Nader's Criticisms Miss the Mark

Monday, May 09, 2005

Nader's Criticisms Miss the Mark

In this column on, Ralph Nader comments on the growing divisions among AFL-CIO unions and levels a few criticisms that make little or no sense.

On the one hand, Nader is right when he criticizes the "bureaucratization of the labor movement." Building a huge headquarters in Washington, D.C. did nothing to help labor weather the storm of rising conservatism in Congress during the 1980's and 1990's. These resources could have been better used in states and communities to organize more workers and build public support at the grassroots level.

And, yes, Nader's correct in saying that federal labor law stacks the deck against unions. But then he writes:
The AFL-CIO has pressed their Democratic allies in Congress to sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act, designed to remove some of the unconscionable obstacles to collective bargaining drives.

By April 2004, the bill had 179 sponsors in the House of Representatives and 31 in the Senate. Not bad. But did you ever hear Kerry (a sponsor) or Edwards give this bill any punctuation marks in their many speeches and debates?
He's right -- we didn't hear Kerry and Edwards mention the EFCA in their stump speeches on the campaign trail. And for good reason.

Ordinary citizens were interested in hearing about issues such as the Iraq War, the sluggish economy and health care. A candidate can only fit so many issues into a stump speech. And stump speeches are generally written to appeal to swing or undecided voters.

Nader may wish that undecided voters thought like he does, but they don't. These voters are simply not going to digest and remember a laundry list of positions on the dozens of peripheral issues that the Naderites think should have been crammed into Kerry's campaign speeches.

One of liberals' major problems is that they have no message discipline, and they, therefore, expect Democratic candidates to act in an equally undisciplined manner.

Kerry lost the election, but trust me -- it was not because he didn't mention the EFCA bill during his stump speeches.

At least one other Nader criticism endorses a strategy that would be an exercise in bravado:
The Chamber of Commerce building in Washington is full of energetic anti-union officials .... The AFL-CIO headquarters is almost next door. I have never heard of the AFL picketing the Chamber's building ...
Picketing the Chamber's building might -- repeat, might -- get a small article on page A9 in the Washington Post. But it's highly improbable that most Americans would ever know about it or (more importantly) the reason why labor was picketing the Chamber.

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