HEROES OF AMERICAN LABOR (Part VIII)

By Jack Jodell, Sept. 17, 2011  

RICHARD TRUMKA (1949-  ) is the current President of the AFL-CIO. He was elected to that post in 2009 and has been a tireless fighter for numerous progressive causes for many years, among them a Public Option for health care, opposing unfair welfare reform attempts, and fighting racism. He was previously Secretary-Treasurer for that union, and before that had served as President of the United Mine Workers. He was an attentive and sensitive young man who saw very early the struggles mine workers faced, and who, at the tender age of 12, resolved in a conversation with his grandfather to “become a lawyer and stand up for workers’ rights.”

Born in the coal mining region of outhwest Pennsylvania, Trumka followed both his father and grandfather into the mines in 1968. “It was cold, damp,  dusty – sound booming all around,” he recalled, and then added, “A dungeon of impending danger.” He learned from working with his father, who had held a longstanding record for having filled the most coal cars in a single shift, about work ethic and efficiency. He applied this ethic to his school studies first at Penn State, and later at Villanova, from which he earned a law degree in 1974. He has carried it with him ever since. All told, he worked in the mines for 7 years. “The mines humble man…I’ve been in near death, disastrous situations,” he once said. At one point, he witnessed his dad take part in a spontaneous rescue operation of a man after a cave-in, and learned firsthand the meaning and value of solidarity. With his legal studies finished, he often worked pro bono (for FREE, for the public good) for local residents in his spare time after working in the mine. He thus heeded his grandfather’s advice that “if you want to help workers, you first need to help people.”

From 1974-1979, Trumka was a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers at their Washington, D.C. headquarters. Elected to their board of directors in 1981, he became that union’s President the next year. He launched a successful 9 month strike against the Pittston Coal Company in 1989 and effectively became a symbol of resistance to labor cutbacks. He encouraged non-violent civil disobedience in his confrontations, and resourcefully used pressure from Wall Street investors as part of his strategy in combatting uncooperative companies. In 1993, he led a nationwide strike against Peabody Coal. When asked what would happen should the company hire permanent replacement workers, he stated, “I’m saying if you strike a match and put your finger in it, you’re likely to get burned…common sense will tell you that in these strikes, that when  you inject scabs, a number of things happen.” He further established an office to forge solidarity with the black workers of South Africa while they were fighting apartheid. He chaired the U.S. Shell Boycott, confronting its parent company for its continued business dealings with the then-all white government of South Africa.

Trumka has proven himself to be much more than the old traditional union boss. He currently co-chairs the China Currency Coalition, a  united alliance of industry, agriculture, and workers groups whose mission is to help U.S. manufacturers by forcing the Chinese to end unfair currency manipulation which places American-made goods at a trading disadvantage. Along the way, he has been successful for his workers on a wide number of fronts. He otained passage of the Federal COAL Act, which assured retired mine workers of guaranteed health care, and he brought the UMW into the AFL-CIO. In 2008, he endorsed the election of the nation’s first black President by delivering a pointed attack on racism in politics.

Faced with far-right attempts to eradicate unions and cripple them politically,  Richard Trumka has worked tirelessly to oppose this. He admits to sleeping but 4 hours a night, and has described himself as being “tenacious and unrelenting,” and his goal as being to “create an economy that works for everyone.” He has served on the President’s  Economic Recovery Advisory Board and has repeatedly pressed for even more stimulus programs to bolster jobs and the economy. Painfully aware of shrinking union membership caused by nonstop Republican anti-union maneuvers over the past 30 years, Trumka has been working diligently on new avenues for expanding membership. I wish him well in that endeavor, as, in this time of rampant outsourcing and unprecedented corporate greed, marked by a drop in workers’ wages and buying power, a resurgence in union strength is needed BADLY. To help him in this quest, I ask all of you to:

 FLOOD YOUR DEMOCRATIC PARTY CAUCUSES IN EARLY 2012 TO DEMAND, AS A MEMBER OF A STRONG, UNITED PRO-LABOR PEOPLES’ PARTY FACTION, THAT ONLY PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATES WHO ARDENTLY SUPPORT WORKERS’ RIGHTS GET NOMINATED FOR GOVERNMENT OFFICE! MOST IMPORTANTLY, IN THE GENERAL ELECTION, STRIKE TO THROW THE ANTI-WORKER, PRO-CORPORATE  REPUBLICANS AND TEA PARTY CANDIDATES OUT OF OFFICE PERMANENTLY!!!

