They just don't make 'em like Big Bill Haywood anymore.

They just don’t make ’em like Big Bill Haywood anymore.

Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, slammed Democratic politicians who have turned their backs on unions. Specifically, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn were the targets of these barbs from Saunders:

I am sick and tired of the fair-weather Democrats. They date us, take us to the prom, marry us, and then divorce us right after the honeymoon. I am sick and tired of the so-called friends who commend us when they’re running for election, but condemn us after they’ve won. I am sick and tired of the politicians who stand with us behind closed doors, but kick us to the curb in front of the cameras. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit and we’re not gonna take it anymore.

Many of you know some of the people I’m talking about. Mayor Michael Nutter in Philadelphia. Governor Pat Quinn in Illinois. We’ve come to expect union-busting, anti-worker tactics from ultra-conservatives like Scott Walker and John Kasich. But now, everybody’s on the bandwagon.

Look at Nutter. AFSCME members in Philadelphia haven’t had a contract in four years, and Sister Baylor knows it. What does the mayor do? He goes to the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court to get a legal decision that would let him shove his contract down our throats. He’s no different from Governor Snyder in Michigan, who went to his state’s Supreme Court to get legal cover for cutting school employees’ pay. Different political parties, same political games.

Look at Governor Quinn. He has waged a relentless war on state employees – slashing pensions, driving down incomes and wiping out jobs. Last year he took the unprecedented step of terminating our contract. He is the first and only Illinois governor, Republican or Democrat, to take such a blatantly aggressive action.

The sad truth is that, due to the disappearance of the unionized workforce over the past 40 years, Democrats no longer have much to fear from pissing off unions. Campaign contributions of organized labor have been steadily declining. President Obama didn’t even bother to show up to last year’s American Federation of Teachers convention. We got Joe Biden instead, which is a major step down and a sign of organized labor’s waning influence.

But Saunders points to something important in his criticism: Democrats are more dangerous than Republicans can ever be to the future of the American worker. We know Republicans hate workers and would reduce us all to peonage if given the chance. On the other hand, Democratic politicians use their party’s reputation as the protector of the American worker as cover to bust unions as ruthlessly as any Republican.

Obama’s Race to the Top initiative is being touted as a break from the No Child Left Behind policy of his Republican predecessor. Yet, it is little more than NCLB on steroids. Tying teacher evaluations and more charter schools to federal funding is more anti-union than anything Bush ever passed through Congress.

Obama’s buddy Rahm Emanuel in Chicago antagonized the teachers there to the point of causing a strike.

Newark mayor Corey Booker appointed a reformy school chancellor and has spewed the same “accountability” stuff as Michelle Rhee.

These New Democrats (and we can put Cuomo into that category) have adopted Republican anti-union policies without adopting their rhetoric.

It would be nice if the leaders of our teachers’ unions were as blunt as Lee Saunders. Instead, we see them sharing the stage with these New Democrats. We see our UFT President Michael Mulgrew say he is fine with Cuomo forcing a new evaluation system on New York City. We see Randi Weingarten supporting ridiculous schemes for a teacher bar exam. Every step of the way, at every level, we see our union leader collaborating with people who would rather be rid of us.

A Unity supporter asked me a few days ago if I donate to COPE. Hell no. Why would I? So they can keep pumping money and support into the New Democrats?

The AFSCME is up against the same enemies as teachers. At least their leader acknowledges it and calls these New Democrats out on it.

Why do we tolerate leadership in our union who cavort with the devil?

Just once, I would like to hear Randi or Michael call “bullshit” on the New Democrats. What do you think the chances are of that happening?


  1. Does it make sense to anyone that Randi Weingarten should leave the Newark negotiations with a merit pay scam for her alleged constituents or that Governor Christie should walk away from the table pronouncing that the capitulations in this contract made for his most gratifying day in office? I always thought management should really hate the union people by the time negotiations concluded. Randi the concessionairre wants us all to take a bar exam so we can be lawery like her. No thanks. Whats left of our unions needs to be redistributed into the hands of the rank and file and protected from the greedy mitts of these neo-liberal scum.

    • Very well said Sean.I think the problem is that the AFT/NYSUT/UFT is one of the last vestiges of a time when labor and management in the U.S. had an uneasy accord. That was before the days management’s goal was to destroy labor. Now, management is locked internecine conflict with the labor but labor still acts as if there is amiable accord. It’s a failure of union strategy to keep up with the time, imo.

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