Did unions drop the ball ignoring Edwards?

Excerpt of the opinion piece, which a lot of us were wondering about:

The Glorious Future that American Unions Walked Away From
by Ian Welsh at HuffingtonPost.com


Unions in America have been in a decline for over 60 years. Union membership has dropped from almost 35% of all workers in 1945 to less than 15% today. In fact, union membership has declined to almost exactly the same percentage as it was in 1930 before FDR took power and encouraged the growth of unions. The first crucial battle the unions lost came after FDR died, when over Truman's veto the Taft-Hartly Act was passed in 1947. Truman called the Taft-Hartly Act a "slave labor bill".

Since then unions have lost critical battle after battle; the mainline old unions centered around industrial concerns like GM and Ford have shrunk to a tiny fraction of their former self; and despite the efforts of the SEIU unions and others, new economy workers mostly have not been organized.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), created by the Wagner Act in 1935 as independent agency of United States Governments holds the official mandate to conduct elections for labor union representation and to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. Under the Bush administration, the NLRB has:

Unions have spent the last 7 years under assault by the Bush NLRB.

The union movement, it is fair to say, is in many respects in its weakest position in over 60 years.

Another 4 or 8 years of a Republican presidency could doom American unions, pushing them below 10% and subjecting them to more and more hostile NLRB rulings, which will cripple what ability they have to organize. Even a moderate Democratic president who halts the slide at the NLRB but doesn't reverse it will leave unions in a shaky situation....(continued with paragraph omissions)

All of the Republican candidates would be awful for labor, and differ only by the degrees of the horror they would unleash.

Amongst the Democratic candidates it's safe to say that Hilary Clinton, who has as her main advisor a union buster and whose husband did very little for unions, would be a largely status quo President. Her board would be decent, she'd be bad but not awful on trade, and she wouldn't sink a lot of personal capital into union issues.

As with many things with Obama, it's hard to determine how good or bad he'd be, but one has to have their doubts about a Democratic candidate who argued that union advertisements in Iowa were unacceptable, and who acted as if union money were the equivalent of corporate money. Certainly there are those who see unions and corporation as little different--but they aren't friends of unions.

John Edwards has spent the last four years working with unions, walking their picket lines and making their cause his. He's clearly the most pro-union of the three remaining candidates; his primary issue is economic justice and he believes that corporations have too much power. His campaign, from the very beginning, was predicated on union support.

But unions didn't reciprocate..... (continued with paragraph omissions)

Neither Clinton (experience) nor Obama (non-partisan change) will come into office with a mandate to help unions.

I can only assume that labor read too many polls and made too many political calculations. Unsure of who would win they went with the "inevitable" candidate (Clinton) instead of the one who had spent 4 years working for and with them. And as a result, if Obama or Clinton win, Unions are going to get a Democratic president who appreciates their help (just like Bill Clinton did) but who isn't really willing to go all out for them (just like Bill Clinton didn't).

The irony here is that if labor had taken a strong stand and put their own best interests first instead of triangulating and currying political favor, the strongest pro-labor candidate would be in the lead today.

Unions would have had a good chance to elect a massively pro-union president--who would have owed them his presidency.

Imagine that alternate world.

Now instead, imagine what four more years without solid support for all American workers and radical reform at the NLRB will mean for you, your pocketbook, and your family.

Decisions like these are what has made the American union movement what it is today.

Full opinion piece can be found here


M.R.F said...


To answer the question from the post's title: YES.

Not only would Edwards be the best candidate for the dems in the general election, but he's the most progressive, most pro-labor candidate.

He gets the "phony" tag from big media, but why would a rich, handsome former Senator spend 3 years organizing with and addressing labor's needs if he didn't really care about the working class? If he wanted to be president at any cost, why bank on the huddled, ragged masses to get you there instead of the folks with the money and the cameras? If he "kissed the rings" of big media and wall street last year he would be flush with corporate cash and would be getting not-stop coverage on the networks. Instead he's ridiculed and/or ignored.

Nice site. Keep up the good work.


Joe638NYC said...

Thanks Mike, you have a very nice Blog yourself, I see the Edward's piece got you on a tangent. I hear you man. Thats the most read blog post on this site yet.

M.R.F said...


Um, yeah--I read the Ian Welsh post on Huffpo first, then blogged about it. Later, after a reread, I followed a link to your blog from the list of "blogs that linked here" at the bottom of the piece and read your response to it. Since I had already blogged about it, I didn't link back to your blog. I'll add a link back here, though, as you're really kicking ass over here and I think all two of my readers (on a good day) would enjoy this blog. Seriously, keep up the great work, I wish I was as prolific and talented.

Not to presume anything, but are you a Ron Paul supporter, or just a media critic who thinks he's being under-reported on? I'm probably misinformed, but I thought Dr. Paul would have about as much love for unions as he does for chewing gum on the bottom of his shoe.


Joe638NYC said...

Thanks Mike, I was just breakin' chops about the link, I really enjoyed visiting your blog and will do it often.

As far as Ron Paul, I would vote him over all the Republicans, I do not like Hillary and Obama, I feel that they will continue the status quo and strengthen the chances that my relatives will be drafted. My sincerest top choice would have been Kucinich, but he was totally Censored. For the labor movement Edwards has the top elect ability. I like Ron Paul for his Constitutional ideals, repealing NAFTA and any other "Free trade" agreements, restoring privacy rights to the American public, his views that we shouldn't be borrowing money from foreign nations for constitutionally illegal preemptive wars, with tons of no-bid contracts. Unfortunately he is not a pro-labor candidate, but I also do not think he would interfere as long as bill and laws that end up in front of him are deemed constitutional. Why do I promote Ron Paul, well if the anti-union, pro establishment companies are afraid of him, and they are a tremendous reason that the country is heading in the wrong direction for the working American, then maybe he just might be a candidate that can make this a better place, without the ties to Big Business. A Ron Paul president, Dennis Kucinich vice-president and a Democratic Senate and House could accomplish great things for our country. Remember it seems the Vice-president is running things now. More status Quo will continue the downward spiral. I just like seeing that there are other options that are actually different. I strongly believe that labor should engage the idea of having it's own party. I also believe that Edwards is getting his fair share of being ignored and ridiculed by the Big Media, who comment more on his hair style than his positions, especially most recently Bill O'Reilly on how he counteracts Edwards claim of almost 200,000 homeless veterans here in the US. That was quite disgusting.

You can see where Paul and each candidate stands at OnTheIssues

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