While several unions are boycotting the convention because the Democrats chose a right-to-work state (with the lowest union density in the entire country) for their quadrennial confab, the heavy hitters are there with their whiffle balls and bats. People like AFL-CIO Chief Richard Trumka, who often whines that the Democratic Party has betrayed the unions, writes vociferous letters blasting job-killing free trade deals, and vows to withhold contributions -- and then eagerly endorses their candidacies all the same. Where else can they go? Wa-a-a-a-a-h.
The union people on display in Charlotte have sadly devolved into performance artists for the purpose of President Obama's re-election. According to The Hill's Kevin Bogardus, the labor groups are "trying a mix of celebrity, social media and humor to polish up the labor movement’s image in the eyes of everyday people".
MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer for the North Carolina State AFL-CIO, said the state labor federation wanted to break down stereotypes regarding union members by dishing out the hugs.
“We see this as an opportunity to dispel that stereotype that union members are mean, scary and violet. (sic) What better way to disarm folks than to hug them?” McMillan said. “Union members take care of you in the hospital, deliver your packages and sit next you in church. We are just average folks.”Oh, no. That dreaded phony populist "folks" word has insidiously crept even into the parlance of workers' rights. Give me the Purple Meanies any day. From Jimmy Hoffa tough to McDonaldland's plummy Grimace character tender, is just about correct. The shrinking violet-not-violent unions are now just fine with people working at temporary minimum wage jobs rather than having no jobs at all. Just think of all the poor unemployed people in Charlotte getting pocketfuls of change from the Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes and A-listers of all stripes converging in town this week, to see and be seen.
North Carolina is so anti-labor that the United Nations International Human Rights Committee has condemned a Jim Crow-era law on its books forbidding public employees to collectively bargain. And here you were wondering why President Obama did not join the protests against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker trying to do the exact same thing.
Labor journalist Mike Elk, writing for Working in These Times, has an excellent piece about the Democratic Party's sellout of the labor movement. While some workers in Charlotte were putting in dangerous amounts of overtime at low pay to prepare for the convention, he says, the irony is that unions were treated well in Tampa for the GOP orgy of the oligarchs. It seems that Florida still does have collective bargaining rights.
Read the whole article. His description of DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Shultz's canned endorsement of labor and her subsequent running away from his pointed questions would be hysterically funny if it weren't so depressing. The conventional wisdom among the unionists, Elk says, is that they're going for Obama for the simple reason that he is a slower bleed compared to Mitt Romney's "bullet to the head."
Even the unions not attending the convention are careful not to use the word "boycott" for fear of hurting Obama's re-election chances. They're just passive-aggressively not showing up. Among them is the International Association of Machinists, which came up with the idea of Labor Day in the first place.
So, Happy Labor Day, everybody. But when it comes to hugs not thugs, all I can do is shrug.
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