Labor - And A Whole Lot More

Labor's Anti-Bush Troops
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The AFL-CIO vs. President Bush and congressional Republicans in this November's elections: It's shaping up as one of the most important political battles in many years, with great implications for all ordinary Americans, union or non-union, working or not working.

Organized labor's stake is clear. Rarely has there been a more anti-union president than Bush. His attempts to mortally wound the AFL-CIO surpass even those of the notoriously anti-union Ronald Reagan, and Bush's allies in Congress' GOP majority are as determined to bury labor.

The stake for others is as clear. Most people stand to lose big -- or to win big -- depending on what the AFL-CIO manages to accomplish in its attempt to make government more responsive to the needs of the majority rather than merely the wealthy few.

Granting huge tax cuts to the rich at the expense of vital services for millions of the non-affluent and seriously threatening their civil rights and civil liberties ....

Taking away the union and civil service rights of some federal employees, cutting back raises that had been due them and most others and moving to shift as many as 850,000 federal jobs to private non-union contractors ....

Appointing an anti-union secretary of labor and anti-union majority to the National Labor Relations Board ... making it harder for unions to finance political activities and routine day-to-day operations ... blocking strikes against anti-union airlines ....

Rescinding or weakening job safety regulations ... opposing an increase in the pitifully inadequate minimum wage of $5.15 an hour ... undermining the rights of workers for overtime pay and leaves to care for ill family members ....

Failing to deal with chronic unemployment and the need for massive job creation and job training programs ... approving trade agreements that do not guarantee workers' rights ... trying to require federal contractors to actively dissuade employees from joining unions ... rescinding a rule limiting the award of government contracts to companies that repeatedly violate labor or environmental laws ....

All that, and much more the Bush administration has done, much of it in conjunction with Congress. It's part of what AFL-CIO President John Sweeney calls "a tidal wave of worker-bashing and union busting."

Hard as it might be to imagine, it could very well get worse if Bush is re-elected. As President Jim Spinosa of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union warns, "A second term Bush will slash and burn workers without ever having to worry about another election. Things are bad now, but if Bush is re-elected, the labor movement will face a real nightmare."

It's no wonder that denying Bush and the GOP's congressional majority re-election is the top priority of the AFL-CIO and its 66 affiliated unions.

They have already begun what may very well be the most ambitious political campaign in union history. Working with like-minded liberal groups and their Democratic Party allies, the unionists are taking steps to mount massive voter registration and turnout drives, to circulate millions of leaflets, make hundreds of thousands of direct contacts with voters, hold innumerable rallies and demonstrations, and more.

Pretty standard stuff, but very effective if sufficiently large numbers of campaigners are involved -- and no one has a greater potential number of campaign troops than labor and its allies.

Don't he misled by the constant reiteration that unions represent only about 13 percent of the country's workers. That's 16 million-plus people, more than enough to supply the necessary foot soldiers -- if they are willing to enlist. And given what Bush has been doing to them, many should he more than willing.

Copyright Dick Meister