Category Archives: Politics

‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party

Source: Amanda Fallin, Rachel Grana, Stanton A Glantz, Tobacco Control, Published Online First 8 February 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background: The Tea Party, which gained prominence in the USA in 2009, advocates limited government and low taxes. Tea Party organisations, particularly Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, oppose smoke-free laws and tobacco taxes.

Methods: We used the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, the Wayback Machine, Google, LexisNexis, the Center for Media and Democracy and the Center for Responsive Politics ( to examine the tobacco companies’ connections to the Tea Party.

Results: Starting in the 1980s, tobacco companies worked to create the appearance of broad opposition to tobacco control policies by attempting to create a grassroots smokers’ rights movement. Simultaneously, they funded and worked through third-party groups, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the predecessor of AFP and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda. There has been continuity of some key players, strategies and messages from these groups to Tea Party organisations. As of 2012, the Tea Party was beginning to spread internationally.

Conclusions: Rather than being a purely grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party has developed over time, in part through decades of work by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests. It is important for tobacco control advocates in the USA and internationally, to anticipate and counter Tea Party opposition to tobacco control policies and ensure that policymakers, the media and the public understand the longstanding connection between the tobacco industry, the Tea Party and its associated organisations.

Time for Democrats to Pay Their Dues

Source: James Thindwa, In These Times, February 6, 2013

For too long organized labor has failed to ask the Dems, ‘Which side are you on?’…Democratic leaders who think their party can survive without labor are grossly mistaken. Who will turn out the base—…The fact is, the success of the American labor movement has always depended upon a welcoming policy environment facilitated by an allied political party. While many forces are contributing to labor’s decline, we can no longer ignore a central one: The once-reliable Democratic Party has abandoned the cause. However, the party remains heavily dependent on labor for financial and organizational infrastructure….

Focus Voters’ Anger on Corporations, Not Just Republicans

Source: Gordon Lafer, Labor Notes, January 28, 2013

…The country is in a bad mood, and legitimately so. Our task is to help people find the clarity and courage to direct their anger at those responsible for their misery. …

…There is no Master Plan that guarantees victory. But here are a few steps unions can take to move politics forward in 2013:
Focus on the states….
Put workplace organizing at the center of our political operation….

…Since most unions’ political staffs come out of electoral politics, they often don’t understand workplace internal organizing. To do politics right, we must bring together political and organizing staffs that often operate on separate tracks.
Recruit members to serve as public ambassadors….
Campaign against the corporate lobbies….
Run offensive campaigns….

Union Membership and Political Participation in the United States

Source: Jasmine Kerrissey, Evan Schofer, Social Forces, First published online: January 9, 2013
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From the abstract:
This article examines the effect of union membership on civic and political participation in the late 20th century in the United States. We discuss why and how unions seek to mobilize their members and where mobilization is channeled. We argue that union membership affects electoral and collective action outcomes and will be larger for low socioeconomic status individuals. Statistical analyses find that union membership is associated with many forms of political activity, including voting, protesting, association membership, and others. Union effects are larger for less educated individuals, a group that otherwise exhibits low levels of participation. Union membership is not associated with outcomes distant from union political agendas, such as general volunteering and charitable giving, suggesting that unions generate political capital rather than generalized social capital.

Labor Party Time?

Source: Labor Party Time? blog, 2013

Labor Party Time? is a forum to discuss and debate the need for an independent political party for working people and the prospects for a renewed labor party effort given the state of the labor movement in the United States. The experiences of the Labor Party, founded in June 1996 as a new political party of, by and for working people, serve as the basis for the discussion.

Labor Party Time? Not Yet.
Labor Party Time? Not Yet by Labor Party National Organizer Mark Dudzic and Secretary-Treasurer Katherine Isaac chronicles the successes and failures of the Labor Party movement and analyzes the impact of the effort, the reasons for its decline, and its lessons for today. Join the discussion by posting comments to the Labor Party Time? analysis or to the responses by Labor Party activists Jed Dodd, Donna Dewitt, Chris Townsend, Bill Onasch, and Les Leopold.

Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role Of Money In The 2012 Elections

Source: Adam Lioz, Blair Bowie, Dēmos and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, January 2013

From the summary:
This report offers a comprehensive analysis of the fundraising and spending in federal races in the 2012 elections. The primary goal is to provide a quantitative analysis to describe tangibly what the vast majority of Americans already understand: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite fraction of the populace—threatening the very concept of government of, by, and for the people. … But, more important than the total amount spent in any election is where all this money comes from. If candidates for federal office were mostly raising money in small contributions from average citizens, and if outside spending groups were organizing these average citizens to give them a louder voice in the political process, the sheer volume of money raised and spent might not present such a troubling problem. Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, this is not the case. Spending on modern U.S. elections is dominated by a small minority of special interests and wealthy donors who use their economic clout to amplify their preferred messages and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in the public square. The wealthy translate their greater electoral role into increased influence over public policy in two basic ways: by helping elect candidates who share their values, and by limiting the range of acceptable policy positions that candidates may take if they want to remain competitive—effectively shaping the agenda in Washington and state capitals across the country.

