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How Socialist Unions Rule the Democratic Party By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 14, 2004


A SINGLE LABOR UNION HAS COMMITTED $65 MILLION to defeating President George. W. Bush this November, reported the July 12 BusinessWeek Magazine. 

This biggest union in the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which by year’s end will have 1.8 million members, at its June convention in San Francisco agreed to spend $40 million for more than 2,000 organizers to work full-time against President Bush in 17 key battleground states. It also plans to supply 50,000 “volunteers” from its members just prior to and on election day. And SEIU will spend an additional $25 million on voter registration, “education” and getting out the vote.

Why is SEIU so bent on defeating President Bush?  Let us count the ways:

 

SEIU is one of America’s two biggest government unions, the other being AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. The nightmare for such unions is not a weak economy, as it would be for private sector workers. Government workers get their money not from a free marketplace but from coerced taxes. And many SEIU workers not employed directly by government are hospital and nursing home staffers paid indirectly by government dollars for Medicare, Medicaid and welfare patients. For this reason the government unions are the party of American socialism.

 

Public Enemy Number One for these socialist vanguards are Republicans who want to reduce the size and spending of government, and to contract out millions of existing government tasks to money-saving, non-unionized private companies. The wealth, power and future of these unions depend on replacing a Republican President with Democratic advocates of government expansion like the team of Kerry and Edwards.

“Public sector workers want government to grow first, and the overall health of the economy isn’t as relevant to them,” as pollster Scott Rasmussen explained in the Wall Street Journal.  On the other hand, the blue collar union workers the SEIU ostensibly represents pay far more in taxes than they receive via government checks.

 

Democrats created the laws that have allowed unions to impose themselves on unwilling workers, get away with using violence and threats of violence to enforce their power, and extract involuntary “dues” from worker paychecks. In order to keep buying this privileged power from government, Unions kick back many millions of dollars in extorted dues to Democrat lawmakers, governors and Presidents. 

 

The result is a money-laundering operation in which leftwing politicians appropriate money for themselves, using friendly labor unions as the middle-men intermediaries who expropriate it from workers. Nearly 40 percent of union workers today are registered Republicans, but a sizeable chunk of their wages is taken and used to elect Democrats.

 

This union money is the mother’s milk of the Democratic Party.  If these millions in union campaign contributions vanished tomorrow, most Democratic officeholders would be bankrupt overnight, and the Democratic Party would immediately shrink to permanent minority status. Click here to see what SEIU as just one union among many dozens acknowledges in Federal Election Commission reports in the current election cycle that it does to bankroll Democratic members of Congress. Click here to see how three SEIU-run 527s, which can be used to circumvent campaign finance rules, had been primed with $7,844,066.00 of political cash as of July 5, and here for more details about SEIU’s political expenditures.

 

Direct contributions to Democratic candidates is merely the tip of the iceberg however. A much larger and indeterminate contribution takes the form of money funneled through party and other organizations, the supply of ground troops to man telephone banks, do door-to-door campaigning, or get-out-the-vote efforts on election day that if paid for would be worth many millions of dollars. In Michigan, the UAW got the auto companies to make election day a holiday so that union workers could get paid by their companies for campaigning against Republicans. This amounts to an illegal corporate contribution to political campaigns, but no law enforcement official has seen fit to issue any subpoenas.

 

The current president of the SEIU is Andrew Stern, a former New Leftist who came out of the University of Pennsylvania.  One of the eulogies given at a Democratic Socialists of America memorial after the death of DSA co-founder Michael Harrington gave tribute  to “the people who worked with or fought with Mike who now staff high councils of the AFL, like Andy Stern of SEIU….” Stern is one of many radical union organizers who came out of the Midwest Academy which was formed by SDS radicals Heather and Paul Booth to train community organizers and infiltrate the labor movement. Paul Booth who was a secretary-treasure of SDS is now the assistant to Gerald McEntee, a member of Al Gore’s kitchen cabinet in the 2000 campaign and the president of the other powerful government union, AFCSME. Heather is the guiding force of the radical organization ACORN and was a legislative aide to Democratic Senator Howard Metzenbaum before he retired. So successful has the Booths Academy been that its work is now carried out by Union Summer, a program entirely financed by the AFL-CIO to train radical college students to become union organizers.  Union Summer is run by the son of Democratic Congressman Sandy Levin, nephew of Democratic Senator Carl Levin, so incestuous is the Union-Democratic nexus.

