Saturday, July 30, 2005

217-215. That's how close the CAFTA vote was in the House. It would have been defeated without the help of 15 "Democratic" turncoats. Jonathan Tasini's article "Spanking the CAFTA Fifteen" explains why the vote matters and what labor should do about the defectors.
The treaty, like NAFTA before it, sucks jobs out of our economy. As William Greider pointed out a couple of weeks ago: "Germany and Japan, despite vast differences, both manage to keep advanced manufacturing sectors anchored at home and to defend domestic wage levels and social guarantees." We don't. Tasini is on the same protect our jobs page as Greider:
Trade is not just a single issue. So-called “free trade” is shaping the economy, here and abroad—it is the central issue upon which other economic policy issues revolve. To overlook a politician’s vote on trade means turning a blind eye to the legislative tool most responsible for shifting the power of self-determination from the hands of citizens to the corporate boardrooms of global capitalism.

Tasini notes that the national president of the fire fighters' association organized a protest against CAFTA. Instead of shrugging the treaty off as not affecting the jobs of his union members (firefighting cannot be outsourced), he understood that the loss of jobs helps push down wages and benefits throughout this economy.
But what's done is done. Maybe so, but if labor had taken action to punish renegade Democrats after NAFTA, maybe, twelve years later, CAFTA wouldn't have passed. Tasini recommends a spanking:
... For God’s sake, shouldn’t we at least cut off money to people who won’t stick up for the future economic livelihood of millions of workers?
Labor must declare immediately that unions will deny the CAFTA 15 their support. That means that, come campaign season, the CAFTA 15 will not find a single check in their mailboxes, nor receive an endorsement to grace their campaign literature, nor count on union members to make the thousands of phone calls or house visits that turn out voters. Let’s find primary opponents for each one.
Few politicians are guided by deep principle. Most understand one thing: power. And, just as important, once tasted, the absence of power is an enormously effective motivator. Nothing focuses the mind of a politician more than the thought of losing his or her seat. If labor had taken out one or two Democrats who voted for NAFTA more than a decade ago, I suspect that the CAFTA 15 might have numbered two or three—or maybe none.
The time for hardball politics is now.

Note: Ike Skelton is the only Missourian on the list.


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