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Open Letter to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO

By Ralph Nader | March 28, 2012

Dear Mr. Trumka,

You have come to your leadership position of our country’s labor federation of unions with 13 million members the hard way. Starting by working in the coal mines, then becoming a lawyer, heading the United Mine Workers, then becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO before assuming your present position in 2009, who can pull rank on you in the formal labor movement?

Yet, the AFL-CIO’s public leadership in three major areas has been far less effective than one would expect. I am referring to your less than assertive response to President Obama: 1) turning his back on raising the federal minimum wage; 2) failing to advance his card check promise to you in 2008; and 3) dropping the ball on backing long-overdue safety and health responsibilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

I say this with the awareness of your group’s public stands in favor of these three crucial matters to working families. But as you well know, there is a very marked difference between being on-the-record, as the AFL-CIO is, and being on-the-daily ramparts pushing these issues, as your organization is not.

Even just making a statement, however, took a back seat in your March 13, 2012 endorsement of Barack Obama for a second term as president. In what ways has Mr. Obama “moved aggressively,” as you declared, “to protect workers rights, pay, health and safety on the job?”

He has neither championed nor pressed Congress, when the Democrats were in control in 2009-2010, to give you card check which you have long-said was needed to reverse the serious decline and expand the ranks of organized labor by millions of workers (you told me this in 2004).

Second, Mr. Obama appointed an excellent head of OSHA and then betrayed OSHA – an agency that has estimated 58,000 workplace-related American deaths a year from disease and trauma! That is over 1000 people a week, every week, on the average.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor and the head of OSHA, cannot get White House approval for issuing long-overdue standards or strengthening weak and outdated standards such as the woefully inadequate silica rule, to save American lives not threatened by terrorists, but by corporate negligence or worse. Why have you not exposed this reality in public? Has Mr. Obama, whom you have socialized with at White House viewings of the Super Bowl, ever invited you to come across Lafayette Square to discuss this serious ongoing, preventable tragedy?

Had he taken worker concerns seriously, he might have asked you why the AFL-CIO for many years, has retained at its large national headquarters so few full-time advocates on occupational health and safety? And you in turn might have asked him why his politicos are blocking Dr. Michaels and why he is content in having only $550 million for OSHA’s annual budget while the U.S. spent $675 million in 2011 paying corporate contractors to guard the overbuilt U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Are these the Obama “values” you extolled in your endorsement statement?

More dismaying is your touting Mr. Obama for aggressively protecting workers’ pay. By pushing for more NAFTA type “pull-down” trade agreements through Congress, and not moving to revise NAFTA as he promised in his 2008 presidential campaigns, he is undermining both workers’ pay and jobs. By totally abandoning his pledge made to over 30 million workers in 2008 that he would press for a $9.50/hour federal minimum wage by 2011, he left them defenseless with more debt and fewer necessities of life.

The AFL-CIO wants at the least to catch up to 1968 with an inflation-adjusted $10/hour minimum wage law. Where is the visible muscular campaign for such legislation? Keeping up with inflation for the federal minimum wage is historically supported by 70 percent of the people. That includes many Republicans and even Rick Santorum and, until his latest flip-flop, Mitt Romney. A $10 minimum wage, after years of windfall price increases and executive compensation windfalls at labor’s expense, would annually pump tens of billions of dollars into greater consumer demand by low-income families in this recessionary economy.

What is the AFL-CIO waiting for? Hundreds of non-profit organizations will follow your lead. Talk is not enough. Resources and muscular lobbying are required along with far more relevant and tough public advertisements than your members are seeing and paying for on TV these days. Enough, already, of the general feel-good mood spots on TV.

As someone who in earlier days had been a dig-in-your-heels labor negotiator in fights with management, what did you receive for millions of American workers in your early, blanket endorsement of Mr. Obama? No wonder he can get away with giving the trade union movement and unorganized workers the back of his hand. You have unnecessarily allowed him to believe that you have nowhere to go. This is another way of saying that the Republicans, by being worse than the bad Democrats, are holding the American labor movement hostage to the corporatist Democratic Party.

The AFL-CIO is in a deep, defensive rut when in these tough times it should be in an aroused, innovative state of high alert and aggressive action. Workers in the 1930s’ Depression were in worse shape than workers today, yet organized labor was more militant.

People inside and outside the AFL-CIO know the problems. They are: complacent bureaucratic rigidity, fractious relations between member unions over how supine they need to be to Obama and the Democrats (with their costly wars), the lack of union democracy and competitive elections both within member unions and at the AFL-CIO plus, except for a few unions like the California Nurses Association, a distinct lack of sustained fervor and money for organizing drives.

You know all this only too well. Yet, as a 14th Century Chinese philosopher once said, “to know and not to do is not to know.” Unless you shake the AFL-CIO up and reorder its priorities against the corporate state, expect another four years of an Obamabush Administration.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

March 30, 2012 - Posted by | Deception, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , ,

3 Comments

  1. Open Letter to Unions

    Dear CUPE members and all other Unions ,

    Please post this Open Letter to all your members because we need to Raise our Awareness Level .

