I was recently given the opportunity to sit down with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Mr. Trumka was very cordial and positive and had plenty to say about the state of the union and what started in Madison and has blossomed throughout the country and the world.
Mr. Trumka gladly took all of our questions and answered everyone honestly(although he thought through one first- more on that later). We started out talking about the protests in Madison that had only been in the first few days at that point. Mr. Trumka said that he was not surprised what was happening in Madison and that it was invigorating to see the people take to the streets and say they have had enough. It is always good to see people coming together in support of a shared cause.
He then pointed out to successes that had sprung from the protests in Madison, which included the Governor of Michigan letting it be known that he would NOT pick a fight with labor(our meeting was before Indiana Gov. Daniels backed off his fight). Mr. Trumka stressed that we are THE last line of defense between the middle class and complete corporate control. “As long as we stick together, they can’t beat us.”
Some other thoughts and info from Mr. Trumka:
On if unions are outdated and no longer needed?:“The top 1% currently make $.58 out of every dollar and that is going up to $.65 of every dollar. From 1946 – 1973 production doubled and so did wages. At the time we had approximately 40% of Americans covered by collective bargaining. Right now we have approximately 11 1/2 % covered. Unions are needed now more than ever.”
on organizing the 99ers?” we started a great organization www.workingamerica.org that has been signing up people all across America.”
How often does he speak to the White House?: “Everyday he speaks to someone at the White House.”
On the coverage of the Wisconsin protests?: ” Thank God for the bloggers or else the people throughout the world would not be able to get the full story on the ground.”
What is the message to take from Wisconsin?: ” There are essentially two main points. 1. This has nothing to do with the deficit, we don’t have a money crisis we have a jobs crisis and we need jobs. 2. We are better when we work together.”
On Charlie Sykes: “Who?”
Who is a friend to labor in Washington?: (Without missing a beat) President Obama is a friend to labor, he might not do everything we want him to do, but he is definitely a friend to labor. He is 1000 times better than any of his predecessors. We won the ribber tires case where China was cheating and it increased exports by 15% and created thousands of jobs. There are lots of friends of Labor, Sherrod Brown, John Lewis, Betty Sutton and Nancy Pelosi is a good friend to labor.”
How about Ron Kind: “who?”
(Because I am a political junkie) Is the White House easier to work with before Rahm left or after?: (Loooooong Pause and Big smile) “Let’s just say that Bill Daley is better to work with”.
What is a progressive?: “A progressive who wants to create a society where all are involved. Instead of looking up and taking away something from others that you don’t have, you look down and say let’s help them get what we have.”
Finally, do you think these protests will spark a new progressive movement?: “It already has!”