The following was submitted by Pancho Valdez. Valdez is a trade unionist residing in San Antonio and is an active member of the Bexar County Greens Party.
“The definition of insanity is repeating the same failed thing over and over expecting a different outcome”- Albert Einstein
I joined my first union in December of 1971 when I was employed with the San Antonio Independent School District. As a member of the now defunct SEIU Local 84 I eagerly voted for Democrats because back then they appeared to be sympathetic to the cause of organized labor.
As time passed I eventually learned how wrong I was. However, one must remember I was only 19 at the time and what did I know about political reality?
By the mid 70s, I was working in Houston and was a member of several unions. The union that I gained the most experience and success with was Teamsters Local 968 while I worked for the old GAF Floor Tile Plant. It wasn’t soon after that I learned just how evasive and dishonest to workers elected politicians could be. My faith in the Democratic Party was beginning to deteriorate.
In the early 90s I learned about a project that the late Anthony Mazzochi was involved in. Mazzochi then an officer with the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers was proposing that organized labor create and support a political party controlled by workers, rather than corporations. At about that time, President Clinton signed into law the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement aka NAFTA. Despite labor having coughed up $35 million for his campaign against Republican Robert Dole, Clinton in typical neo-liberal fashion gave workers the shafta with NAFTA!
Mazzochi’s idea was becoming more and more interesting to me as the Democrats willingly betrayed the American working class as well as the Mexican working class in their shameless support for NAFTA! In the late 90s the Labor Party went from just an idea to becoming a reality in its founding convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Initially, I along with several other local trade unionists became quite excited and involved with the Labor Party. Unfortunately our zeal ended with the party failing to challenge either Democrats or Republicans across the nation with the exception of S. Carolina. Today the Labor Party exists on paper, but the need remains even more so that those earlier days.
As I write this article I have just learned that President Obama signed into law trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and S. Korea despite organized labor’s opposition and the fact that these “trade agreements” will cost the U.S. close to 150.000 jobs!
While I can understand Obama’s pandering to the corporate elite, I cannot accept the fact that the AFL-CIO and other major labor union bodies continue to blindly support Obama and the Democratic Party. How many more betrayals does organized labor need to experience before it says; Enough is enough? Labor’s dependency on a party that continually betrays its interests reminds me of the battered woman who continues to fall for the abusive partner’s lies and then continues to get beaten up!
Along with the Democratic Party’s/President Obama’s shameless support for the phony trade agreements, Obama has publicly supported Arne Duncan’s attack on public school teachers and their unions blaming them for the many failures of our public school system! Yet both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have both tossed in their full support for his re-election! Aside from the aforementioned Obama’s support for the Employee Free Choice legislation quickly sputtered out and is nowhere on the horizon of the Democratic Party’s platform. Yet organized labor continues to blindly follow and support the Democratic Party.
I realize that many trade unionists have this deeply ingrained belief that the DP is the party “friendly” to labor, citing the accomplishments of President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the New Deal. Under the New Deal Roosevelt signed into law Social Security, unemployment benefits, public housing, the Works Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, the National Labor Relations Act, all programs that benefited the American working class during Great Depression I.
Unfortunately, many trade unionists are not aware that the Democrats did not give us anything! These vital programs were signed into law as workers especially those affiliated with the left-led CIO demanded these benefits through mass demonstrations, sit down strikes and other militant actions in the streets and job sites! Roosevelt in order to avoid out-and-out revolution was forced to sign these programs/benefits into law!
Today we are in the midst of Great Depression II as over 25 million U.S. workers are unemployed and countless others remain underemployed! Yet our current president has publicly stated that he is “counting on the private sector” to provide the US needed jobs. THE PRIVATE SECTOR SENT MOST OF OUR BASIC INDUSTRIAL JOBS OVERSEAS! Duh!
Unfortunately, the current labor movement lacks sufficient left wingers leading it and/or the vision to see that a corporatist president isn’t going to do very much on behalf of workers and their families!
The idea of the late Tony Mazzochi is still very relevant today. Especially in light of the reactionary assault on labor and the austerity forced upon us as corporations continue to rake in record profits! We must continue to advocate for a genuine people’s party that will speak out for workers and their families, people of color, the environment, peace, gays and lesbians and others who have been ignored and betrayed by both the Democratic and Republican parties!
Above all this new party must refuse to accept corporate bribes disguised as “campaign donations” and fully support our federal Constitution, something the two major parties continue to violate!
In closing I urge all trade unionists to give serious consideration to what I have tried to communicate to you. My hope is by 2016 we will have in place a genuine people’s party that will rise from the actions of the 99% in the streets across the nation!