‘Time to Stop Circling the Wagons Around an Inadequate Status Quo’


In preparation for the October 21-25 National Convention of the AFL-CIO, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer sent out a memo urging support for the Medicare for All Act of 2017, which has been endorsed by a dozen national unions. While the AFL-CIO at its Pittsburgh convention in 2009 voted to support single payer healthcare (aka Medicare for All), it put the endorsement on a back burner while it pulled out all stops in its campaign for Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).

This time around, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer wants a resolution with teeth; it wants the labor federation — and all its affiliates — to campaign for this bill and to actively work for its passage. One sentence in its memo applies to the fight for single payer and, more generally, to all other issues that are of central importance to workers and their allies. The authors write:

“The fight against Trumpcare and the Republican attacks on public health programs has produced a sea change in popular opinion. A majority of Americans now support single payer Medicare for All. People don’t want to just circle the wagons around an inadequate status quo. They want to fight for the right to healthcare.”

The message is clear: Let’s go beyond defending the ACA — an inadequate, corporate healthcare Act — and fight for what working people really want and need.

“Fight For All 11 Million!”

This message applies to the fight to defend immigrant rights. Democratic Party politicians and top trade union officials tell us that we need to circle the wagons against Trump’s effort to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. In keeping with this orientation, leading Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer cut a deal with the Trump administration that would preserve DACA and the DREAM Act in exchange for tighter restrictions and sanctions against undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrant youth in the San Francisco Bay Area were outraged that Pelosi had used the plight of the 800,000 DACA recipients as a bargaining chip with Trump to reach an agreement that would drastically curtail the rights of their parents and their communities. Chanting, “Fight For All 11 Million!,” these youth loudly confronted Pelosi at her staged press conference on September 18. [See story on page 3.]

A statement by the California Youth Immigrant Justice Alliance put it this way:

“We demand the passage of a clean DREAM Act that provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth, without harmful provisions such as border, or interior enforcement, or any form of border militarization that threatens the lives of the 11 million undocumented community members in this country.”

Stop NAFTA and the Corporate “Free Trade” Agenda!

This message applies, as well, to the fight against the corporate “free trade” agenda.

The AFL-CIO leadership has jumped on the bandwagon of “renegotiations,” putting forward amendments it hopes will improve NAFTA. But NAFTA is not amendable. It is a rotten, corporate agreement through and through; it must be replaced. And no, the Trump administration, which at home is pushing hard for a federal “Right to Work” (for less) law, is not about to give labor a better agreement that protects labor rights and union jobs – and that respects the sovereignty of Mexico and its people.

On August 14, the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) adopted a resolution that affirms labor’s independence in relation to the bosses on this vital issue. It states, in part:

“The San Francisco Labor Council calls for full unionization and full labor rights for workers in Mexico, the United States and Canada … and it calls for the cancellation of NAFTA. Repealing NAFTA is the necessary first step, the very pre-condition, to opening new negotiations — with the full input of trade unions, environmental groups, and other community organizations in all three signatory countries — that could lead to a trade deal that actually benefits working people in all three countries.”

Building an Independent Labor Movement

It is matter of life and death that labor acts as a genuinely independent movement in the streets and in the workplaces, fighting to win the demands that reflect the needs and aspirations of the working-class majority and our community allies — not demands that have been watered down to make them acceptable to this or that wing of the corporate class.

What is needed is an independent labor movement that does not subordinate the interests and needs of the working class to the dictates of politicians of either major party — as these politicians, with only a few exceptions, have demonstrated time and again that they will always defer to the corporate class.

Some important steps in this direction — among many others, to be sure — can be taken today by unions and labor rights activists:

  • Support and campaign actively for the Medicare for All Act of 2017;
  • Support and campaign to defend DACA and to promote the legalization of all 11 million undocumented immigrants;
  • Support and promote the “Binational Conference Against NAFTA and the Wall of Shame/Not One More Deportation, and For Labor Rights on Both Sides of the Border,” which will take place at CSU-Dominguez Hills (Carson, Calif.) on December 1-3; and
  • Promote widely the discussion that is being opened at the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention, at the initiative of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), around the topic, “Is It Time for a Labor-Based Political Party?”

You’d better believe it’s time! In fact, the formation of a labor-based political party is long overdue!

We urge you — our readers and supporters — to join us in promoting this perspective in your unions and community organizations. Contact us!

The Editors


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