Thursday, September 20, 2012

My address to SCAME - 9/20/12

Here are my prepared remarks to address the SCAME's decision to endorse Randy Altschuler over Tim Bishop. Not sure why I continue to pretend on this blog that people can't figure out who I am but please  allow me my self-delusions!

Hello everyone,
My name is                             and I would like to address the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees union’s recent decision to endorse Randy Altschuler over Tim Bishop in New York’s 1st District Congressional race. First off, I want to make it clear that while I obviously have my own ideological preferences, I am neither a paid nor voluntary member of Congressman Bishop’s staff or re-election team.
A couple of years ago, I was teaching the American Political Systems class at the University of Colorado in Boulder. At that time, I was reminded on a daily basis how poorly incoming students understood the basic tenants of our Congressional system. While this was embarrassing, it was somewhat understandable and furthermore, correctable.  However, when I see supposedly-engaged political actors like yourselves completely misunderstand Congressional influence and authority, I am left flabbergasted. It is extraordinarily embarrassing that I need to lecture my elected union representatives on how the United States Congress operates, but unfortunately it’s necessary.
I haven’t met Randy Altschuler personally. Maybe he’s a great guy to have a beer with. Maybe he really did believe, and wasn’t merely being political opportunistic, when he said that the John J. Foley building should remain in public hands. But here is something I do know about Randy Altschuler (and I hope it’s clear to you now as well). Randy Altschuler, as a potential Congressional representative, does not get a vote on the John J. Foley building sale. Here is something else I know about Randy Altschuler. Randy Altschuler will vote for John Boehner to be the Speaker of the House. And John Boehner will appoint Republican members to the House Education and Labor Committee who are dedicated to destroying unions and defeating workers’ rights legislation. These committee members will kill bills designed to increase the minimum wage. They will kill card-check legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act. They will vote for bills designed to weaken unions and undercut their political influence. They will vote for bills designed to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public unions, mirroring on a national scale successful statewide efforts in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana.
Any way you slice it, an endorsement of Randy Altschuler is an implicit endorsement of these policies. It doesn’t matter how much we may like Randy Altschuler personally. It doesn’t matter what he says on the stump about policies he cannot influence. What does matter is which party controls Congress and what kind of legislation this new Congress will ultimately pass. Electing Randy Altschuler over Tim Bishop helps hand that control to Republicans and these Republicans have made their war on unions abundantly clear. It is abhorrent to me that my union could be so na├»ve, short-sighted, and strategically inept when it comes to endorsing political candidates. We seal our own political extinction when we endorse candidates from a political party who are, to their credit, surprisingly candid about their intentions to crush public service unions. One need look no further than the recent Republican convention to see the GOP war on unions first-hand. By gosh, it is a stated tenant within the 2012 national Republican platform! I quote, “We salute Republican governors and state legislators who have saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions.” By this, they are obviously referring to the aggressive anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. Why is our union supporting this agenda? How do we look at Republican voting record, and their stated intentions, and then decide to endorse a Republican candidate who will ultimately vote for Congressional leadership supporting these union-crushing policies?
What’s further infuriating is that Congressman Tim Bishop, who, by the way is a member of the House Education and Labor committee and has been rated 100% by the AFL-CIO, has cast extremely important votes on bills that actually matter to the union movement. Votes to expand unemployment benefits and job re-training efforts. Votes to dramatically expand healthcare access. Votes to restrict employer interference in union-organizing. Presumably, these are the issues and policies our union was created to protect. Yet instead, we make a potential election-altering endorsement to advance the interests of a party whose stated agenda is to destroy public and private sector unions. We spent all of our political capital and influence and received absolutely nothing in return. In what way does this make any sense?
What I would like to know is who made this decision? How do you defend this endorsement? In what world is this considered to be prudent or wise? How can SCAME union members continue to support management that is so utterly myopic? I actually voted for the Farrell-Finland ticket a few months ago but I don’t like to be played for a sucker. Can someone please convince me that I didn’t make the silliest vote of my life?

I didn't deliver this address because I am a pussy. Also because Altschuler was in attendance. And I was accused of being some kind of mole for the current administration. So best that I didn't.

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