The New York Times Magazine gives all-too rare front-page coverage to Andy Stern’s push to reform the AFL-CIO:

”Our movement is going out of existence, and yet too many labor leaders go and shake their heads and say they’ll do something, and then they go back and do the same thing the next day,” Stern told me recently. He is a lean, compact man with thinning white hair, and when he reclines in the purple chair in his Washington office and crosses one leg over the other, he could easily pass for a psychiatrist or a math professor. He added, ”I don’t have a lot of time to mince words, because I don’t think workers in our country have a lot of time left if we don’t change.”

A week after the election in November, Stern delivered a proposal to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. that sounded more like an ultimatum. He demanded that the federation, the umbrella organization of the labor movement, embrace a top-to-bottom reform, beginning with a plan to merge its 58 unions into 20, for the purpose of consolidating power. If the other bosses wouldn’t budge, Stern threatened to take his 1.8 million members and bolt the federation — effectively blowing up the A.F.L.-C.I.O. on the eve of its 50th anniversary. Stern’s critics say all of this is simply an excuse to grab power. ”What Andy’s doing now with his compadres is what Vladimir Putin is trying to do to the former Communist bloc countries,” says Tom Buffenbarger, president of the union that represents machinists and aerospace workers. ”He’s trying to implement dictatorial rule.” Stern says he is done caring what the other bosses think. ”If I don’t have the courage to do what my members put me here to do, then how do I ask a janitor or a child-care worker to go in and see a private-sector employer and say, ‘We want to have a union in this place’?” Stern asks. ”What’s my risk? That some people won’t like me? Their risk is that they lose their jobs.”

Good news is, the Times is highlighting something going on in the labor movement, and in a way that may challenge some of its readers’ conceptions of labor as so 19th-century. Bad news, as Nathan ably argues, is that Matt Bai insists on divorcing Stern from the larger movement he’s part of, framing him instead as a lone brave dissenter from a ubiquitous orthodoxy of inertia. As Nathan writes:

The author repeatedly refers to “union bosses”, the old cliche that tries to compare union leaders to corporate executives. Except a top union leader can’t fire members or force them to go on strike or approve a contract. It’s ultimately a phrase that is used to ignore the crucial difference in the role of workers in unions versus corporations: workers get a vote in a union. Yet nowhere in the piece is any internal life of unions acknowledged. In fact, in a massive piece, other unions’ leaders are mentioned but only one other union official in all of SEIU is mentioned, namely Anna Burger, who is described as Andy Stern’s “political aide”, ignoring her position as a separately elected top official of the union with a quite independent biography. Nowhere mentioned are key local SEIU leaders like Dennis Rivera, head of New York’s 200,000-member SEIU 1199, which is notoriously outside of the national office’s control, or Sal Roselli, leader of California’s nursing local…

Navel-gazing and blaming various union leaders for failures of the union movement is a daily parlour game among union activists. John Sweeney won election as AFL-CIO leader in 1995 centered on exactly such criticisms of business-as-usual in the union leadership. And serious changes were made. New resources were devoted to organizing, AFL-CIO foreign relations were completely remade, and a host of other changes were made. All Andy Stern is arguing is that not enough was done. But he’s continuing an argument that’s decades old, which is why other unions could easily contribute alternative proposals for change. Instead of emphasizing the substance of differences over where the labor movement needs to go, the magazine piece lazily sets up Tom Buffenbarger, leader of the Machinists union, as a stereotypical “old union” resister to change.

Frequent readers (thanks, Dad) know that I’m an advocate of broad-based progressive moments as the only effective instrument of progressive change. In particular, I’ve used this space to argue that in support of moves within the labor movement towards a broader conception of what it means to sdvocate for the interests of workers, be it native and immigrant workers standing together in the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides, partnership between healthcare workers and patients calling for universal coverage, or SEIU’s strong stance against the Federal Marriage Ammendment as an assault on the rights of its members. As was declared at the first union event I ever attended in New Haven, in response to President Levin’s intimations that Yale’s unions have a broader agenda, “You bet we have a broader agenda.” I’ve also criticized those movements locally and nationally when the broader agenda has proved not as broad as one would hope.

