Thomas Frank has an indispensable piece in the Wall Street Journal on the Democratic Party’s propensity to rely on labor votes and labor grassroots electoral efforts to win, then stab the labor movement in the back when it comes to actually passing legislation that helps America’s workers (while siding with big business interests and their heavily moneyed lobbying efforts). Frank notes that a number of the key lobbying shops for Wal-Mart are Democratic and progressive branded, a sign that the white collar parts of the Democratic elites are simply either indifferent to the plight of working Americans or fundamentally opposed to progressivism when it is placed against a hefty paycheck from a big business client.
Frank doesn’t really touch on the political dynamics that have emerged within the Democratic Party on the Employee Free Choice Act as addressed by Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union in a Washington Post editorial board meeting earlier this week. While Frank is right that Democratic consultants helping business in their fight against America’s workers is deeply problematic, the elephant in the room that Stern addressed is that labor has been left on its own in this fight, without the White House whipping on the Hill to pass Employee Free Choice. The question naturally arises, is there a substantive difference between Democratic consultants helping the Wal-Marts of the world stop Employee Free Choice Act and the administration backing off campaign promises to pass this critical piece of legislation that will grow the economy and rebuild the middle class?
It’s also worth noting that the problem of getting Democrats to support Employee Free Choice outside of the political campaign season does not start and end with the White House. Unions have been ineffective at getting key swing votes — conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans — who supported Free Choice in the past to stay with us. This gets back to problem Frank identified in the beginning, namely that “Democrats torpedo the most trustworthy member of their coalition,” out of a lack of genuine support, understanding, or influence by corporate money. This whole situation is frustrating beyond belief, to say the least.
Disclosure: While I’m proud to work for the Service Employees International Union, this post was written without their knowledge and does not represent anyone’s views but my own.