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Labor’s Critical Election Role


Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, one of the best friends organized labor has ever had, has some wise words of political advice for unions and their supporters:

 

Throw all you’ve got into defeating John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, and unite tightly behind the Democratic candidate, presumably Barrack Obama, even though you may have supported other candidates in the primaries.

 

You might think Kucinich’s advice is unnecessary since, like virtually all Republicans, McCain has never been a friend of labor – and his policies as president would most certainly not be pro-labor. They’d most likely be as anti-labor as the policies of George W. Bush, one of the most anti-labor presidents in history.

 

Under Bush, for instance, the Labor Department has become an anti-Labor Department, adopting regulations designed to hamper union organizing and growth. The National Labor Relations Board has become an anti-labor relations board, allowing employers to openly violate the laws governing organizing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been outrageously lax in enforcing the job safety laws, even as the number of serious on-the-job injuries and deaths has grown steadily. The union rights of federal employees have been seriously curtailed.

 

That’s just a small part of it. As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says, under Bush "working people have been losing income, good jobs, homes and hope in the future."

 

Kucinich says that although working people may respect McCain as a former prisoner-of-war, they have to realize "there is no question that on the economy he is an extension of the Bush administration. We must challenge the economic system that is accelerating wealth upwards."

 

A vote for McCain would clearly be a vote for four to eight more years of the same, four to eight more years of anti-labor, anti-working people policies in the White House. There should be absolutely no need for Kucinich or anyone else to urge labor to go all-out to defeat McCain.

 

Yet polls show that 57 percent of union members support McCain for president. That’s right, more than half of the country’s union members actually support John McCain for president — the highest labor support any Republican presidential candidate has ever had.

 

That’s surely evidence of a great need to do some heavy-duty political educating among the many union members who obviously should no better than to in effect support four to eight more years of Bush.

 

There’s also a great need to rebuild the labor movement. But with a Republican president, as Kucinich notes, that would be very difficult – if not impossible.

 

With a Democratic president, however, labor "will have a major influence on our national policy," And it goes beyond labor. For labor, Kucinich adds, is "the vanguard of the effort to re-create America, to change the direction of history."

 

He says Republican control of the White House has put "our entire way of life under attack. Our jobs are on the line, peace is on the line, our kids’ future is on the line, education, housing, everything. America is on the line."

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