This is a debate that must take place in every progressive movement committed to winning over the next years. The environmentalist movement, as Randy Shaw argued compellingly in his Activist Handbook, is a prime example as well. Looks like former Sierra Club President Adam Werbach agrees:

For example, I’ve been trying to tell my friends at the Sierra Club that the most important battle for the Sierra Club and the next two years might be over public education. That is the battle line over collective activity, interdependence, the values we care about — much more so than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That’s a skirmish along the way that’s not strategic. It’s way off to the side.

Via Ralph Taylor at Nathan’s site, who also points back to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger’s “The Death of Environmentalism”:

The truth is that for the vast majority of Americans, the environment never makes it into their top ten list of things to worry about. Protecting the environment is indeed supported by a large majority — it’s just not supported very strongly. Once you understand this, it’s much easier to understand why it’s been so easy for anti-environmental interests to gut 30 years of environmental protections…Whereas neocons make proposals using their core values as a strategy for building a political majority, liberals, especially environmentalists, try to win on one issue at a time….The serial losses on Rio, Kyoto, CAFE, and McCain-Lieberman were not framed in ways that increase the environmental community’s power through each successive defeat. That’s because, when those proposals were crafted, environmentalists weren’t thinking about what we get out of each defeat. We were only thinking about what we get out of them if they succeed. It’s this mentality that must be overthrown if we are to craft proposals that generate the power we need to succeed at a legislative level.

…There is no better example of how environmental categories sabotage environmental politics than CAFE. When it was crafted in 1975, it was done so as a way to save the American auto industry, not to save the environment. That was the right framing then and has been the right framing ever since. Yet the environmental movement, in all of its literal-sclerosis, not only felt the need to brand CAFE as an “environmental” proposal, it failed to find a solution that also worked for industry and labor. By thinking only of their own narrowly defined interests, environmental groups don’t concern themselves with the needs of either unions or the industry. As a consequence, we miss major opportunities for alliance building. Consider the fact that the biggest threat to the American auto industry appears to have nothing to do with “the environment.” The high cost of health care for its retired employees is a big part of what hurts the competitiveness of American companies…Because Japan has national health care, its auto companies aren’t stuck with the bill for its retirees. And yet if you were to propose that environmental groups should have a strategy for lowering the costs of health care for the auto industry, perhaps in exchange for higher mileage standards, you’d likely be laughed out of the room, or scolded by your colleagues because, “Health care is not an environmental issue.”…Let’s go for the massive expansion of wind in the Midwest — make it part of the farm bill and not the energy bill. Let’s highlight the jobs and farmers behind it. But bring about this sea-change in the way the environmental movement thinks and operates isn’t going to be easy. For nearly every environmental leader we spoke to, the job creation benefits of things like retrofitting every home and building in America were, at best, afterthoughts.

We all have a lot of work to do.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has officially removed his name from consideration for Vice-President. This seems to be a largely symbolic move at this point, since Richardson’s name, which was being thrown around a great deal six months ago, had gone more or less unmentioned for a while based (according to Washington types and some friends in New Mexico politics) in large part on a reputation for maritial infidelity. Richardson’s fall from the short list strikes me as an unfortunate development; while some of his politics (particularly fiscally) were somewhat more conservative than I’d like, he’s a tremendously popular Latino executive from the South with a reputation for a strident populist progressivism and a savvy and pragmatic political instinct. So given that John Lewis didn’t seem to be on the table this time around, I would likely have taken him over Gephardt or Edwards.

The latest chatter seems to be that a Vice-Presidential announcement (read: leak, followed by later announcement) will come in the middle of this coming week. If, as many have suggested, it comes down to Gephardt or Edwards, my vote’s for Edwards. While both men campaigned to the left of Kerry on trade and arguably on jobs, Edwards was immeasurably more effective in articulating and demanding a vision for working America. While both men, like Kerry, voted for Bush’s War, Gephardt as Minority Leader is personally responsible for orchestrating the party’s shameful surrender on the issue. It was perhaps the defining moment of Gephardt’s sad tenure of compromise to the Republican party as a Democratic leader; at risk of sounding trite, Gephardt gives off the impression of a fading star, Edwards a rising one.

In this race, as in the Presidential primary, everyone seems convinced that Gephardt is labor’s candidate except for those actually involved in the labor movement, perhaps in part because (near) everyone outside of the labor movement visualizes it as the Teamsters. But absent a real progressive, Edwards is my pick, is SEIU’s pick, and hopefully will be Kerry’s as well.