 

Andrew Stern’s rise to the presidency of SEIU was paved as director of organizing under John Sweeney when he was president of SEIU. Stern advanced to the presidency after Sweeney, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America became the President of the AFL-CIO.  In 1996, Stern told his members that he expected “every leader at every level of this union – from the international president to the rank-and-file member – to devote five working days this year to political action.” (Reported by Linda Chavez and Daniel Gray report in their new book Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics (New York: Crown Forum, 2004). Stern’s order is tantamount to a labor levy worth between $500 and $1,000 that each SEIU member is expected to donate to the Democratic Party.

 

In addition to SEIU’s commitment of $65 million to defeat President Bush, the AFL-CIO has already allocated $44 million for the same political purpose – which makes $109 million from just two labor organizations out of the many dozens that fund political activities. Up to a quarter of all the delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston will belong to the two largest Teacher Unions, one of which by itself, the National Education Association, has 2.7 million members and far more money than SEIU.

 

The money doesn’t all go one way, however. From 1996 through 1999 the Clinton Administration gave more than $1 million in tax dollars to the SEIU as grants, largely from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.  Money being fungible, one could reasonably assume that some taxpayer dollars have filtered back to the partisan coffers of Democratic political candidates such as Al Gore in 2000 and John F. Kerry in 2004.

 

No wonder the unions want to provide as little financial disclosure as possible – and are eager to remove President Bush for attempting to shine light on how they use members’ dues money.  Such disclosure was supposed to be required as of 2004, but another Democrat-appointed Federal judge blocked implementation of the LM-2 Financial Disclosure Forms for unions until after this year’s elections, after which a new Democratic President Kerry elected with union money might be able to rescind all disclosure requirements for unions.

 

SEIU began as a Chicago-based janitors’ union. It was Stern, using New Left tactics of the 1960s with Sweeney’s approval, who shut down parts of Los Angeles with a “Justice for Janitors” strike that blocked not just one company but city streets as well. These workers, at Stern’s direction, wore red shirts and carried signs depicting brooms held in the clenched fist that symbolizes Marxism.

 

“We’re going to build the strongest grassroots political voice in North America,” Stern told more than 3,000 SEIU delegates in his convention address last month.

 

But Stern’s ideological aim has nothing to do with empowering workers. On the contrary, he has pursued a policy of consolidating small SEIU-affiliated unions into larger unions, and of giving the national union total control over its locals, which are now to be prohibited from even having their own logo and symbols. All power and image is to be subsumed under the purple and gold logo of national SEIU and its supreme boss Andy Stern. Stern’s current organizing approach, in fact, is to bypass workers altogether.

 

SEIU and its political, media and leftwing activist allies conspire to attack a company directly with what they call “Corporate Campaigns” or the “death of a thousand cuts.” Like the Furies of Greek mythology, this cabal of attackers harasses and disrupts company activities, sends vicious emails and letters to stockholders, intimidates customers, stalks and frightens employees, files baseless lawsuits, plants false stories with media allies to smear the company’s reputation, and uses hundreds of other tactics to injure the targeted company in every way they can imagine.

 

The aim of this concerted swarming attack is to bully and pressure a targeted company into signing an agreement making SEIU the representative of its employees. When this happens, employees who might have voted NO to SEIU representation in an election will get no vote at all. The union yoke is simply locked around each worker’s neck – and paycheck. SEIU prefers this because, in a large percentage of past cases, workers who were given a choice voted against joining this thug union.

 

“He ticked off a number of reasons why union elections have their drawbacks,” Chicago Tribune reporter Stephen Franklin wrote in a story headlined “Democracy Dream Still Eludes Union” after interviewing SEIU President Stern a few years ago.  “They politicize the union’s staff, they are costly, they are distracting from the union’s business…. ‘It is hard to make the argument that unions with direct elections better represent their members,’ said Stern, whose membership takes in a large number of low-wage hospital workers, janitors and factory help.”  (Stern sounds remarkably like King George III explaining why the colonists should have no right to vote in the American colonies.)

