Losing the Narrative on Public Employee Unions

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow

The “Aggressive Right-wing Oligarchy” (ARO), in the post-Citizens United universe, appears to be winning. And the workers (and their nominal “representatives” in the Democratic Party) appear to be losing. No amount of cheerleading for Democrats on MSNBC from Rachel Maddow or anyone else can alter this course unless President Obama and other high-profile Democrats at the national level put aside their teacher bashing for a minute and understand that if labor unions go down the Democratic Party goes down with them.

This is the reason the ARO is telescoping its money into Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, and other states to bring down public employees. The ARO knows that by bringing down the public employee unions it brings down the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, what we know as the “Democratic Party” is only about one-half of a “labor party.” The other half is subservient to the same Wall Street CEOs, hedge fund managers, and other elements of the ARO as the Republicans. And they have engineered the most effective and comprehensive “bait and switch” in the history of the world.

Thirty years ago President Reagan declared that “welfare queens” were not “the truly needy” but “the truly greedy.” What we’re seeing today is the logical extension of that argument, only now working people who receive paychecks from state, county, or municipal governments – teachers, police officers, fire fighters, etc. – are the “welfare queens.”

Despite the courageous push back by workers in Wisconsin and other states, the dominant narrative largely views anyone who works for governmental institutions as somehow “freeloading”; and they’re freeloading off the salt-of-the-earth private sector folks that happen to include Wall Street CEOs, hedge fund managers, the Kochs and their ilk. The fact that this sorry state of affairs is even possible is a testimony to the power of the propaganda system that came into being shortly after President Bill Clinton signed the “Telecommunications Act” of 1996.

The Democrats’ strategy of kissing Wall Street’s ass in the vain hope that the “good people” among the suits over there will invest in American workers again has failed. Worse still, this “strategy” has enabled the media frame to shift gears to attacking public employees, their bargaining rights, their pensions — the base of the Democratic Party. A Faustian bargain if I’ve ever seen one.

In California, a right-wing group called the “Little Hoover Commission” has just produced a study that calls for stripping California’s public employees RIGHT NOW of a big chunk of their retirement pensions even after years of paying into them and giving up concession after concession to maintain them. Worse, a “grassroots” group calling itself “California Pension Reform” plans to put on the ballot an initiative to impose the “Little Hoover Commission’s” plan. And you know what? In the current media environment where public employee bashing rules the day, that proposition just might pass.

Joseph PalermoThis attack on public employee unions has just begun and won’t go away. And without a forceful, unapologetic, and painful counter punch to the nose against these elites from the Democratic Party (including the Obama Administration) the public employees are going to lose this war.

With the disempowerment of labor in our society, any sociologist will tell you, the living standards of all working people will be lowered. Yet the fear and anger of a society where 10 percent unemployment and downsizing public institutions is the norm is being channeled into public policy that serves the wealthiest interests. If the Democratic Party refuses to fight even for its own survival when workers across the country are fighting for their livelihoods, then the workers of America will have no choice but to form a third party, a labor party, to challenge the ARO.

Joseph Palermo

Joseph A Palermo


  1. James says

    What propaganda?

    When a Private Business uses Union Labor, they have to keep close watch on what they concede to the Unions. . . GM and Chrysler are good examples of failure to balance. . .

    In the Public Sector, there is no competition, no other recourse, and no profit margin to keep an eye on – all the money and benefits conceded to Public Sector Unions are “earned” through the use of guns and violence – and those who pay for these wages and benefits have NO-ONE to negotiate on their behalf.

    Public Sector Unions should be abolished – abolished NOW, and everyone (I mean EVERYONE) involved in them, from Legislators to union members, put in prison for a very very long time.

  2. Craig says

    This is a fight the Democrats apparently want to fight with one hand tied behind its back. Trade union members have organization but they only represent a small percent of the working class. Most Democrats are working class people who don’t belong to a union but wish they did. Unions ten years ago figured out how to communicate with their members, the Democrats haven’t figured that out yet. In Dane County ,where Madison Wisconsin is located they only communicate with 1 percent of their members , 2000 out of 200,000 local Democrats.
    This is the same story throughout the country. Our slogan should be “can we win with one hand tied behind our backs.”Many of the elected Democrats and leaders are very smart people. We need to ask them why they apparently think we can protect ourselves without spending chump change on organizing our members.

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