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Labor Day Thoughts From a Labor Perspective


I caught IAM president Tom Buffenbarger and Vic Fingerhut on C-SPAN discussing a poll the IAM had commissioned Fingerhut to perform. Directly from the IAM website:

“The survey revealed dramatic political potential for the candidate or party willing to give more than lip service to America’s blue-collar concerns. Every job creation idea tested in the survey, from tax incentives to keep jobs in the U.S. to new investments in high tech industries, drew strong support from four-fifths of the respondents. Additionally, seven out of ten voters polled said they would be willing to forgo current or future tax cuts for programs to create or protect U.S. jobs.”

And the money shot:

“The blue collar vote in these four core states is still up for grabs,” said Buffenbarger. “The candidate who ultimately connects with these workers could ride that support all the way to the White House. The candidate who ignores them will do so at his own expense.”

Labor Day begins a contemplative season for me. My father passed September 13th thirty one years ago, and he comes back strong this time of year. I was on the job September 11, 2001 on a Tar Heel blue day – high pressure system, moderate temperature, absolutely beautiful. The beauty ended when a co-worker ran into operations and said, “A missile has hit the Twin Towers!” We watched horror unfold. I fielded the call from my dispatcher asking how many additional flights we could handle – the FAA was grounding the fleet. One flight got into it with dispatch – he was fueled for Florida, and a North Carolina landing would be ‘heavy’ – overweight due to fuel. Dispatch told him Seymour Johnson AFB F15’s would shoot him down if he did not comply. And this time of year, I reflect on how goes it for working folks and our grand democratic experiment – you cannot have one without the other.

Just as this Administration took advantage of September 11, 2001 to press their Middle East fiasco vision, so too have they taken advantage to press their fascist economic vision. They have allowed corporations to use bankruptcy laws in ways Congress did not intend to bust unions in steel, aviation and automakers. It is a golden era for the moneyed interests: for the working class, not so much. Just up the road from me is the best outboard marine mechanic I have ever known. He gets all of my business, and I have happily recommended him every chance I get. When he opened his shop a few years back, he sold 80 – 100 motors a year (they range from 8 to 70 horsepower), and had more repair work than he could handle. Last year, Jimmy sold 23 motors. This year, 3. And repairs have gone in the toilet, too. His customers can’t afford to operate their small boats; in fact, a significant percent of his few repairs have been for owners who were going to turn around and sell their boats. He has applied for work at some of the big dealerships, whose top-end business (cabin cruisers, big offshore fishing boats for local king mackerel tournaments) has never been better. They’re offering him $7 an hour.

The agglomeration of fanatical Christian right and neo-fascist business interests are not going to change their minds – “winning is not everything; it’s the only thing” to them. There is a persuadable middle that has leaned Republican lately, which we need to lean our way. We, the choir, know those details backwards and forwards, so I will not rehash them.

Apparently, my former union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is getting hip, too.
The facts are right there in front of the Democrat power structure. Will they connect the meaning of this poll to the meaning of Ned Lamont, and act? 

President Buffenbarger, the “candidate who ignores them” is sometimes a Democrat. And the expense is born by the membership.

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