Thank you, readers.

About jackjodell53

I am an American Dissident trapped in a country where poor and middle class people are constantly being exploited and lied to by a very rigid and conservative plutocratic elite. I believe in government OF, FOR, and BY the people, not one controlled as it now is by corporations and special interests.
This entry was posted in commentary, conservative Republicans, corporate greed, labor unions, People's Party, Politics, Progressives, Tea Party and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to HEROES OF AMERICAN LABOR (Part VIII)

  1. Hello Jack,
    Very Good Posting and I don’t need to say that we need more men like Richard Trumka and soooooo much less of the mindless Tea Party Zombies that are willing to vote to destroy their quality of life for themselves, their children, and future generations of the working middle class citizens of this country.

  2. jackjodell53 says:

    Hello Engineer of Knowledge.
    Thank you, and I agree completely. The Tea Party is THE most destructive force to hit the American economy and its politics since the Confederates began breaking away in 1861. These people need to thrown from office in the next election!

  3. I’ve read that 70 percent of U.S. workers would join a union if they could. But they don’t—and the main reason is the fear of being fired.
    Think about that for a moment.
    The U.S. is a nation that is ruled by fear. Tens of millions of Americans live in mortal fear. They’re scared sh*tless. (Recall how millions lived in fear in Stalin’s Russia, too. And recall how labor unions were one of the first groups Hitler oppressed upon taking power).
    What kind of way is this to live?
    The U.S. needs to join the civilized community of nations and stop repressing organized labor. We need the same rights as the Europeans. The right to join a union should be considered a basic human fundamental right—a right that only rogue, outlaw nations violate.

    • jackjodell53 says:

      Marc,
      Thank you for your clear-thinking brilliance. We indeed live in fear, albeit less than the Soviet people experienced under Stalin or the Germans did under Hitler. Regardless of degree, though, we still have far too much fear here in the country today. Paranoid reactionaries run our foreign policy and military, and their fear has led to the wasting of many, MANY, BILLIONS of dollars which would have been far better spent on health care and infrastructure problems. The right wing has cynically exploited this fear for its own political advantage. They loudly extol the virtues of our “free” society, but when it comes to the average worker having any freedom to bargain for a fairer paycheck, they want to destroy any and all avenues for that worker to get there, especially labor unions. This so-called marvelous capitalist system which really does oppress its workers is proving to be a miserable failure for the overwhelming majority of its citizens. We are as trapped, realistically, as were the population of the old Iron Curtain regimes. The future looks as bleak for us as it did for them. That is why you and I are American Dissidents, and why people like Bernie Sanders and Richard Trumka are true American heroes!

  4. I’ve thought highly of Trumka for many years. He’s the antithesis of the corrupt Mafia don-type labor boss depicted in some bad old novels. I just hope he doesn’t try to get by on only four hours of sleep a night often or for long. That’s not consistent with being healthy or living long.

    A good way to boost the number of liberal candidates is get more liberals to serve as Democratic precinct leaders and county committee members and leaders. Thom Hartmann says they have decisive impact on the nominating process. He also says a key means hard-right conservatives used to take over the Republican Party was getting their people into precinct and county committee posts. Once in those posts, moderate candidates rarely stood a chance of getting nominated if there was a competing wing nut. It’s something to keep in mind.

    • jackjodell53 says:

      S.W.,
      Thank you for that excellent, invaluable bit of advice. I will be sure to mention it time and again as we get closer to next year’s caucuses. For it is absolutely essential that liberals restore the Democratic Party to the hotbed of progressive activism it was before the likes of petty corporatists like Ben Nelson and Joe LIEberman polluted it. Give me a party full of fair-minded and common sense individuals with the good of working people and the downtrodden ever in mind, like Bernie Sanders!

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