In “The union-owned Democrats” (the Washington Post’s headline) and “Union owned and operated” (NRO’s headline), Charles Krauthammer devotes his weekly column to compiling the notable services that Barack Obama has performed on behalf of his paymasters in organized labor. “Instructive cases all,” Krauthammer comments, “demonstrating how those who lose popular support — Democrats at the polls, unions in their declining membership — can subvert and circumvent the popular will by judicial usurpation (Wisconsin) or administrative fiat (Boeing).” It’s a story that reeks.
Mark Hemingway provided a comprehensive look at the phenomena in a recent Weekly Standard cover story. Hemingway deduced that the violent spasms of the union struggles we have witnessed in recent months represent death throes. He characterized the situation as “Unionsdämmerung,” the twilight of the unions. I think that Hemingway makes a powerful case, but that there should probably be a question mark next to the title.
Hemingway covers a lot of territory in his article and reminds readers of stories that may not have registered in the rush of news this spring. Here Hemingway supports the thesis of his article with a union leader’s own assessment of the prospects:
Unions themselves are deeply pessimistic about the future. Until last fall, when he left the SEIU, Stephen Lerner was director of the union’s high-profile campaign for reform of the banking and finance industries. He’s not just any other union official–according to Washington Post wunderkind Ezra Klein, Lerner is “considered one of the smartest organizers, if not the smartest organizer, working in the labor movement right now. . . . At a time when a lot of people in labor have become, if not resigned to their fate as a marginal force in American life, increasingly confused as to how to reverse it, Lerner has a lot of fight left in him.”
So how does the labor movement’s smartest organizer propose to save unions from irrelevancy?
According to audio of Lerner speaking at a recent closed session at Pace University that was leaked on the Internet, Lerner thinks the labor movement has to “destabilize” the country. There needs to be a mass strike on paying mortgages, student loans, and, bizarrely, local government debt. (How local governments are expected to continue paying the salaries and pensions of unionized employees after defaulting on their bonds is unclear.)
Lerner expressed the hope that this would force banks into insolvency. They would then have to renegotiate all their mortgages and loans. It would also “bring down the stock market,” depriving the rich of their wealth. Lerner approvingly cited the fatal and destructive riots over austerity measures in Greece and solemnly invoked the famous Cloward-Piven strategy–a theory cooked up decades ago by two leftist sociologists that urges forcing the government into a crisis so as to address economic injustice.
Finally, Lerner announced the first target of this campaign–JPMorgan Chase. Why? “So a bunch of us around the country think, ‘Who would be a really good company to hate?’ We decided that would be JPMorgan Chase.”
Hemingway quotes Lerner: “Unions are almost dead. We cannot survive doing what we do.” Krauthammer himself intimates the ultimate failure of the favoritism and corruption that are propping up the unions. Along with the other evidence adduced in his article, Hemingway deepens this qualification of the events depicted in Krauthammer’s column.