The Death of Labor Law Reform, or Why the Democrats are So Pathetic and Meaningful Reform is Dead


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 Bill Resnick for The Old Mole Variety Hour
 Why are the Congressional Democrats so weak and afraid? Why did they refuse to consider universal single payer health care, also called Medicare for All? Why last week did card check union organization die in the Congress? The card check provision was certainly the key part of the Labor Law Reform bill and labor’s top legislative priority. The AFL-CIO spent hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and campaign contributions – yet its key section was killed by the Democrats. But how could that be? Two years ago, when it was first proposed, with Bush still President, nearly all Congressional Democrats voted for it in the House of Representatives, and supported it in the Senate. Labor thought all it needed was a few more Democrats in the Senate, and to get rid of the Bush veto.
 Well, they got the votes –– a big victory in the last election, winning Democratic control of the Senate and Obama as President. Many celebrated: finally labor had the votes for labor law reform, and much else.     But then of course the Democrats reverted to their real selves, unwilling to anger the corporations on anything really important. When Bush was President the Democrats were free to vote for liberal sounding legislation, because business knew Bush would veto it, and knew that the Democrats who signed on were just paying off their debt to their supporters. The corporate lobbyists knew, if push came to shove, they could tell those Democrats to reconsider. As in fact the Democrats did. 
Yet, all is not lost; some useful reforms of labor organizing might still pass. That’s labor’s current hope, but major pro-labor legislation is unlikely. And as for both the energy and health bills now going through Congress, their fates are even worse. Both of them are getting filled with corporate subsidies, promising increased profits for both industries. Written by the Democrats, these bills give the biggest companies even greater power and control.

Many liberals and lefties think they know why the Democrats are so subservient. They believe that the politicians depend on the companies to finance their election campaigns, and that the corporations flood politicians’ offices with lobbyists bringing gifts, and giving orders. He who pays the piper calls the tune. And those who think that, they propose an easy solution.    To take back government from the corporations, just enact campaign finance and lobbying reform. 

I wish it were so easy. But it isn’t. Publicly funded elections would help some. But the real reason that Democratic support for labor law reform disappeared is not that they need and receive corporate money. It is because they are afraid of corporate attack. Because when the major companies in any area, including the big media, attack a politician for being bad for business, for costing local jobs, for even driving employers and jobs from their city – that attack is the kiss of death for any politician.

The great fear among working people in this country, and rich people too, is that the big employers in their city will take off for Mexico or China. Every time a company announces they are considering to relocate to some other place, it creates fear and distress across the city and state, and then politicians come running with tax breaks and subsidies. Nothing hurts a politician worse than being blamed for a big employer moving out. And politicians are petrified about being attacked as bad for business. They cannot afford to offend the major employers in their city or state.

This has doomed the possibilities of real reform on any major issue in the US political system. As in labor law reform, or the energy bill, or health care reform, even with a solid Democratic Congress, Democrats will not offend big business, will not enact any meaningful reform.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not an attack on the Democrats for betraying our trust, or lying, or being corporate stooges, or being bought by the corporations. In fact most Democratic politicians are hard working decent people committed to raising wages for poor people and restoring the environment. The problem is, that except for those in very safe districts, where they’re sure to be elected no matter what business says, politicians are vulnerable to corporate attack. Except for those in really safe districts, politicians get killed if local business unites to denounce them. So they have to be careful, which means that only minor reform is possible – and even that takes work.

So what can we do? That’s a big question, and this commentary can only suggest the answers. That we have to be patient. Since necessary change is impossible, very serious problems are sure to follow. And if during the next five or ten years, we build movements with the ideas and program for solving the grave troubles that humanity then faces, well then we have a chance.   How to build those movements? That has to be discussed, and millions of people are trying. Optimism of the Will and of the Intellect.


This was Bill Resnick for the Old Mole, wishing you a happy ten years of militant and visionary movement building. Yes, get involved: you meet the best and nicest people . 

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I thought maybe we'd get things done, but once again the democrats can't grow a set. I'm done with them. Most are nothing but republican-lite.