Political Speech and Association Rights after Knox v. Seiu Local 1000

Source: Catherine Fisk, Erwin Chemerinsky, Cornell Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 5, 2013

From the abstract:
In Citizens United, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, and other recent cases, the Supreme Court has given organizations a newly-robust First Amendment right to use the entity’s money in ways that stakeholders within the organization may find anathema and to discriminate against employees and members in order to advance the expressive interest of the entity. Yet, in Knox v. SEIU Local 1000 in 2012, the Court held that a labor union violates the First Amendment rights of dissenters if it levies a special assessment for political speech without first having dissenters opt in. The Court’s jurisprudence on associational speech lacks any theory of when and why an organization’s speech violates the rights of dissenters. Nor does it consider what kinds of internal organizational governance mechanisms are necessary to ensure a fair allocation of speech protections between those who wish the organization to promote one message and those who wish it to promote another. Moreover, the majority in Knox casts First Amendment doubt on the validity of the entire concept of collective bargaining by a union elected by a majority to represent all employees in a bargaining unit of government employees. As ballot measures in various states have been enacted or are pending limiting the rights of unions to raise and spend money on politics in the name of protecting dissident employees, a principled approach to the free speech rights of unions, corporations, and other associations is ever more needed.

In this article we offer an approach to reconciling the First Amendment expressive interests of organizations with the expressive interests of dissenting stakeholders within them. We suggest an approach to resolving the inconsistency between Citizens United, the union-dues cases, and the Court’s other compelled speech and associational speech jurisprudence. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, we suggest not that shareholders be given the opt out (or opt in) rights of dissenting union employees but instead that unions be given the same broad speech rights as corporations to use dues and fees paid by all employees on political activity.

The Rise of 'Political Action': Labor Unions and the Democratic Party

Source: Emily Charnock, APSA Annual Meeting Paper, 2012

From the abstract:     
This paper examines the emergence of the first “Political Action Committee” (P.A.C.) as a crucial development underpinning the labor-Democratic alliance, and prompting a broad shift in interest group politics more generally. Created by the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1943, the P.A.C. was both a major organizational innovation and the bearer of a new strategic vision in which interest group electioneering took center stage. While claiming to be “non-partisan,” the P.A.C. directed its electoral efforts toward the Democratic Party, which it sought to reshape as a more cohesively liberal body, in accordance with labor’s major policy goals. This marked a significant shift in interest group behavior, from an emphasis on bipartisan lobbying as the means of achieving preferred policies after elections, to partisan electioneering or “political action” as a means of ensuring their attainment from the start. In both its organizational and strategic respects, the P.A.C. would serve as an important model for other interest and issue-based groups, forging the electoral basis upon which contemporary “party networks” now rest.

The Great Recession, The Resulting Budget Shortfalls, The 2010 Elections And The Attack On Public Sector Collective Bargaining In The United States

Source: Kenneth Glenn Dau-Schmidt & Winston Lin, Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Volume 29, No. 2, Spring 2012

The institution of collective bargaining is under serious attack in the United States.

American public sector unions and collective bargaining have been subjected to a vicious attack under the auspices of balancing government budgets, promoting “equity” between private and public employees, and limiting the impact of “special interests” on government policy. The American and world financial crisis of 2007 resulted in the Great Recession of 2008 and substantial budget shortfalls for local and national governments worldwide. This financial crisis and the resulting disintegration of aggregate demand and employment are eerily similar to the financial crisis and collapse that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. However, unlike the calamity of the 1930s, in the present emergency, American conservatives, funded by the moneyed class, are attempting to use the predicament as an opportunity to attack collective bargaining and other institutions of support and power for the American middle class. This grasp for power represents an assertion of power and control by the American upper class not experienced since the rise of scientific management, the deskilling of jobs, and the destruction of the trade union system of collective bargaining in the 1890s.

In this paper, we outline the recent attack on public sector unions’ power in the American economy and the accompanying changes, as well as proposed changes, in American law. We will briefly describe the impact of the recent financial crisis on the American economy, the balance sheets of American state and national governments, and the opportunism of the American plutocracy in using this crisis to propose and enact legislation to undermine the institution of collective bargaining and political proponents for the middle and lower classes. In particular, we will discuss the recent efforts in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan to severely limit or prohibit public sector collective bargaining and the political influence of American public sector workers. This attack on collective bargaining constitutes the largest grab for economic and political power by the American upper class since the destruction of the labor guilds in the 1890s and the rise of the “Gilded Age” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The Deliberate Low-Wage, High-Insecurity Economic Model

Source: Jeff Madrick, Work and Occupations, Vol. 39 no. 4, November 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In contrast to the general biases of orthodox economists, the jobs crisis in America is not inevitable or natural–and more important, does not contribute to more economic efficiency through lower wages or more productivity. It is the result of deliberate political policy choices the nation has made at least since the early 1980s, when productivity was rising on a secular basis at a slow rate. Also, the policy choices were made before the rise of very low-wage emerging markets like China’s. In sum, there has been a low-wage, high-unemployment policy regime in the rich world, and especially in the United States, for a generation.