 

“Some SEIU staff say straight up, ‘This isn’t a workers’ organization. If it was left to the workers there wouldn’t be an organization,’” wrote labor reporter JoAnn Wypijewski in October 2003 in the leftist magazine CounterPunch.  She is former Managing Editor of another leftist magazine The Nation.

 

In its arrogance, organized labor now demands that workers should not be permitted any say in how their dues may be spent on politics. And the current SEIU approach is to deny workers any vote whatsoever on whether or not they must join this union, and no control over the local conglomerated SEIU union to which they must be members. Stern and the national union control everything. This is what Stern, blind to its irony, describes as “Union Democracy.”

 

SEIU perfectly embodies the values of the New Labor Movement in America. To understand what it is, consider this 1997 analysis by Los Angeles Democrat, longtime fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, activist and author Joel Kotkin:

 

“The public-sector unions have pushed the entire labor movement to the left. The Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, has embraced organizations with a New Left origin, such as ACORN and Cleveland’s Nine to Five, and has even set up its own gay and lesbian caucus. ‘Most of the radicals who went into labor ended up in the public employee unions,’ observes one labor official.

 

“The rise of these unions led to the elevation of SEIU’s boss, John Sweeney, to head of the labor federation,” wrote Kotkin. “No George Meaney-style bread-and-butter unionist, Sweeney is an advocate of European-style democratic socialism. He has opened the AFL-CIO to participation by delegates openly linked to the Communist Party, which enthusiastically backed his ascent. The U.S. Communist Party says it is now ‘in complete accord’ with the AFL-CIO’s program. ‘The radical shift in both leadership and policy is a very positive, even historic change,’ wrote CPUSA National Chairman Gus Hall in 1996 after the AFL-CIO convention.

 

“That alone is enough to send shivers down the spines of many labor activists,” continued Kotkin. “particularly those old enough to remember the earlier struggles against the totalitarian left. ‘All those people we thought we got rid of 40 years ago are back in there,’ complains one Detroit area labor lawyer close to the United Auto Workers. ‘It’s like the 1930s all over again.’”

 

Some SEIU activists boast that they are the “new CIO,” referring to the radical, class warfare Congress of Industrial Organizations before Walter Reuther purged it of its most toxic Communist leaders as a condition of merging with the more moderate, boost-worker-wages-oriented American Federation of Labor to create the AFL-CIO in 1955. Today’s SEIU “leaders tend to be radical, even socialist,” wrote Ryan Lizza, Associate Editor of the liberal magazine The New Republic in 2003.

 

Such leftwing ideology was on display last month in San Francisco as the SEIU convention moved far beyond workplace-and-wages issues by passing a resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. SEIU and AFSCME contributed $2.6 million of their members’ dues to Democrat Howard Dean’s quixotic, losing anti-war run for the Iowa presidential caucuses, precisely because he was more passionately radical than the more reliable organized labor sock puppet Rep. Dick Gephardt. (Many observers have likened Dean in that regard to SEIU President Stern.)

 

This New Labor movement is no longer focused just on workaday concerns. Many of its leaders are now 1960s radicals like Stern. SEIU’s allies in waging mass attacks on targeted companies are not only politicians, the media and trial lawyers, but also leftwing environmental, health and community activist groups. John Sweeney marched arm-in-arm with such activists in protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle while radicals around him smashed store windows.

 

But although the SEIU objects to importing goods from international companies, it supports importing workers via easy immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens. One reason is that SEIU finds it easy to organize low-income, low-education workers, who do not talk back to or question their SEIU union bosses. Another potential reason, as the Communist Party USA has proposed, is that Marxist-style revolution requires a disaffected proletariat, but American workers are generally too satisfied to function as this revolutionary class. The CPUSA answer: import poor immigrants, who with proper union brainwashing can become the soon-to-be-discontented proletariat that the U.S. has not produced in its own native population.

 

As Ben Johnson reported in FrontPageMagazine.com last March 2, SEIU’s Andy Stern is on the Executive Committee of the leftwing Democratic Party auxiliary Americans Coming Together (ACT), along with the head of the Sierra Club and other radicals, ACT being funded by international money-manipulator George Soros.

