US unions being driven to historic break with Democrats


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said last Friday that US workers want an ‘independent’ labour movement designed to help the working class, not a specific party or candidate.

In a speech at the National Press Club, the head of the US’ largest labour federation (AFL–CIO) said ‘We are actually redoing our entire political programme and the way we do things. . . We will change the way we spend. . . the way we function in a way that creates power for workers.’

Asked if labour will campaign against Democrats, Trumka responded, ‘Ask Blanche Lincoln’ (the defeated southern Democrat whom trade unionists refused to vote for). ‘What we are saying is for people who support workers, we’re going to be with them. And candidates who don’t support workers, we’re not going to be with them.’

He has taken this stand as a result of an explosion of working class anger at the anti-working class role of President Obama and the Democratic Party.

The US trade unions, hit hard by the crisis of US capitalism, have experienced huge numbers of industrial closures, a massive growth of unemployment and homelessness amongst its members, as well as wage and pensions cutting on a scale that has never been experienced before, except in the 1930s when the attacks of capital led to massive strike struggles and occupations on the docks, in road haulage, and in the mines, and then to the organisation of the motor car industry – an explosion of industrial trade unionism which built the giant AFL-CIO trade union federation.

In that period, many workers saw the ‘New Deal’ policies of Roosevelt and the Democratic Party as a support of their struggle, and it was in that period that their support for the Democratic Party was established.

Today, despite all of the high hopes in the election of Obama to the presidency, and the fact that the US trade unions gave over a hundred million dollars to his campaign and an equal number of hours of members campaigning, it is the Democratic administration that is leading the struggle against the working class and the trade unions.

It was Obama that spent trillions rescuing the banks, while large numbers of workers lost their jobs and homes.

It was Obama who rescued GM at the expense of workers, with tens of thousands losing their jobs, a large number of plant closures, and wage- and pension-cutting deals that now see workers being hired at half of what was the union rate for the job.

On health care, Obama gave in to the Republicans and pulled back, while now he has united with the Republicans to agree $4 trillion cuts, and measures which include huge job and wage cuts for federal state workers.

In a number of states, the Democrats are now taking action, following the lead of the Republicans, to break the power of state trade union employees, as a route out of the numerous state bankruptcies.

There is now a huge push beginning in the trade unions, a political explosion of anger, to break from the Democrats, so as to be able to find a political answer to the crisis of US capitalism.

The mass anger of US workers at the role of the Democrats is far too powerful for the AFL-CIO trade union leaders to ignore. The demand is already being made for the trade unions to form a Labour Party to fight the bosses and capitalism.

The US socialist revolution is contained in this development, in semblance.

The task of the hour is to build a US section of the International Committee of the Fourth International to lead the struggle for a Labour Party and for the US socialist revolution.