I agree with most of what Alyssa has to say here:

There is simply no precedent for the outpacing of C.E.O. compensation and other corporate profits in comparison to what the people who actually make companies run earn as it happens in America today. It’s telling that in the wake of major corporate scandals, rather than condemn Tyco executives, for example, for their terrible, destructive greed, jurors in their corruption trials dismiss accounts of profit gone mad as a waste of time. Our views on fair compensation, respect for employees, and the value of organized labor are vastly off-kilter.

…Unions will always have limited power if their strength is confined to the workplace, where they can fight employers, but lack the ability to define some of the structural constraints, like the minimum wage, that affect their members. It is vital that unions be organized well enough so they can make their members’ voices heard in both the workplace and the voting booth, and make sure that they are united behind strong, progressive policies.

I do have a couple points of disagreement or, at least, of divergent emphasis. First, I think Alyssa inadvertently minimizes the significance of the two moments she highlights which we agree offer new hope for American labor, the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides and the HERE – UNITE merger:

The former represents a willingness to be flexible in the face of party re-alignment and a recognition of the progress of globalization. The second represents a committment to getting leaner and meaner, and an understanding that you need both money and killer organizing to beat a strong resurgence of anti-union sentiment.

While there’s certainly a good deal of truth in the argument that the merger represented a union with members but no money and a union with money but no members joining forces, I think there’s a much broader point here, one that I’ve mentioned on this site before: Labor has to be as well organized and as unified as management, and as labor organizes across boundaries between nations, we must organize across boundaries between unions, something most folks who were watching and have the freedom to say so agree didn’t take place effectively in California. Nathan Newman has argued recently that union competition marked labor’s most effective period by providing a spur to all sides to organize; unfortunately, union competition also marked one of labor’s most tragic moments, its divided and self-destructive response to the growing Red Scare, in which all too often those very union competitions eased the process of conservative unions siding with Uncle Sam against their more radical counterparts. Among the biggest losers there, not surprisingly, were the workers of color whom only the left-wing unions of the CIO were effectively organizing. Of course there are good reasons for the AFL-CIO to be composed of different unions divided in some cases by job type, in others by region, in others by organizing strategy – but too often those barriers are arbitrary and costly. As has played out on Andy Stern’s blog and in its comments, finding innovative ways to foster broader strategic alliances while maintaining and building industrial democracy and democratic leadership on the local level is key (David Moberg explores this further in this week’s The Nation in an article which isn’t yet on-line). So the UNITE HERE merger, bringing together one union which launders the second union’s uniforms and a second union which serves the first union food at lunch hour, bringing together two unions with a proven commitment to progressive organizing, is an urgent model – although it may not have been carried out in a way consonant with the best values of these unions.

Speaking of progressive organizing, I think that to articulate the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides as a response to a shifting national and international landscape both understates their significance and lets labor off to easily for a historically (up to the mid-90’s) anti-immigrant stance that at no time was in the big picture interests of union members. Daivided labor markets – be the axis of divison race, religion, gender, or immigration status – have always been lucrative for employers, who’ve proven all to eager to exploit a vulnerable group’s marginal position in society (and too often in the labor movement as well) to drive down their wages and benefits, and to use the threat of that group’s therefore cheaper labor costs to drive down everyone else wages and benefits and pit natural allies against each other in an ugly race to the bottom. Historical examples of course abound; here in Philadelphia, a union movement which had succesfully organized and won the ten-hour day screeched to a halt as first-generation Catholic immigrants and second-generation Protestants in different trades started killing each other in the Kensington riots. Organizing the unorganized workers, rather than engaging in a futile campaign to stop them from working is the only morally defensible and genuinely pragmatic approach. God bless John Wilhelm, Maria Elena Durazo, and the unrecognized others who brought the AFL-CIO around.

The other area where my perspective may differ from Alyssa’s somewhat is on the role of unions in politics. I’m a major proponent of the New Unity Partnership, which would enshrine organizing in the workplace and political organizing as unions’ major functions and major expenditures. But while Alyssa urges unions

picking politically viable candidates and proving that they can turn out large numbers of supporters for them…severe layoffs, a slowdown in organizing, and bad choices of candidates have made unions look less credible politically than they did in 2000…

let’s not forget what the Democratic party, after the Clinton years, which on the one hand brought the Family and Medical Leave Act and an increased minimum wage, and on the other wrought NAFTA and Welfare Reform, has to prove to American workers and American labor. Labor has been most effective in this country not by letting its support be taken for granted by Democrats but by organizing so powerfully that the Democrats (read: FDR) feared that if they didn’t find enough to offer labor it would sink them. I’m glad Kerry wants a Labor Secretary from the “House of Labor.” I’d like to hear more about this legislation on the campaign trail though.