 

As Kotkin quoted, you might think that this is the year 2004 – but in the New Labor movement, minds have regressed to the 1930s and are again hypnotized by and enamored with totalitarian statism, ideological hatred for American capitalism, and socialist utopian fantasies that history for the rest of us has utterly discredited.

 

As happens with individual human beings, perhaps with the labor movement growing old and feeble, as it nears death senility has taken it into a second childhood of Marxist reveries and memories. The bad news is that this dying, senile movement is still able to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from workers and use that money to elect leftwing Democrat politicians. By doing so in 2004, organized labor could shorten the liberties and life of the United States.

 

The National Journal reported, e.g., that SEIU’s Stern played a big role in persuading the Democratic presidential nominee-apparent to pick as his running mate Senator John Edwards.

 

But why should we be surprised that a public employee union is socialist? In its perfect world everybody would be a unionized government employee – and the tooth fairy would each night leave enough money under the government’s pillow to pay for it all, including the Bal Harbor, Florida caviar and Havana cigars of the idle rich union bosses.

 

A fourth reason the SEIU in particular, and organized labor in general, is desperate to defeat President Bush this November is its own survival.  Half a century ago nearly half of private sector workers were union members.  Today that proportion has plummeted to one American private sector worker in 12 – according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (DLS), only 8.2 percent of private sector workers.

 

(One reason for this decline that organized labor, of course, refuses to admit is that unionized companies, forced to pay wages imposed in violation of the law of supply and demand, became uncompetitive in the global marketplace and have been going out of business. This is why “union alley,” the political-economic disaster zone analogous to tornado alley from Illinois to Pennsylvania, is known as the Rust Belt.)

 

This is why AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s battle cry has been that unions must either “Grow or Die!”

 

(This, ironically, is the same dilemma that Lenin ascribed to capitalism, a need for constant growth that inevitably leads to imperialism, capitalism’s “final stage”…so by Lenin’s logic we apparently are now witnessing Organized Labor’s final, imperialistic stage, its desperate dying grab for absolute power.)

 

Today more Americans are employed by government than work in manufacturing – actually making things. And today, according to DLS, 37.2 percent of public sector (i.e. government) employees are unionized. This is virtually the only sector of society where unions have been growing.

 

And this is precisely the niche in which SEIU and AFSCME dwell, the two unions that in 2002 gave more soft-money political campaign contributions than any others. Both these unions have a vested interest in helping Democratic politicians who will block efforts to reduce government and to lower taxes. They urgently need, for their own selfish reasons, to elect politicians who will press to make government ever-bigger so that it can produce more and more union-dues-paying jobs for welfare workers, socialized medicine healthcare workers, Medicare nursing home workers and the like.

 

To make such expansion possible, SEIU’s President Stern recently joined what some labor activists call "the gang of five” – he and his fellow Presidents of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (with a history linked to organized crime); the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE) (also with a history linked to organized crime); the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE); and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters – to create the “New Unity Partnership.” (HERE and UNITE also formally merged in July 2004 to form the new mega-union UNITE HERE with approximately 840,000 members.)

 

Stern argued in his convention speech last month that the AFL-CIO’s “loose trade association of 65 disparate unions” is too weak to carry the labor movement successfully into the future. To revitalize Labor, he has proposed consolidation of these 65 into no more than 15, and perhaps as few as five, giant unions with enough money, power and political clout to intimidate companies, industries, politicians, even entire countries as unions like SEIU and its New Unity Partnership become the international union equivalent of multinational corporations.

 

Stern’s ballyhooed vision for “New Labor” is really a century old, akin to the goal of the International Workers of the World (IWW) “Wobblies” to create “One Big Union” for all workers so powerful that it could impose socialist-anarchist government, confiscate all private companies, redistribute all private wealth, and end war by having the world’s workers refuse to fight. The IWW refused to forgo strikes during World War I, opposed the war, came to be widely perceived as unpatriotic and anti-American, and this led to the extinction of this early dinosaur version of the labor movement. 

 

These are the same old leftward reptilian footprints, right down to last month’s SEIU withdraw-the-troops resolution, that Stern today is following.  Because of their stranglehold on the Democratic Party, this is an ominous portent of politics to come.


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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