December 25, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Happy Holidays Working Folk!!
New York, NY—The former president of Workers United and UNITE HERE! called the recent $1.1 trillion budget compromise a “debacle” because the new spending bill now allows very wealthy people to spend even more cash to influence politics in Washington, D.C than before.
Bruce Raynor is now the principal of a consulting firm in New York City, R & S Associates, and is also president of the Sidney Hillman Foundation. He spoke before the Business and Labor Coalition on December 12 where the Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, preceded him.
“In my opinion, the budget compromise was a debacle. The two big issues, I believe, included in the budget compromise was a little provision that broadened campaign contribution limits. It just took it ten times what it was. So individuals now can contribute ten times what they could’ve contributed yesterday. So what it does is that it hands to people with a lot of money a much bigger ability to influence politics. I thought they already had a lot of ability to influence politics. But they just won another round,” said Raynor.
The other big issue that was part of the $1.1 trillion spending bill, according to Raynor, was the weakening of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which caused a backlash from Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor and Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“But there’s one particular provision [that was] included that Warren and Pelosi resisted has to do with risky trading by the big banks. This is something that JP Morgan and Citibank have spent untold amounts of money in the last year to get this provision. The Tea Party, who opposed the bail out, opposed this provision because it was a favor to the big banks. I think it creates risk of another financial crisis in the derivatives trading operations of the big banks. It’s really a bad provision. I don’t want to be negative, but this was a terrible compromise,” Raynor said.
Mr. Raynor also bemoaned an apparent split in the Democratic Party stemming from the budget compromise, but also noting so to is the Republican Party.
“What’s particularly unfortunate is a major split between the White House and the leadership of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, and there’s a lot of anger that’s going to be difficult to patch up between the chief of staff of the Obama White House and Nancy Pelosi and some of the others. Harry Reid was on board for this deal, but people in the House were not. So the Democrats are going into the New Year somewhat split, but fortunately so too will the knuckleheads because the Tea Party and John Boehner’s group will also be entering the new Congress very divided after this vote.”
But Raynor said he just didn’t want to focus on what’s negative in American politics as he spoke before the BALCONY audience. He pointed to some positive developments in both New York City and nationally.
“I would also say there is, I think, a lot to be positive about. In New York there has been some tremendous achievements in the last year. The recent settlement for over 110,000 hospital workers between 1199 SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association [calls for] good benefits, good wages, good middle class jobs and a good partnership between the leadership of the hospital and union. Another good example of both management and labor figuring out how to cooperate for prosperity [is evident] in the tremendous boom in the construction industry in this city. I was just in a meeting with Gary LaBarbera [who said] virtually every single union construction worker in New York City is working. The union construction movement is growing. And those are good middle class jobs,” Raynor said.
Needless to say, that point about every union construction worker having a job left some of the building trades’ political legislative directors in the room scratching their heads.
And on the national level Raynor said that the unionization of the Volkswagen-owned auto plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the first foreign-owned unionized plant in America, bodes well for the creation of more middle class jobs.
“So while there’s plenty to be upset about with the political environment, there’s also plenty to be positive about of having a business and labor alliance that’s creating jobs in order for working people to support families. I think there are a number of positive things taking place, and it’s going to take all of us to make sure that continues,” said Raynor.