The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 28, 2012

Labor brings own fight to end war on workers

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON (PAI) – The Tea Party, which has taken over the Republican Party and produced “craziness” there, is responsible for the “tremendous war on workers” now being waged nationwide, Teamsters President James Hoffa says.

And in response, the labor movement has united politically and is fighting back through constant on-the-ground cooperation, led by “Labor Tables” of leaders meeting and having their unions pooling resources on politics, state by state, he said.

But even so, Hoffa predicted, labor would still get outspent by business by huge margins in the 2012 election.   Unions will offset that with “boots on the ground” for Democratic President Barack Obama, he declared.

Hoffa’s Sept. 13 remarks and answers to questions at the National Press Club came as labor heads into the homestretch before November ’s election, Many union leaders – including Hoffa – call the balloting the most vital to workers in decades.

Hoffa said that’s because not only is there a war on workers waged by business and its Right Wing and GOP allies, but that labor’s foes also launched a “cultural war” to crush the labor movement.

“We’ve never seen this type of activity before” on multiple fronts and in multiple states, he said.  The conflict includes voter suppression, he declared.  “And who’s maintaining it?  The Tea Party and the Right Wing.  They’re trying to suppress the vote.”

Hoffa compared the Tea Party to the 1950s-era John Birch Society, a notorious Radical Right group that used “anti-communism” as a cover for its extreme campaign against workers, African-Americans, civil rights, the Supreme Court and others.

The wealthy Koch Brothers and about “six to eight other” big Right Wing funders – Hoffa reeled off a few names – together will spend more than $100 million to try to buy the 2012 election and to strip workers and unions of any power to oppose them, Hoffa said.  Their objective, he added, “is to take the U.S. back to the 1890s.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision abets their culture war by unleashing hundreds of millions of dollars from big donors and corporations into the U.S. political system, Hoffa said.  The situation is so bad, he added, that the Teamsters now back a proposed constitutional amendment declaring that, for purposes of politics, corporations are not persons and should not have Bill of Rights protections.

“This is about more than Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama,” Hoffa said of the contest between the GOP nominee and his foe, the incumbent Democratic president.  “It’s about the types of cultural changes they (the Right) want to impose” on the country.

“So why are they attacking organized labor?” he asked. “The Right Wing knows organized labor is not only the backbone of the Democratic Party, but of the entire progressive movement.  They know we’re organized, we have money, and we have boots on the ground” to oppose their schemes.

Citing the GOP convention platform, he said those include a ban on project labor agreements, a national “right to work” law, “paycheck deception,” and opposition to job-creating measures, such as infrastructure improvements, to put people back to work.

So the Teamsters and other unions will pound the pavements to communicate with their members, and not just about which candidates support workers.  Hoffa spent much of his speech praising Obama, including touting benefits of the controversial health care law.  But he added Teamsters will also tell members about registering to vote and about how to ensure their votes are counted this fall.

The Labor Tables are up and running in key states in the industrial Midwest, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, Hoffa said.  They got their start when the labor movement united to battle Wisconsin Right Wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s destruction of collective bargaining rights for state and local workers there.  Hoffa said the Labor Tables will continue after the election.

The Labor Tables had a mixed record in Wisconsin, he conceded: Walker killed collective bargaining and beat back a labor-pushed recall effort.  “But we won the state senate majority” in that same recall vote “so we can stop his madness, at least for now.”

And when Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, tried an even more draconian anti-collective bargaining law there, labor decisively beat him in a referendum, Hoffa said.