Wow. Someone has been reading my damn blog.
LIONS AND LAMBS….Union boss Andy Stern today:
It is time to admit that the employer-based health care system is dead — a relic of the industrial economy. America cannot compete in the new global economy when we are the only industrialized nation on earth that puts the price of healthcare on the cost of our products.
….And that’s why I chose to be here today, standing with several major corporations — some of whom I don’t always agree with, and of some of whom, frankly, I have been critical.
One of the companies joining him is Wal-Mart. Others include Intel, AT&T, and Kelly Services. Details are a little sketchy, but all of these companies — did I say Wal-Mart was one of them? — have decided to work together with SEIU to push for universal healthcare (of an undefined nature) by around 2012.
It is about time somebody figured out that Democrats need powerful allies to move healthcare reform forward, and it will never be the insurance biz. I have only pointed this out now in three separate posts. You can read those to get the gist of my point so I will just observe that it is very, very exciting to see Stern working together with Wal-Mart on this. For one, Wal-Mart is the single largest employer in America and a heavy contributor to party politics. That’s a lot of pull.
Equally interesting, Stern’s SEIU is naturally positioned to represent Wal-Mart’s 1.2 million employees in America. As most know Wal-Mart practically stands by itself in the fierceness of its union-busting policies. It has a history of forcing employees to watch misleading anti-union propaganda, firing managers who don’t stop meetings and closing entire branches when the union gains a foothold. Wal-Mart and Andy Stern come pretty close to sworn enemies. Seeing Stern and the Waltons working together on this is about the best possible illustration of my point that real progress will necessitate making some awkward friendships.
On a separate point, I’m not at all surprised to see Andy Stern out front on this. Stern recently split his SEIU from the old guard unions over a philosophical rift in which Stern’s perspective strikes me as both radical and more pragmatic. Read about it here. One line in particular stands out:
a faction in the AFL-CIO led by Andy Stern, president of the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), argues for sweeping internal reform. Peculiarly, the argument centers not on social vision, which might rouse legions beyond labor’s dwindling ranks, but on organizational scaffolding. In essence it goes like this. Unions aren’t structured to win. They are too numerous: the 58 national unions should be consolidated into about 15 mega-unions to match megacorporations.They are too general: power depends on density within industrial sectors, and with various unions (from the SEIU to the Steelworkers) competing for, say, health care workers, power is diffuse, hence squandered. They are too tied to the Democratic Party: they should court Republicans, also build progressive alliances.
I think this article shortchanges the import of Stern’s emphasis on expanding union enrollment versus the established unions’ focus on direct political influence. Real influence, his reasoning goes, comes from representing more of America. But I would say that Stern got the better of the argument about forging unexpected alliances.
Finally, I would love to see the right wing boycott Wal-Mart over this. In rural America Wal-Mart has long since quashed the competition. Where else ya gonna go?