March 2010

From the Officers
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Health care reform. Building an economy that works for all. Fixing our outdated labor law system. These are the labor movement’s political priorities, and that is why, in 2008 we went all out for Barack Obama and a Democratic majority.

Events during the president’s first year in office have many union members feeling disillusioned. There are good reasons to feel that way.

  • The Employee Free Choice Act remains in congressional limbo.

  • Many of the most forward-looking features of the health care reform bill, like the public option, were dropped in the face of opposition.

  • The Republican Party successfully filibustered Obama’s pro-worker nominees for the National Labor Relations Board earlier this year; Obama backed down in face of a hysterical GOP campaign.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself of my own words spoken in January 2009 that the election of Barack Obama was not a promise that we would have a seat at the table for every issue, but at least we would be off the menu. And that has proven to be true.

We don’t discount the very real progress that has been made in the last year, from the appointment of the outstanding Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to Obama’s efforts to get our economy moving again by investing in our infrastructure. If you are tempted to give the otherside another shot, remember not one Republican on Capitol Hill offered any input into the health care reform fight that went much beyond the word “No!”

Still, even with our allies in control, this year has reminded us once again that organized labor has to fight for every step on the road to progress for working families. We labored long and hard to make sure we got a health care bill that did no harm to our existing plans and provided the basis of strengthening them as well as extending coverage to more Americans. And as of this writing, much needed reform of our labor laws is still not in the pipeline.

There is only one answer, and that is accountability. Our members, and those who voted like us, didn’t elect President Obama, Vice President Biden and members of the House and Senate to maintain the status quo. We wanted and expected change and to be part of the process of creating it. That is still our goal, and we will let our elected officials know that the real America is heard in union halls, work sites and communities, not on Fox News or the tea parties. Let’s all deliver that message.

Also: Lee: Real Life in Ohio

Edwin D. Hill
International President