AFL-CIO Is Unprepared to Fight for Key Worker Programs

By Harry Kelber | The American Labor Reform Movement | October 2, 2012

Dozens of pro-worker programs will be crippled or eliminated early in 2013. The AFL-CIO still does not know which programs will be affected.

There are strong indications that the $1 trillion automatic spending cuts, negotiated by President Obama and G.O.P.’s John Boehner, House Speaker, will affect Medicare, Medicaid and many projects that serve the poor, sick and elderly, but no definite list of spending cuts has been released.

Fortunately, there is some good news to calm jittery program directors who fear they are on the Obama-Boehner hit list. Last Tuesday, President Obama agreed to tell Congress within a month just how he would make the trillion-dollar spending cuts, scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2013.

Also last Tuesday, President Obama signed legislation requiring a detailed contingencies report in 30 days for complying with last year’s budget control mandates. Under last year’s law, the government must cut $984 billion in spending, half from the military, by 2021, starting on Jan. 2, unless the president and Congress agree on an alternative plan.

The American people deserve to know how their commander-in-chief intends to implement half a trillion dollars in spending cuts. Of course the military cuts will be rescinded, which will increase the amount to be slashed from civilian programs.

There is a larger question that should cause considerable outrage within the labor movement.: What gives Obama and Boehner the right to pick which programs should be cut and which should be saved? Why was the AFL-CIO not consulted on these choices? And was the AFL-CIO sufficiently interested to find out?

Why Didn’t the AFL-CIO Ask to See List of Spending Cuts? The AFL-CIO has 30 days before Obama makes his report on the details of nearly a trillion dollars of spending cuts. Our leaders should prevail on the president to allow them to examine the list of cuts and give their opinion on which they will oppose and which require further discussion.

We ought to know the basis on which Obama and Boehner made judgment calls on organizations they knew little about. What criteria did they use for judging which program to cut and by how much? Unions should have the right to discuss Obama’s decisions in open public debate before the spending cuts are executed.

President Obama has a friendly relationship with AFL-CIO leaders, which he finds useful in situations requiring labor support. But no union leader is in his inner circle or serves as a top adviser. it is highly doubtful that Obama consults them on international problems.

Although the president has disappointed them several times, most of them, especially AFL-CIO Presided Trumka, are quick to forgive his missteps. He has been endorsed for a second term by virtually every union within the AFL-CIO.

Will an Obama election victory enhance the power of the AFL-CIO? It didn’t after the election of 2009, where the unions helped Obama to victory If Obama wins in 2012, it is doubtful that organized labor will gain substantially in numbers and bargaining strength.

Harry on Facebook