That said, I’m stoked for SEIU to make history by devoting its resources this election not into soft-money TV ads but by getting thousands of its members leaves of absence to organize their neighbors to vote Bush out of office, and to hold our national leadership accountable through November and beyond. The party machines could learn a lot from them; today’s New York Times suggests they’ve begun to already.

This issue of In These Times includes compelling pieces by Andy Stern and Gerald McEntee, Presidents of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the two largest unions in the AFL-CIO. SEIU and AFSCME, the leading private and public sector unions respectively in the US, surprised many pundits who view them as rivals when they together endorsed Howard Dean a few months back. Stern argues rightly that the Democratic party cannot survive without the labor movement:

At our best, unions are one of the few institutions with progressive values that have millions of members, multimillion dollar budgets and the ability to do grassroots organizing on a large enough scale to counter the power of today’s corporations.

The 2000 presidential election clearly showed the difference unions can make.

* Bush won in nonunion households by 8 points, but lost in union households by 37 points.
* He won nonunion white men by 41 points, but lost union white men by 24 points.
* He won nonunion gun owners by 39 points, but lost union gun owners by 21 points.
* He did 16 points better among nonunion people of color than among union people of color.

So if more workers in Florida, Missouri, Ohio and other states that went narrowly for Bush had been union members, the past three years in this country would have been very different.

He offers three priorities for organized labor: legal defense of the right to organize as a human right, alliance across movements and communities in fighting for just causes, and prioritizing organizing. The latter two are arguably what accounted for the historic success of the CIO before and during the New Deal period, and are central to the New Unity Partnership Stern is spearheading with the Presidents of HERE, UNITE, the Laborers, and the Carpenters. The decline in the first, from the Taft-Hartley Act (which only Dennis Kucinich among the Democratic candidates has promised to repeal) to Reagan’s crackdown on the Air Traffic Controllers, is at the centerpiece of the counter-revolution against the labor movement over the past decades. And Bush, as McEntee argues, has pushed that counter-revolution further:

Indeed, at no other time during my 44 years in labor have I seen members of my union-the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)-nor the House of Labor, more dedicated to getting one person out of office.

And we all know why. Three million jobs lost in three years-the most since the Great Depression: 66 million Americans with inadequate healthcare coverage or no healthcare coverage at all; a median household income that has fallen for three straight years; 3 million Americans who slipped into poverty in 2001; ergonomic rules scrapped; overtime regulations attacked. The list goes on and on…the Bush administration invoked the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act-an action that hadn’t been taken in 25 years and never in a lockout. President Bush’s shameful use of Taft-Hartley sent a message to other employers: When the going gets rough at the bargaining table, the federal government can always step in-to help the boss.

But McEntee’s central argument, which Stern alludes to as well, is that getting a Democratic President into office is not and never has been enough to protect the rights of working people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed a National Labor Relations Act to bring labor into his coalition and into the Democratic establishment becuase it was clear that otherwise the labor movement could have torn his Presidency apart. Real economic change in this country won’t be accomplished by a Clintonite who sees organized labor as a special interest equivalent to big business to be kept at bay with moderate reforms and kept out of corrupting the political process. As McEntee argues:

It is clear that we must defeat George W. Bush. But we must also grow our unions. And whomever the Democratic Party selects as its nominee-AFSCME hopes it is Howard Dean-we must insist that he support a comprehensive social justice agenda, job creation, quality and affordable healthcare for all, the preservation of Medicare and Social Security, civil rights and much more.

And the House of Labor must insist that the next president support an aggressive agenda for worker rights, including real penalties for violators of labor laws, creating a law that will make employers recognize their workers’ desire to form a union, establishing first contract arbitration and giving the National Labor Relations Board the power to enforce laws that
protect workers.

SEIU Local 1199 is bringing a class action law-suit against against Yale – New Haven and Bridgeport Hospitals for aggressively dogging low-income sick people for medical bills while failing to inform them of their right to access to the state-funded free-bed fund designed to help ensure access to healthcare for the unemployed and working poor. The YDN headline calls the suit the “latest indicator of ongoing tension.” The source of tension, of course, is Yale – New Haven’s continued refusal to deal justly with the New Haven Community, be it its unionized workers still laboring without a contract, its non-union workers struggling to organize in an environment which spawned multiple NLRB settlements, or the working-class patients it aims to serve.

