When Silence is Deadly Cowardice in the Union Movement

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka takes a strong stand against racist thugs and Wall Street greedsters when talking to some reporters; but then he and other leaders in the AFL-CIO decided to not name Trump at their recent national convention. Apparently this was for strategic reasons.

While in DC for several meetings I spoke with workers rights advocates both inside and outside union staffs, and progressive Democratic Party activists. I kept hearing complaints that some of the same folks that steered the failed 2016 election campaign for the Democrats are leaning on unions to not take on Trump by name to somehow give Democrats an advantage in the midterm elections.

For over thirty years clueless inside-the-beltway strategists have been minimizing the growing threat of the Christian Right and White Nationalism. At the same time several unions made conscious decisions to not alert their own members about the right-wing juggernaut for fear of alienating their members who vote Republican.

I personally ran into this brick wall decades ago after being asked to brief the leadership of the National Educational Association at the recommendation of state-level staff who saw what was happening out in the field. After hearing my presentation, which included a warning that the NEA was a primary target for destruction along with the entire public school system…the NEA bigwigs decided to do nothing.

Now it looks like it is happening again.

Outside the Beltway, too many parents cannot feed their children. They cannot protect themselves and their families from verbal abuse, threats, and violence from White Supremacist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, anti-feminist, homophobic thugs. Some of those under attack are in unions.

What will it take to get those union leaders choosing “strategic” silence to see that they are turning their backs on our democracy when it is not only under siege by authoritarian bigots; but being targeted by fascists playing with fire?