Tuesday, July 27, 2004

SEIU's Andy Stern: Labor's Soothsayer or Pessimist?

Or maybe a little of both:
Breaking sharply with the enforced harmony of the Democratic National Convention, the president of the largest AFL-CIO union said Monday that both organized labor and the Democratic Party might be better off in the long run if Sen. John F. Kerry loses the election.

Andrew L. Stern, the head of the 1.6 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said in an interview with The Washington Post that both the party and its longtime ally, the labor movement, are "in deep crisis," devoid of new ideas and working with archaic structures.

Stern argued that Kerry's election might stifle needed reform within the party and the labor movement. He said he still believes that Kerry overall would make a better president than President Bush, and his union has poured huge resources into that effort. But he contends that Kerry's election would have the effect of slowing the "evolution" of the dialogue within the party.
Update: Stern explains himself here:
There were several press reports in today’s newspapers regarding my views about the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO. These reports reflect a mixture of comments made in several different interviews. Let me be clear...

There’s nothing I want more than a John Kerry victory. He’s spent a lifetime fighting for good jobs and strong families, and a Kerry victory is the biggest goal of our union right now. We will spend $65 million and are sending over 2,004 workers to work full time in battleground states. We will continue to do whatever we can to make sure John Kerry is the next president of the United States. This is the largest non-party effort of any single organization in a national election ever. And we’re not working this hard just because John Kerry has a D after his name. John Kerry is right on our issues and he’s fought with us when we have needed him.

What I was saying yesterday is that when you accomplish a big goal like beating George Bush there can be a tendency to lose energy and unity and we cannot let that happen. Our party is at a time of extraordinary energy and unity and we have to make sure we hold on to that even after Senator Kerry beats Bush.

OK, Andy. Good points. That all makes sense. But timing is everything. This is the convention -- in the middle of a campaign where you need to spend all your energy firing up the troops. There will be plenty of time after January 20, 2005 to criticize President Kerry and the Democratic party.

More thoughts by Nathan Newman here.