Double-dealing as usual for Democratic Party

Trade deals, healthcare, labor law ...

Left to right: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. All three are political powerhouses in the Democratic Party. Photos: Gage Skidmore, Gregory Hauenstein, Gage Skidmore
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With righteous indignation, House and Senate Democratic leadership rail against President Trump’s transgressions and obvious corruption as the impeachment process grinds on. He is threatening “our democracy” they claim; and it’s true. He’s a sleaze bag. But what the Dems don’t talk about is their behind-the-scenes skulduggery on healthcare, the U.S./Canada/Mexico trade agreement, and labor’s right to organize.

You see, it’s capitalist business as usual with the Democrats. That is, dilute, divert and deceive the working class into thinking the Democratic Party offers something different than the Republican Party.

Healthcare is a right. The stark need for free, comprehensive healthcare smacks the vast majority of people in the face on a daily basis. Despite the limited Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), everyone faces rising premiums, surprise billings and less coverage. And the pre-holiday federal budget, passed by both Republicans and Democrats, slashed three major taxes that fund Obamacare.

You’d think the Democratic Party, the “party of the people,” would be hell-bent to get serious about healthcare changes, and mount a full-court press to finally get it done. A few presidential candidates have pushed a “Medicare for All.” But the forces against government involvement in healthcare are very powerful. And they have both parties in their hip pocket.

Most prominent is the “Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future” (PAHCF). The name sounds practically inspirational, but PAHCF is actually an alliance of private pharmaceutical, medical device, insurance, and hospital companies, along with chambers of commerce. It is headed by a former Obama administration Assistant Secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services. Decidedly Democratic Party in orientation, PAHCF opposes increasing government participation in the healthcare system. Instead, it proclaims the need to “build on what is working, and reject one-size-fits-all healthcare.”

Playing politics with trade and labor. Just over a year ago, the leaders of three major countries signed the “US, Mexico and Canada Agreement” (USMCA), to replace the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That first trade agreement depressed U.S. wages and created massive unemployment, especially in Mexico. It dismantled social programs in Canada and provided no serious protections for labor and environmental standards or indigenous rights in Canada, Mexico or the U.S. It outsourced jobs to other countries whose workers made miserable salaries.

The USMCA is no better. It was originally and vehemently opposed by unions and most notably AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, as late as October 2019. The AFL-CIO had a long and specific list of the problems with USMCA. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said USMCA could not move forward without addressing the labor, environmental and patients’ rights issues.

But leading Democrats were pushing for a vote and its approval pretty much as is, to prove they could get something done and “work across the aisle.” Since the impeachment process and elections were gathering steam, they want to “do something.” The Senate passed USMCA just before impeachment proceedings began.

By mid-December, Trumka and Pelosi were practically patting each other on the back as the Democrat-dominated House ratified the USMCA by a wide margin (385 to 41). Trumka said he “was grateful to Nancy Pelosi and her allies,” and Pelosi thanked Trumka for being “persistent, dissatisfied and knowledgeable.” It’s called union bosses in cahoots with political bosses.

What is the reality? Free trade agreements are produced by global capitalists for global capitalists, and benefit global workers nowhere. The “New NAFTA” contains 90 percent of the “Old NAFTA.” The AFL-CIO brags about the “enforceable labor standards” that call for a panel to make sure Mexico is abiding by its union rules and other protections. While better than NAFTA and Trump’s original revisions, it is still weak, after-the-damage-is-done, and bureaucratic. Some unions, such as the Aerospace Machinists, still oppose the USMCA.

In general, a major cause of job loss is global automation. What’s needed is government-funded education and job training, and 30 hours of work for 40 hours of pay — not more trade agreements with iffy provisions.

Right-to-organize law sits on the shelf. Meanwhile, a piece of legislation that is the most comprehensive update of U.S. labor law in decades gathers dust on a shelf in Nancy Pelosi’s office! This “Protecting the Right to Organize Act” (PROAct) would eliminate right-to-work laws, impose new penalties on employers who retaliate against union organizing, crack down on worker misclassification, and establish new rules so that employers cannot delay negotiating collective bargaining contracts. If passed, it would mean the biggest change to U.S. labor laws since American workers won the right to unionize in 1935.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spending lots of money to oppose PROAct, just as it spent heavily supporting the pro-corporate USMCA trade agreement. And Pelosi and company have gone radio-silent on whether they would ever bring the PROAct to the floor for a vote. By sitting on it, they give big business time to organize and eventually kill it. Union activists should be raising hell with House Democrats who support PROAct for letting their leaders get away with this stalling.

Time and again the Democratic Party confirms its role in capitalist “democracy.” In order to win or keep their jobs, its top politicians tell people anything they want to hear. And then they act in most cynical and self-serving ways.

Imagine how fine it would be to have working people form an independent labor party, acting in their own interests!

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