The leadership of Yale – New Haven Hospital is also the driving force behind the New Haven Savings Bank conversion plot, and the main beneficiary should their get-rich-quick scheme succeed. This week depositors also filed a class action lawsuit against the conversion, which would rob New Haven of its communal bank without a vote by its depositor-owners. As 1199 spokesman Bill Meyerson told the YDN:

The same group of individuals that are denying depositors a vote on what happens to their bank — denying them a right of the profits and surpluses of the bank through this conversion plan — sit on the hospital board of trustees, and are making the decisions about suing patients with inadequate insurance for the so-called crime of being sick and uninsured…it’s about the accountability of a select powerful group who run vital institutions in this community.

This NY Times piece – “Mr. Inside Embraces Mr. Outside, and What a Surprise” is one of many analyses that will no doubt proliferate over the next few days trying to explain Gore’s endorsement.

I think Purdum is on the right track in noting Gore’s drastic shift to the left since the 2000 election, as well as his series of strident condemnations of Bush policy over the past months. These have been, by turns, gratifying and maddening, I think it’s safe to say, to those of us who were exasperated with Gore for leaving so little ideological distinction between himself and Bush during the actual campaign. Gore’s piece in the Times after the Enron scandal tying corporate malfeseance to Bush’s corporate politics made the right case – but it’s a case that, contrary to what that piece also said – Gore never made on the campaign trail. Those conservatives who think (occasionally rightly) that they can convince American voters that the main fault line in their politics is between civil and uncivil politicians have tried to use Gore’s move to the left as evidence that he’s bitter and angry at his personal loss. I think it’s much more that Gore, like Clinton and other New Democrats, recognize the appeal of Old Democrat values and so fall back on them once out of office both to bring nobility to their legacy and to convince themselves that they at least lost because they stood for something and not because they didn’t. Dean’s aggressive condemnations of the failings of this administration fit the message that Gore has claimed for himself since 2000. So it’s shouldn’t be surprising to see him endorsing someone who’s ready to carry that message forward – and to see him endorsing the candidate who’s running the kind of campaign now that many wanted him to run four years ago.

What Purdum’s analysis for the Times fails to mention, however, is what may really be the most compelling reason for Gore to endorse Dean now: he’s winning. Gore, in the same way as, say SEIU, gains power from picking late enough to choose the one who’ll win and early enough to be as formative in that victory as possible. Gore specifically, however, has the chance by endorsing Dean to merge their narratives – one populist fighter has the election narrowly stolen but four years later another arises to take it back – and drown out the alternative – the New Democrat establishment fouls up an election and it’s left to a populist outsider to ride in four years later to fix it.

Purdum asks whether this will hurt Gore’s credibility, and I think the answer is no more than Gore’s already hurt his credibility by governing and campaigning from the center and then moving to the left since. More importantly, he asks whether this will hurt Dean’s candidacy, and I don’t think it will measurably. Dean has successfully enough framed himself as an outside-the-beltway candidate, and campaigned that way long enough, that I think this will come off more as the beltway coming around to the Governor of Vermont than the other way around. More fundamentally, I think candidates can be effectively criticized, in extreme cases, for not repudiating deeply objectionable folks who endorse them, but that otherwise criticizing them for who endorses them is difficult to pull off. I think that Al Gore’s endorsement will give Dean’s critics on the left about as much ammunition as Jesse Jackson Jr.’s, Ted Rall’s, Molly Ivins’, William Greider’s, et al gave his critics on the right: not a whole lot, in the long term. Speaking as one of those critics on the left, that Dean got Gore’s endorsement says to me just that he’s an effective organizer. Gore endorsing Dean may give some added momentum and visibility to Sharpton and Kucinich’s campaigns, which could only be good for the Democratic party, but I don’t see any of the other candidates positioned at this point to use it to frame themselves as the independent choice.

What this endorsement does, as I see it, is move a slew of voters to consider Dean – or to consider him seriously – who hadn’t before, and deflate much of the criticism from DLCers and others of Dean as unelectable or out of the mainstream. Much as Jackson’s hashkachah (certification, roughly translated) marks Dean kosher for some to his left, Gore’s will mark him kosher for some to his right. And it may mean that the Democratic establishment is learning not only the lesson of 2002 – what happens when you offer no viable alternative – but also the lesson of 1972 – what happens when the party leadership abandons the party’s candidate.

