Friday, January 29, 2010

Unions Can't Compete With Corporate Campaign Cash

Unions Can't Compete With Corporate Campaign Cash


By John Nichols


The Nation

January 24, 2010


Some union leaders think that the Supreme Court ruling

in the case of Citizens United v. FEC -- which

essentially takes the limits off campaign spending --

will give them the same flexibility and freedom to

influence the process as it does corporations.


These are the same union leaders who imagined that

electing Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress would

lead to the rapid enactment of the Employee Free Choice

Act and meaningful labor-law reform.


The AFL-CIO actually filed a brief in the Citizens

United case that urged removal of reasonable restraints

on campaign spending.


Indeed, an attorney who prepared the amicus brief for

the AFL-CIO recently participated in a conference call

talking up the merits of the corporate position, along

with representatives of the conservative Heritage

Foundation and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.


What are the leaders of the labor federation thinking?


They imagine that, with spending limits removed,

organized labor will be able to buy enough television

time to reward their political friends and punish their

political enemies.


It's a sweet fantasy. But the reality is that

corporations will be buying so much more television

time when it matters -- in the run-up to key elections

-- that the voices of working Americans will drowned

out with the same regularity that they are on Capitol

Hill -- where, it should be noted, overwhelming

Democratic majorities have yet to deliver on even the

most basic demands of the labor movement.


To think otherwise is to neglect the reality that one

corporation -- Goldman Sachs -- spends more annually to

pay just its top employees than the combined assets of

all the nation's major unions.


University of Wisconsin communications professor Lew

Friedland points out that the nation's four largest

banks would have to allocate a mere one-tenth of one

percent of their assets -- $6 billion -- to counter a

campaign in which the whole of the U.S. labor movement

spent all of its assets.


The bottom line is that a union leader who supports the

Citizens United ruling is like a steer who talks up a

steak restaurant because they're both in the same business.


Organized labor ought to be siding clearly and

unequivocally with the forces of democracy in the

struggle to establish a political process in which all

voices can be heard, and in which elections are about

ideas and issues rather than fund raising and attacks ads.


A few unions "get it."


The California Nurses Association and National Nurses

United, the nation's largest nurses union, have

accurately identified the Citizens United decision as a

"disastrous ruling for American workers and American democracy."


"The healthcare debate of the last year has provided a

sobering reminder of the already pervasive influence of

giant pharmaceutical and insurance corporations. The

last thing our democracy and political system needs is

ever more spending and political sway by the wealthiest

interests in this country," says Rose Ann DeMoro,

executive director of National Nurses United, the

150,000-member labor organization.


The notion that the Citizens United ruling might

somehow make it easier for organized labor to influence

the political process is "ludicrous," says DeMoro.


"Equating what unions and working people could spend on

campaigns would be like comparing a toy boat to an

aircraft carrier," she explains. "Corporate influence

peddling in politics already distorts and prevents our

democracy and political system (from functioning)."


"Opening the floodgates to unlimited spending is a

dangerous prescription for candidates who will be even

more beholden to the biggest corporate spenders,"

argues DeMoro. "The likely result would be more

dominance of healthcare policy by insurance and drug

giants and less public oversight of our air, water,

food, and workplaces that is needed to protect

consumers and workers."


That is the message that all of organized labor should be delivering.




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