My guess is that they will start the attack with either some version of "paycheck protection" — the scheme to make it difficult or even illegal to spend union dues money on political information, education, or action — or some version of "comp-time" and "flex-time."

Let’s make sure we all know what’s going on with both of these deceptively named attacks. "Paycheck protection," if passed in any form at all, would deal a severe blow to organized labor’s basic right of free speech by requiring unions to get in advance every individual union member’s permission to engage in political action. The move is meant to drown unions in paperwork and legalities, impairing their ability to represent workers’ political interests.

With so-called comp-time or flex-time legislation, big business merely wants the freedom to make you work more than 40 hours a week without having to pay you time-and-a-half. Instead, they can promise you time off later or maybe hand you your own self-generated Christmas bonus at the end of the year. Let this bill go through, and we may lose overtime pay as well as the right to paid sick and vacation leave, all in one fell swoop.

Other attacks on labor loom from the rancid Republican majority. Legislation to legalize banned "company unions" — the so-called "Teamwork Act" — will be back, along with a national effort to exterminate the union or agency shop via a national "right to work" bill.

And my all-time favorite anti-union bill is sure to make an appearance as well: the "anti-salting" bill. This utterly outrageous piece of legislation would give the boss the right to refuse to hire you, or to fire you, because he thinks you are, might be, or might have been, a union member, union sympathizer, or just someone who once heard of the labor movement. Expect some tough slugging on this front.


Other battles are likely to break out. Public sector workers will face renewed efforts to "reinvent" or privatize their members onto the unemployment line. Corporate mergers will accelerate, each one bringing with it new downsizing and plant closing announcements. The near-complete lack of enforcement of our already weak antitrust laws will, of course, continue. The sad reality, brothers and sisters, is that the next four years may not be any worse on these two fronts than the last eight years have been. The record supports such a grim assertion.

Faced with the solidly antilabor Bush administration, we already know what to do. Fight back. Fight back more. And dare to go on the offensive: Ask someone to join the Labor Party today. Let’s get busy!

Chris Townsend is political action director of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).

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