Dean has locked down the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements. As I noted before, I have my reservations about parts of Dean’s policy record, but out of the current crop of candidates he’s distinguished by full and unapologetic rejection of each of the major outrages of the Bush administration, his willingness, deftness, and passion in articulating an alternative vision for this country, and his capacity to organize effectively around it. And as Nathan Newman notes:

I’m left a bit stunned at what could be a consolidation quite early of Dean’s innovative online organizing with the powerhouse on-the-ground operations of SEIU and AFSCME (along with the other unions that will soon fall into place). Janitors and computer jockies organizing together is an amazingly powerful idea.

And we ain’t seen nothing yet. We are a year from Election Day, yet Dean is starting with an online organization of over 500,000 people, while the SEIU, for example, has already held multiple national meetings of thousands of their top activist organizers to be sent back into the field to mount the largest political mobilization in history. Thousands of SEIU members will be taking a one-year leave of absence to go organize in swing states on the payroll of the union’s political operations– a cross-state organizing effort that’s never been done and being started orders of magnitude earlier than any previous political year…

Breaking news from Business Week:

Howard Dean’s Presidential ambitions are poised to get a major lift on Nov. 6 when the AFL-CIO’s largest union, the 1.3 million member Service Employees International Union, is set to endorse him, BusinessWeek has learned. The SEIU’s action, coming shortly after Dean won pledges from two small unions, the International Union of Painters and the California Teachers Assn., goes a long way toward completing the transformation of the former Vermont governor from a niche candidate backed by limousine liberals, antiwar activists, and tech-savvy young people into a mainstream candidate who can also connect with blue-collar America. Says SEIU President Andy Stern: “It’s clear that Dean has gained the most support amongst our members and local leaders.”

For all my reservations about Dean, I do see truth in Jacob’s argument that

if anyone is going to win against Bush, that candidate needs to unite the foreign policy left wing of the party with the economic policy left wing of the party, and combine all that with a strategy that gets people riled up, donating money, and voting. I’d happly back anyone I thought could do that, from John Edwards to Al Sharpton. Kucinich tries to to the part where he unites the two important parts of the party, but fails at actually running a campaign. Gephardt was thought to have the unions but his wishy-washy politics on the war, combined with his proven record of failure (most recently in 2002) make him a poor candidate. Dean is the man to unite around, and now it seems that the biggest unions in the country agree

As I’ve probably said here before, Dean is the candidate who has had the most success so far in building a left “Contract with America” – mounting a (generally) coherent, passionate, and resonant critique of the current administration and articulating a vision of a more (if insufficiently) progressive alternative – and he knows better than many of the other eight how to organize around it. Shame that he has a record of prioritizing balanced budgets over social services.

One place where I agree with Jacob wholeheartedly:

…it’s nice to see SEIU, AFSCME, and CWA working together on something. If only SEIU can get AFSCME and CWA on board with the New Unity Partnership…

A few personal experiences and impressions of the past 72 hours:

The eight Yale retirees (three of whom had to leave for medical reasons, five of whom held out for the full 24 hours) are real heroes whose perseverance is a model to all of us and whose victory presses the movement forward and raises the bar for everyone within it – and within this community. Their victory demonstrates the combination of strategically savvy and symbolically appropriate tactics, solidarity of workers, clergy, students and community, media scrutiny, organizing strength, sheer numbers, and iron will necessary for a victory like hasn’t been seen here since the ’84 strike. The whole episode, from the moment the eight declared that they weren’t leaving David Swenson’s office without a meeting to the moment that – poised to arrest them – Yale announced that it would instead grant their request, also dramatized both the shameful lengths to which Yale will go to perpetuate injustice and the potential and urgency to save Yale University from the Yale Corporation. The three times I was turned away and/or threatened with arrest by Yale police for trying to enter the Investment Building with hoagies for the retirees – who’d been hold up in the office for hours without food or use of the bathroom for several hours at this point – spoke volumes, as did the necessity for New Haven police to take jurisdiction because my University refused to allow food or bathroom facilities to a few elderly employees who showed up after decades of service to the University to confront the man who’s been quietly investing their pension fund in insider trading rather than in decent pension offers for the next generation of Yale workers. It was the sight of fifteen riot police entering the building to drag out five senior citizens, however, that was most deeply infuriating, and Yale’s last-minute realization that to have them do so would shame Yale’s leadership such that it would become more difficult to carry forward its regressive agenda was small comfort. It’s shameful that when light and truth rear their heads at Yale, Yale tries to lock out the light and starve out the truth.

