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Bill Moyers: Conversation with an empty union suit…

Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

For AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka that just may be a trick question, as, it seems, was every other question Moyers put to him. Excerpts from Bill Moyers’ interview with the obviously out-classed labor leader:

BILL MOYERS: I’m curious, Rich, about why we haven’t been seeing more public demonstrations from people who have lost their job? I mean, we covered a story early last year in Chicago of workers who sat in, when it looked as if their factory was going to be closed down. Why has there been so little of that? 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Well, you know what? I think some of it is people have been so beat down, that they — we sort of plucked the hope out of them. And what we have to do is restore that hope. They don’t think that there’s anything that they can do. They feel hopeless. Corporations are so powerful, and they control the political process so much that there’s nothing we can do. They’re wrong, of course. And we’re getting more and more people that are willing to start coming out now.

BILL MOYERS: So, what’s happened that unions don’t seem to be fighting back the way they did in the 1930s? 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Well, I don’t think that’s so. I think we are fighting back. You know, first of all, you have a larger array of forces against us. You have a recession right now that’s caused a lot of our members to get laid off, just like other Americans out there. You have a set of labor laws that are totally inadequate, and they’re not even enforced. Now, President Obama’s trying to. But he can’t even get people from the N.L.R.B. confirmed.

BILL MOYERS: The National Labors Relations Board. 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Yeah, the National Labor Relations Board.

BILL MOYERS: There are several vacancies on there, that you want to see filled. 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Of course. And the Republicans, all they do is filibuster. They don’t want him to succeed. And so they keep people, quality people that are needed to make government effectively. They keep them out of the spotlight and off the job.

BILL MOYERS: But the Democrats have 59 Members of the Senate. They have a 78 vote majority in the House. They got the President of the United States. And they can’t deliver anything labor wants from them? 

RICHARD TRUMKA: No, I want to say it a different way. I want to say they haven’t delivered anything. They can. And it’s up to us, and we’re getting there.

BILL MOYERS: But how do you explain that? 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Slowly but surely.

BILL MOYERS: Because you really worked for Obama in ’08. 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Yes, I did.

BILL MOYERS: And yet, so far, one year into his administration, you haven’t gotten anything that I can see that you wanted in ’08. 

RICHARD TRUMKA: That’s not so. There have been a number of executive orders that have provided collective bargaining people. I mean, the people he’s appointed, Hilda Solis is terrific. Even the people in the Commerce and Treasury are far more cognizant of our position. So, he hasn’t been able to pass the big bills yet, but we’re getting there. And we’ll get them done.

BILL MOYERS: What’s happened to the one thing that was most important to labor back in ’08? Obama seemed to promise the Employee Free Choice Act, EFCA as – it’s come to be known, very important to labor. What happened to it? 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Well, it’s still there. We’re still pushing it forward. He still supports it. The Vice President still supports it. A vast majority- at least 59 Senators in the Senate support it. And over a vast majority in the House support it.

BILL MOYERS: So, will you get it? 

RICHARD TRUMKA: I think we will.

BILL MOYERS: You will- you still think you’ll get it. 

RICHARD TRUMKA: Yeah, I do. I still think we will. It’ll take some creative doing. But we’ll do it.

Yeah. We’re doomed.

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