It's a given that anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan is not
going to win her race for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's seat in November's
congressional elections. But hopefully, attention will be paid to Sheehan's
platform. It spells out, with unusual clarity, the many needs of American
workers and possible ways for meeting them.
Few politicians have demonstrated such sympathetic
understanding of working people as has Sheehan, who's running as an independent
against Democrat Pelosi and Republican and Libertarian candidates in San
Francisco's eighth congressional district.
Sheehan is concerned above all that "the right to
organize unions, bargain freely and strike when necessary is being destroyed by
employers and their representatives in government."
She notes that many employers are allowed to illegally
fire union activists and otherwise wage campaigns "of fear, threats and
slick propaganda" to keep workers from making "a genuinely free
choice" on whether to unionize.
Sheehan would have the government crack down on such
employer actions and extend to all public employees the full union rights that
are now denied many of them. That would include the right to strike - "a
fundamental principle of the workers' movement that must be safeguarded. The
right to withhold one's labor is a basic human right that our government should
guarantee to all working people - including the military."
The right to strike would be strengthened by prohibiting
employers from hiring workers - "scabs" -- to replace strikers on a
temporary or permanent basis.
Sheehan wants to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, which for
six decades has kept union members from waging sympathy strikes and has
otherwise limited their ability to act in solidarity with other unionists.
She also advocates granting immigrant workers the same
union rights as all other workers. That would include undocumented immigrants,
who would have the chance for "a swift and expedited path to
The current Guest Worker programs that bring in groups of
immigrant farmworkers to harvest particular crops, says Sheehan, "are
designed to make indentured servants out of our brothers and sisters from
Mexico, Central and South America to benefit employers unwilling to pay a
Many of the immigrant workers "are driven to the
United States by the 'free trade' policies implemented by Democrats and
Republicans" - policies "aimed at privatizing the economies of the
immigrants' countries of origin in the interest of multinational corporations."
Sheehan would repeal the "free trade"
agreements reached by the U.S. government because they "are designed to
depress wages and oppress workers ." Sheehan argues for "fair trade
that respects the rights of workers and enforces those rights through unions
and binding collective bargaining agreements - along with sustainable
Wages and working conditions should be the same in all
countries signing any trade agreements - "equalized to the highest
standards, not the lowest common denominator."
Sheehan, whose activism stems from the death of her son
Casey in Iraq four years ago, wants the military budget slashed and the
"trillions of dollars being poured into the occupations of Iraq and
Afghanistan" shifted to a public works program aimed at rebuilding the
country's crumbling infrastructure. It would be operated in partnership with
unions to provide jobs for many now unemployed Americans, much as WPA programs
did during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In the meantime, the unemployment insurance and food
stamp programs would be expanded. Some of Sheehan's other platform proposals
* Government-supported apprenticeship programs and
"state and federal job training for those who want to learn a skill that
doesn't involve putting on a U.S. military uniform and learning how to kill
*Revoking the licenses of broadcasters who have a record
of "illegally firing and discriminating against workers for union
*Prohibiting the privatization of federal jobs and
requiring that "all funds disbursed by the federal government go only to
government agencies - not to private contractors."
Although it's obvious that Cindy Sheehan won't win in
November, it's also obvious that America's working people need much of what she
wants for them. If we're fortunate, November's winners will show a similar
interest in improving the lives of those who do the nation's work.
Copyright (c) 2008 Dick Meister