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Tuesday, October 03, 2006 

A Politics of Nothingness: "Trade-unionists" and Phil Bredesen

As the November elections approach, electoral politics, especially Democratic Party Politics asserts itself rather strongly in left circles. One helpful way to discuss which candidates to vote for, or more often against is to compare platforms and political track-records. Nothing special about that, folks from every political tendency do it. So to better inform potential voters out there, here's one such scorecard:

  • Workers Comp Benefit: Changes administrative rules to force workers to non-binding arbitration with employer prior to involving the courts. Cut the "multiplier" nearly in half - meaning that were you to lose a hand, thumb, finger, leg, arm, foot, etc. the amount of money you receive is roughly half of what it was prior to the "reforms." Used bought-off former State-Fed (AFL-CIO) President as axe-man for the whole thing.

  • State Medicare: Cut state Medicare program with no alternative in place, depriving thousands of state residents from their only health insurance ultimately resulting in hundreds if not thousands of deaths. Pushed through a cobbled-together cluster of bullshit stop-gap measures calling them a successful program.

  • Immigration: Further criminalized immigrant workers, promptly sending over-deployed National Guard troops to defend "the border," bragging about both in campaign commercials.

  • Continued One-sided Class Warfare Via the State's Tax-System: Forced through massive cuts in social services to "prove that we can balance our budgets without a state income tax," while working to kill legislation that would cut the nearly 10 percent sales-tax on food.

  • Support for Company Unions and Labor Aristocracy: Gave tens of millions in TennCare savings blood-money to the state employee's company-union. The only union cause he is known to have championed was a wage dispute between the Carpenters and the Department of Energy - and at a time when the Carpenters were actively bashing the immigrants rights movement.

  • Gave Higher Education Workers Raise "Left-overs": While giving the company union for state-agency employees a fully funded 3 percent raise and $21.1 million to address pay compression, he provided NO funding in his budget for state higher education workers, despite the fact that over 40 percent of the hourly higher education workers currently make poverty level wages.

  • LGBTQ Rights, the Marriage Question: Publicly promises to vote for and encourages supporters to vote for fascist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-people Constitutional Amendment on November ballot
And this agent of the employing class is up by 30 points in the recent polls. You might think that the man being described is a Republican, but all these great deeds were carried out by the Democratic Governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen. If ever there was a governor's race that deserved an election boycott, or at least an abstention on the part of labor when endorsement time rolled around, this is it. But did the above list give the State-Fed even a moment of pause? Did the litany of this bastard's evil, anti-worker policies provoke some debate in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge CLC? Were these issues even discussed, mentioned, footnoted, alluded to? Not a chance in hell. Yellow-dog to their core, craft-unionists and labor aristocrats gave this champion of our class enemy sounding endorsements; they even handed them out early!

Yesterday, members of my union the United Campus Workers - Communications Workers of America local 3865 turned out at the first debate between Bredesen and his far distant opponent. We were there to hand out a flyer asking for the Governor to include funding for a real, cost of living raise for all workers at state-sponsored higher education institutions in his next budget. Next budget...he's not going to have one of those before the November election. What's the implication? If you asked me, the flyer operates from the assumption that he's gonna win. In fact, this is beyond question.

Did the flyer advocate for his opponent? Nope. Did it call him a lying, blood-sucking scum-bag? Nope. Did it call him a murderer, maimer of working women and men, health care executive parasite? Nope. No call for class revolt in our workplaces, schools and streets. No calls for sit-ins at the Capital, or picket-lines at his residence.

It simply told the truth. The truth that a plurality, a near-fucking-majority of us higher education workers make poverty level wages. It demanded fairness. No more two-tier raises where some well paid state agency employees see 7+ percent raises while we struggle to by bread and milk with 2 percent or $600 raise, whichever is greater. No more "merit" increases at the expense of across the board raises, policy decisions that translate to many university lecturers and adjunct faculty receiving criminally low raises of $250-$400 in a year when the increase in the Consumer Price Index was 4.2 percent.

Our members were met with jeers, shouts, taunts and threats. Not from Bredesen's staff. Not from nameless Democratic Party hacks. But from so-called local "trade-unionists," namely members of the Carpenters and Laborers. The most right-wing, anti-immigrant members of the remaining craft union labor aristocracy. Among the most vicious of the attackers was one Harold Woods, the lesser (his father, Harold Woods, and his mother have both been main-stayers in the EastTN craft-union movement for decades). This blow-hard sits on the Knoxville-Oak Ridge CLC's Executive Council, a position which apperently gives him the power to tell other union workers to stand-down with any criticism of their CEO (the Governor serves as Chair of the UT Board of Trustees).

These are the instances that in aggregate form create politics of nothingness that our trade-union "movement" clings to. Phil Bredesen isn't a John Kerry that needs us to sell part of our souls to get him elected.
He's polling at 60 percent of likely voters with nearly 20 percent undecieded and his opponent barely topping 22 percent! Any work to convince union members in this state that they should, let alone need to vote for him is out-and-out deception. It feeds our members the worse kind of misinformation, buttressing the worse kind of "faith-based politics."

Phil Bredesen, Nail Him UP!

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