    Before showing angles to our reality that should worry us let me point right away to a mind-opener in many fields including Social Organization : The Recipe for a Nation , future shocking .
    http://TheRecipeForaNation.WordPress.com

    Now seat down and imagine Leading your country like you would your house hold ( as a Mature individual when not inebriated ) .
    Start by pondering about things like :

    1) It is gratifying to see that the Establishment revealed its Achilles’s Heel because , indeed , for most of us the Pressure of seeing our child suffering can ignite Revolutions !
    http://conspiracy.co/forums/main-wall/10386-parents-ultimate-criminals.html

    2) If you ( a Normal , non-psychopath person ) would Lead your country like you do your house-hold than we would never have any problems like we have for decades . Hence Most our previous ‘leaders’ were abnormal …

    3) Judge any Leader by what they actually Do :

    – Afghanistan ?
    – Pesticides in foods ?
    – Communications problems by-passing the Media ? Did the Leader applied the well-known internet Radio with Call-in features ?? No ?! WHY ?? Communication is Vital to Explain and Discuss the Truth by-passing the Main Media , an Obvious and Known Solution , so where is the Unions Radio website ! WHY it was not implemented by the Unions and the NDP specially when I Personally told so to Layton five years ago …
    – Capitalism is The Formula for a Disorganized economy – see the recessions and banksters’ shenanigans ( Stealing ) – and a breeding ground for Psychopaths ( Having their pleasures and profits at any cost , including death/wars to others ! ) .
    So let’s Formulate another type of Social Organization based on a Logical and Humane approach , No Labels needed ! If something is Obviously broken By Design than let’s Design a new one . See The Recipe for a Nation , the Ultimate Political Platform .
    – Did you read the Political Platforms of the Canadian Parties ( or others ) ? Did it struck you that ALL are the same in principles ? Including NDP !
    All agree to Keep capitalism and its proven Faulty principles as our life style ,

    All Agree on Afghanistan ( the NDP/Liberal could have stopped it , but they didn’t ) ,
    All agreed on Pesticides to be put in our foods including for our children even though they Know since 2006 that Science Proved that the Mixing of pesticides DOES damage our bodies , I Send to the government that information in 2006 ! ) ,

    All agree on Pesticides in our foods even though they Know since 2011 that science Proved that pesticides Lower the IQ in fetuses ( for generations since 1950s ! ) I Send to the government that information in 2011 and Nothing happened ! ,

    All parties agree on GMOs – Unbelievable indeed ! , a planet of diabetics and obese ,

    All agree to Not complain about the Abuse Israel is causing on Palestinians including Stealing Land continuously ,

    All agreed to Not complain about the Double Caste in India , a clear and Government-backed Apartheid not even disputed by UN !! Apparently being Born a Second Class citizen in India is OK with Our Politicians !

    All agree on using Fiat money and Pay Interest on them !! Hey , give me a Printing Press and money plates and I’ll charge only Half of what banksters do . Why not , is Fiat money , they are backed Only by a Verbal rumour hence Not Worth the paper they are printed on . Heck , I can duplicate that ! ,

    All parties agree with Harper to Blow 15,000 Million on Armament like they prepare for a war that we are Not told about ….
    BTW , ask any Technician and they will tell that every Single part on our F-18s , from frame up , can be re-manufactured for ever in Canada , and their Modular Electronics Package can also be updated .
    They can’t be made any Faster because no Pilots ( Russian or Chinese ) can Handle higher Gs … as for the Stealth Factor , it;s an illusion , proof to that is the B1 Stealth Bomber downed in Serbia in the 1990s plus drones shot down in Afghanistan and Iran in 2011 ,

    All agree to let the Asian countries Steal or jobs ( Steal because they do not have Our Standards for workers ) ,

    All agree to let Stock Markets in Other Countries determine the Price We pay for the energy and mineral resources under Our feet and that are Ours by Constitution ,

    – So if All Parties have basically the same Platform does it mean there is NO Democracy ( CHOICE ) in Canada ?? Duh !! Wake up !

    – … and finally , did Your Union Leader tell You or Did anything about all of the above ??

    Did your Union Leader implemented the Internet Radio Call-in Weekly/daily shows to bypass the Main Media and give You a true free way of speaking and being informed ? If not , we got a Major Problem so it’s time for you to demand all of the above Now …

    See what we need , Real Leaders , how to do it and more at http://TheRecipeForaNation.WordPress.com , future shocking .

    Like

    Comment by Doru | March 30, 2012

  2. Missing from the letter is the constant diversion of union money (a lot of it minorities) to the racist state of Israel.

    Like

    Comment by deadbeat1000 | March 30, 2012

    • Right !
      You see how Handy that internet Call-in Radio Show can be , imagine explaining your point and showing the Proof !

      See a different society , scientists and Leaders at http://TheRecipeForaNation.WordPress.com , future shocking .

      Like

      Comment by Doru | March 31, 2012


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