THE US trade unions are gearing up for the battle to get Barack Obama elected as the president of the United States, believing that he will be pro-worker and deal with the jobs, health and pensions crisis that affects all of the US working class.
The SEIU, the US’ largest and fasting-growing union, announced yesterday a general election campaign that includes unprecedented activity by more members than any election in the SEIU’s history.
Nurses, child care and home care workers, janitors, security officers and other SEIU members across the country are already talking to voters and hitting the streets in key states and races across the country.
‘More than 100,000 SEIU members will be volunteering their time to elect a pro-worker majority in Congress and elect Barack Obama as our next president,’ said Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger.
‘They will reach out to voters in their communities with a clear message about which candidate will end the war in Iraq, ensure guaranteed affordable health care for everyone and build a new American Dream for workers.’
SEIU’s political campaign includes:
* A budget of $85 million for this election, targeting swing states for Obama’s presidential campaign as well as important gubernatorial, Senatorial and House races. Some of the states include: CO, IA, MN, NC, NH, NM, OH, PA, VA and WI.
* Paid advertising and direct mail campaigns throughout the country.
* Registering voters, contacting voters at the door and over the phone, organising rallies and campaign events.
* An historic presence at the Democratic and Republican party conventions.
* Extensive outreach to voters on McCain’s record of putting working families last.
* ‘Road to American Health Care’ bus tour that is travelling through swing states all summer and ending at the Democratic and Republican conventions.
* ‘Promote the Vote’ campaigns to insure all eligible voters cast their ballot and that their vote is counted.
* Targeted outreach in key areas to hold House and Senate members accountable for their votes on health care.
* ‘Walk A Day In My Shoes’ with gubernatorial and Senate candidates in key states with candidates spending time on the job and in the home of an SEIU worker.
* A $10 million accountability campaign that will begin on November 5 by holding elected officials to their promises on health care and strengthening the middle class.
‘We are running the largest and most aggressive political operation in our union’s history for this campaign,’ said Burger.
‘When working families do better, the country does better. Our members will use their voices to push a strong agenda for working families: new jobs that pay a living wage, help for families facing foreclosures and struggling with higher gas prices and grocery bills, and retirement with dignity.’
SEIU’s electoral targets will grow and shift throughout the summer to ensure members’ time, energy and resources are maximised.
‘We are committed to working hard every day through Election Day and beyond to keep the pressure on our leaders until we create a new American Dream for working people,’ said Burger.
Meanwhile, US Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, has asked British supermarket chain Tesco to reconsider its policy on not dealing with US unions.
The presumed US Democratic presidential nominee made the request in a letter to Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy just two days before the company’s annual stockholders meeting.
He wrote: ‘I urge you to reconsider your policy of non-engagement in the United States and advise your executives at Fresh & Easy to meet with the UFCW (United Food & Commercial Workers Union) and other community groups.’
The letter to Leahy is the second one that Obama has sent to the supermarket chain and comes just three weeks after the union told Tesco it would seek Obama’s help.
The United Food & Commercial Workers Union has been trying to meet with Tesco representatives for the past two years.
Also, the AFL-CIO trade union federation chief, John Sweeney has mounted an attack on the Republican Party candidate for the presidency, John McCain.
He wrote of McCain: ‘John McCain couldn’t top the insensitivity and tone-deafness of staging a PR event in Memphis, Tennessee, on the recent anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s death.
‘After all, he cast the deciding vote against the 1990 Civil Rights Act, opposed a national MLK holiday and hasn’t done people of colour and the poor any economic favours.
‘But he keeps going. And the further he goes, the more he demonstrates that when it comes to working family issues, he just doesn’t get it.
‘McCain went to Youngstown, Ohio, where he praised job-killing trade deals in front of a shut-down factory and claimed to understand working families who are losing homes and jobs and feeling “counted out” – because for a while he was behind in the Republican polls.
‘McCain himself is the ninth-richest member of Congress and owns several homes worth more than $10 million.
‘He went to fundraisers in Arkansas, where Carly Fiorina, ‘victory chairman’ for the Republican National Committee, attested that McCain is ‘very much in touch’ with working folks. Fiorina, of course, is the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who laid off thousands of workers.
‘When she herself was shown the door, she left with a $21 million severance package.
‘Nonetheless, in Spring Lake, Michigan, McCain called her “one of the great role models and leaders in America”.
‘He went to New Orleans, where he blasted the Bush administration’s failures to respond when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast and devastated lives.
‘Apparently it slipped his mind that while New Orleans was drowning, he was enjoying cake right beside President Bush in celebration of McCain’s 69th birthday.
‘In city after city across the country, McCain is talking the good talk. I challenge him to bring his votes and policies into line with his rhetoric.
‘He’s talking jobs, although he voted to help corporations send them overseas, and about retraining unemployed workers whose jobs, lost to unfair trade, “aren’t coming back.”
‘But he wants to take money from existing retraining programmes to help pay for an unworkable wage insurance proposal. He voted against loans to enable workers in job training or job assistance programmes to continue paying their bills. He also voted against extending unemployment assistance for workers who exhaust their federal benefits while looking for new jobs.
‘He talks about ending “the tens of billions of dollars squandered every year on special favours and corporate welfare.” But his tax plan would give tax breaks worth $3.8 billion a year to the top five oil companies, $1.9 billion a year to the top 10 health insurance companies and continue the Bush tax cuts, which give millions more to the richest people in America.
‘He says, “At a time when many working families can hardly afford their mortgage, their groceries and gas for the car or truck, we need to close the door firmly on corporate lobbyists.”
‘But McCain has at least 90 lobbyists as top fundraisers and senior campaign staffers and advisers, more than any other candidate in 2008. Some of the lobbyists represented notorious lenders involved in the subprime mortgage disaster. The Washington Post reported that McCain’s campaign has been “guided by lobbyists.”
‘He talks about families struggling in what he still considers a strong economy. But he supports a war that consumes billions we could spend addressing problems here at home.
‘He opposes the minimum wage, wants to tax health care benefits and leave us to battle it out with big insurance companies on our own, refused to protect our overtime pay, didn’t bother to vote to protect us from pay discrimination, voted to block health and safety standards and the Employee Free Choice Act. . . the litany goes on and on. And on.’
Workers and their trade unions are determined to put the Republican Party out of the White House.
With the US at the centre of the word capitalist crisis workers will rapidly discover that Obama cannot bring them the jobs, wages, pensions and basic rights that they want.
To get this, workers will have to break with both capitalist parties and set up a Labour party that will fight for socialist policies and socialism.