SEIU’s decision to endorse Secretary Hillary Clinton for President on Tuesday was mildly shocking. I say mildly because the union movement has in recent years seized to be about working class Americans and more about Democratic Party politics. Clinton’s evasive answers on the minimum wage and fight for $15 during Saturday’s CBS debate should have given leaders of the Labor movement pause, especially those at SEIU that have been on forefront of the fight for $15. The battle to bring all Americans wages to an acceptable level, a true “living wage,” seem to be a fight that Secretary Clinton wants to avoid. Yet she is now the endorsed candidate of the organization most associated with that movement.
The welfare of working class Americans are important for symbolic purposes and to maintain an aura of credibility for unions like SEIU, but ultimately influence within the political circles of the Democratic Party is the chief motivator for the leadership of many of today’s labor leaders. Much of the union leadership tends to be more focused on political campaigns and races than collective bargaining, more focused on influence within the Democratic Party than good ole’ fashioned organizing.
Today’s labor movement is almost entirely political – on this Republican critics of unions are not wrong. Given Hillary Clinton’s many faces, and desire to placate all sides within the Democratic Party in that most Clintonian of manners, support from SEIU is almost certain to be a harbinger of future union endorsements.
Much like in the 1990’s when the Christian Coalition claimed tax cuts were family friendly legislation to justify backing more mainstream GOPers against anti-choice Democrats, unions seem to use different metrics and criteria in order to throw in with establishment Democrats over those who actually stand tall on this issues organized labor claims to be concerned with. Similar to the Christian Coalition and other GOP-aligned organizations the success of the Democratic Party, even with mushy moderate pro-Wall Street Democrats is paramount in this era of politicized union leadership.
The American electorate is seeing a rapid increase in No Party Affiliation voters (NPA’s) in every election cycle. Unions are no exception to this trend, as many disaffected working class Americans and progressives abandon the Democratic Party for the independence of being an unaffiliated voter.
SEIU’s decision to back Secretary Clinton will no doubt give the state and national leaders of the organization more pull and increased clout within the echo chamber of the Democratic Party. But it might disaffect members of the union from their leadership as they see Secretary Clinton waffle on the issues that matter most to them, and to the families they love. It might cause them even more pain when Secretary Clinton defends Wall Street and banking deregulation in same manner her husband did when he was the titular head of the Democratic Party, while using similar language and rhetoric to many Republicans.
Chances are quite good Secretary Clinton will be our next President. But the short term gains for the leadership of SEIU and other labor leadership might be obscured long-term by the damaged credibility the movement suffers. But this is simply a reflection of where Labor is in 2015 – a politically motivated appendage of the Democratic Party establishment.