The TV media did a better-than-usual job of covering the sit-in, in part because it was visual and in part because of Rev. Jackson’s presence. The most salient facts – why the retirees went in, that they won, and that Yale was poised to have riot police drag them out – came across on pretty much all the channels. The print media, including the YDN, was unfortunately dismissive of the drama, giving on average a sentence at the end of an article contextualizing the strike about a successful sit-in calling for a meeting but giving no sense of how or why it happened – or that it lasted 24 hours.

As in the last strike, few experiences are more powerful than walking the lines and talking to workers about why they’re out and what they’re fighting for. There are few ways someone in this city of any political perspective (including, perhaps, readers of this site) could be doing with an hour on a weekday morning than talking to the men and women who, yet again, Yale has forced to the point of challenge and personal sacrifice for lux and veritas. I met a fourth grader who’s walking the picket lines for the fourth time because, he explained, of a very greedy man who isn’t very good at sharing his toys.

Jesse Jackson, Emelio Hernandez, David Lee, and others have brought home over the past few days a point that cannot be emphasized enough: the civil rights movement cannot be separated from the movement for economic justice without destroying the integriy of the movement and insulting the dignity of those who compose it. On day after the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, this point has a particular urgency. It’s strange how much more easily middle class Americans tend to believe that the liberty of bosses is contingent on their right to private property than that the freedom of workers is contingent on their right to wages. A classmate once accused me of disgracing the memory of MLK by wearing a pin with a photo of him at an SEIU 1199 rally (the union he often described as his “favorite union”). When I asked how it was inappropriate to celebrate a photo of an event that actually happened he suggested that MLK must have been caught by coincidence standing in front of an SEIU podium. To say that where a woman can sit on a bus is a moral issue but whether she can raise enough money to feed her family is merely a political question is a convenient but fundamentally unjust contention.

Today was one of the most intense freshman move-in days Yale has seen. The civil disobedience was of a much more serious and more dramatic character than last September, and the picket lines were some of the thickest and loudest I’ve seen here. The UOC gave out several hundred copies of our new pamphlet to freshmen and families, most of whom came off understandably as mostly overwhelmed, confused, anxious, and eager to get more information. Yale forced our table off of Old Campus on the grounds that, in the words of Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, we were there “to bias freshmen, not to orient them.” Meanwhile, the Office of New Haven and State Affairs had three tables set up trying to get students on board with their agenda of condescension and division by giving our lollipops and tape measures. And the crew team had a thirty foot boat in the middle of campus. Yale police also stopped us from entering dorms to poster; one man told me I wasn’t allowed to enter with the poster I had and when I asked whether I could go in to put up, say, a capella posters, he referred me to his boss, who told me no one was allowed to enter with any kind of poster and then asked to see my posters. When I confronted Dean Brodhead about this he told me that I wasn’t being forced off of Old Campus myself, and so democracy was intact.

As we already knew, Scott Marks is a much better speaker than Jesse Jackson; John Wilhelm is a much better speaker than John Sweeney; Howard Dean is a much better speaker than Joe Lieberman.

Yale’s last minute decision to postpone tomorrow’s freshman invocation, an event which to my knowledge has never been cancelled in the University’s history (including during, say, World War), on the grounds of “the threat posed by our unions,” represents a resounding acknowledgement by Yale that contrary to their publicity, business is not going on as usual here, and the crisis is not under control. John Wilhelm was right to say, of of Yale’s prior claims that hardly anyone was out on strike and there was no disruption, “That’s exactly the problem – you do all the work here, and Yale can’t see you.” He also added that – as Yale’s contract offer makes clear – Yale can’t count. This was abundantly clear when Yale produced statistics purporting to show that strike turnout was low which left out 800 Yale workers – guess where they were? Perhaps one of them was Associate VP for New Haven and State Affairs Mike Morand’s secretary, who despite getting ample exposure to Yale’s side – which Conroy et al claim the union leadership is blinding the workers to – is out on strike.