July 8, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Friday July 8, is the day when the Democratic National Committee is supposed to begin finalizing its platform before the full party convention later this month. But surrogates for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have already all but busted the more robust pro-labor planks put forth by Bernie Sanders’ camp.
Last month, Clinton supporters shot down attempts to strengthen support for a federally mandated $15 an hour minimum wage indexed to inflation. The same group is also opposing a Sanders-backed amendment to the Democratic Party platform expressly stating that the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the trade deal trade unionist roundly denounce as an American jobs killer — must not get a vote in Congress.
In both instances, however, it appears that fear of a Trump presidency, is making the demonstrably weaker labor planks which Clinton supports, more palatable to the labor community at large.
“The WFP is strongly against the TPP,” Working Families Party NYS Director Bill Lipton told LaborPress this week. “We think it’s a critical fight.” Lipton then added, “Defeating Donald Trump is a huge priority for the WFP.”
Fear of a Trump presidency also looms large for the union responsible for successfully piloting the Fight for $15 movement across the nation.
The Service Employees International Union strongly backed Clinton over Sanders during the primaries even though the Vermont senator from Brooklyn was for more far and away more committed to establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage for workers than his equivocating Democratic establishment rival.
On Thursday, Milly Silva, executive vice-president 1199 SEIU, told LaborPress, “The priority right now is that we win the election in November. And at 1199 SEIU, as we have stood with Hillary Clinton, we are also standing with the Fight for $15 movement.”
In addition to betting that Clinton is the right pick to beat Trump in November, Silva also argues that the Democratic Party platform is in line with the aims of the overall Fight for $15 movement.
“A platform that says every American should earn at least $15 an hour and the right to join a union we think is the right message,” Silva said. “The reality is that not only do workers need to earn at least $15 an hour, it’s also then saying that in a lot of ways it’s unions that are going to be key in terms of helping make that happen. The Fight for $15 has always been about $15 and a union and the platform reflects that.”
Whether or not the decision to back Clinton over Sanders was the right one for organized labor remains highly suspect. A new Pew poll shows voter satisfaction with both Clinton and Trump is actually in the toilet with 43 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans saying their party’s choice for the White House will be a bad president.
TWU Local 100 voiced a lot of what many progressive in the trade union movement believe when the group announced its support for Bernie Sanders back in April.
“Business as usual politics is not going to give us the jolt we need,” TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen said in Brooklyn.
Although pressured to concede and officially endorse Clinton, Sanders maintains that he will continue to push his progressive policy agenda all the way to the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia.