“If there is going to be class warfare in this country, it’s time that the working class of this country won that war.” – Bernie Sanders
As the fight for the Democratic nomination grinds on towards the winter and spring primary season, Bernie Sanders continues to work hard to differentiate himself from the pack by putting forward a bold, clear, working class program to revitalize and mobilize the labor movement. He is calling on the unions to rally to his campaign and join him in the fight against the obscene accumulations of wealth and power of the billionaire class.
In a series of campaign events, speeches and social media posts this August and September he rolled out his Workplace Democracy Plan, “…establishing a national goal to double union membership….” and declaring that if elected, “I’m not only going to be Commander in Chief. I am going to be Organizer in Chief.” committing to use the office of the president to actively support union organizing and to mobilize mass support for his program.
Included in his plan are commitments to guarantee the right of public workers to organize and bargain collectively, give federal workers the right to strike, enact “card check” organizing, eliminate “right to work” laws, ban the permanent replacement of striking workers, and re-legalize sympathy strikes.
Many of these proposed reforms look back to the militant fighting tactics that built the U.S. unions in the first place, tactics that the bosses decided were much too effective and used their political power to make them illegal.
These proposals would eliminate most of the current legal and economic barriers to organizing unions and conducting successful strikes, and dramatically shift the balance of power in the workplace and the broader economy in favor of the working class.
Point by point Sanders responds to the political demands of the union leadership giving them everything that they have been saying they need to restore the economic and political power that unions have lost over the past 50 years. This shift of power would result in the dramatic improvement in wages, working conditions, health, and the overall quality of life for the vast majority of Americans.
Based on this, every union in the U.S. should be endorsing and campaigning for Sanders right now, mobilizing and engaging their membership to fight alongside him to win the election and carry out his program.
Big Business will not sit still and let Sanders win the election and carry out his plan. Even if he wins the nomination, corporate America would rather have four more years of Trump than a Sanders presidency. He is already facing the full opposition of the Democratic Party establishment that is lining up behind Warren as a reliable “progressive” alternative to Sanders in case Biden should falter.
If Sanders wins the election and begins to carry out his planned reforms, he will face the most ferocious opposition from the rich and powerful, including economic and political sabotage by the Billionaire Oligarchs, the Democratic Party leadership and the corporate media.
Winning even the most basic of these reforms will require a mass mobilization of the unions the youth, and working class communities beyond anything we have seen since the 1970’s. It will mean being prepared to take political strike action. It means building a new political force that contests with the corporate dominated parties alongside determined, peaceful, disciplined mass actions to have a chance of winning.
Time For A New Party
We need to lay the groundwork now to build a new party to fight on Sanders program in the likely event that he is undemocratically blocked from the nomination, just like 2016. Unfortunately Sanders has not drawn this conclusion and continues to argue for turning the Democrats into a “working class party.” The only way this happens is if the Democrats’ public representatives end all reliance on corporate cash, commit themselves to fight for pro-working class policies and if they are accountable to democratic structures. The establishment will split before accepting any of this.
With an intentional approach to building sustainable local structures organized around his unifying working class program, and linking them with ongoing struggles against racism, sexism, climate change, oppressions and class exploitation and all oppression, Sanders campaign can initiate the work of building a new mass party uniting all working and oppressed people in America.
EFCA – A History of Betrayal
We should ask ourselves, if Sanders wins the presidency do the Democrats have the spine to carry out this fight? The Democratic Party’s key campaign promise to the unions in 2008 was to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as EFCA, or “card check”). This would greatly simplify the legal process of organizing a union and winning a first contract. This was the centerpiece of the AFL-CIO’s legislative agenda, the “must have” reform that would reset the balance of power in the workplace.
Obama and the Democrats swept into power in 2008 with a solid majority in both houses, but as soon as the dust settled after the elections, opposition to EFCA revealed itself within the Democratic Party as the corporate establishment mobilized all its forces to fight it, even threatening economic sabotage. Under this intense pressure from corporate America, the Obama administration quietly dropped EFCA and never looked back. These same forces within the Democrats then lined up with the corrupt insurance and pharmaceutical companies – and the Republicans – to fight Obamacare every step of the way, weakening it as much as possible and eliminating the “public option” from the final legislation, guaranteeing the continued obscene profits of the health care “industry.”