By Jim Miller
2017 awaits us fierce as a tiger with major assaults looming on multiple fronts. As I have written here quite recently, it is not an overstatement to say that we face existential threats . With so many things to worry about in the near future, what should labor and progressives be focusing on in anticipation of the coming storm?
Let me start by saying that our first order of business should definitely not be whether you are with or against the imperiled San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council President.
It should also not be about which side you choose in a toxic internal struggle between factions inside of the San Diego labor movement. As I have said elsewhere, the honorable and prudent course of action would be for labor leadership to take these issues off the table because they will prove to be fatal distractions if we allow them to stop us from confronting a long laundry list of crises to come after inauguration day.
What will really matter for working people are the following questions:
- How much damage will the new (Anti) Labor Secretary do to the economic prospects of unions and all working people and how can we fight the assault? Will the Fight for $15 turn into the fight for scraps from the plutocrats’ table?
- Will we be able to save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security?
- How prepared are unions to function in the likely new context of National Right to Work? How much have we done to learn how to organize in this hostile environment? Are our members educated enough about the coming threats to understand and respond to them?
- How will public sector unions respond to the next version of Friedrichs vs CTA, the case that aimed to hobble public sector unions’ ability to collect dues? Do our members know that their enemies already have the next case lined up for the Trump Supreme Court?
- Are we prepared to fight for the fundamental principle of public education against a right-wing Education Secretary who does not believe in it? Are we prepared to call out those in the Democratic Party and elsewhere who may be happy to work with the enemies of labor to support their agenda whether it be busting teachers’ unions, imposing corporate education reform, or radically expanding charter schools in a way that undermines a Democratic public education system?
- Are we even marginally prepared for a pre-New Deal political and economic landscape? That’s precisely what the Right has in mind for us.
- What will be the fate of American democracy if unions’ ability to play in politics is so radically diminished that ordinary Americans will simply not be able to compete with the economic power of billionaires and corporations?
- Will we be able to confront the Koch brothers who are already in the process of taking advantage of the pending climate change-denying administration by beginning to pit environmentalists against working people and people of color? Will we have what it takes to fight for an agenda that unites the struggle to save the future for our children with the fight against economic inequality?
- Will we continue to allow those in power to exploit racial, sexual, and gender divisions to divide and conquer or will we be able to offer a compelling vision that unites working people across barriers and breathes new life into the slogan that “an injury to one is an injury to all”?
- Closer to home, will we call for a broad progressive vision and stand with community allies or stick with the stale old transactional politics of the past?
- Can we put labor at the center of California’s vanguard struggle against the Trump agenda along with immigrants’ rights, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, climate justice, education for all, and a host of other key threatened programs, communities, and basic rights?
- Will we recruit, mentor, and encourage a younger, more diverse bench of future leaders or will we continue to eat our young?
- Will we wake up and finally realize what time it is or will we keep up with labor’s version of business as usual and engage in a form of extinction management, hoping against hope that someone or something (other than ourselves) will come around to save us whether that be the long-awaited Democratic politician who won’t sell us out or a meteor hitting the Trump White House?
The biggest question of all is whether we are prepared to answer any of these. Our future depends on it.