Over the last few years, we've learned a great deal about the Democratic Party's attitude toward the labor movement. Through the Employee Free Choice Act debate (or lack thereof), we've learned that Democrats are happy to rely on union workers hard-earned money to get elected, and then happy to block major pieces of legislation that would help workers join a union. Through the Obama administration's push for a new NAFTA-style trade deal, we've learned that Democratic presidential candidates are happy to sound pro-labor on the campaign trail, and happy to be anti-labor in Washington, D.C. I could go on, but you get the point: We've learned that the Democratic Party and labor are in neverending abuser-abused relationship.
That said, it's rare to get a truly unvarnished glimpse into the psychological attitude that undergirds that relationship. It's rare, but as today shows, it sometimes comes out. Check out this little snippet from the Denver Post on Colorado's new Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, and whether he will issue an executive order rescinding a previous recent executive order that allows state workers to form unions:
"I don't think that executive order led to a significant increase in collective bargaining or people joining unions," Hickenlooper said. "It was a statement that I think to a certain extent was largely symbolic, and if that's the case, I don't see a reason to go and immediately repeal it."
Read that statement again, just to really see what he's saying, because it's so honest. He's quite explicitly saying that because the executive order "was largely symbolic" and didn't "lead to a significant increase in collective bargaining or people joining unions," he does't "see a reason to go and immediately repeal it."
While it's good that Hickenlooper isn't "immediately" rescinding this basic right of workers, his statement logically means two not so good things: 1) If the executive order was more real (ie. not "symbolic") and had led to more workers joining together in a union, then he likely would "see a reason" to repeal it and 2) Even though the executive order was only "symbolic" he's saying he won't repeal it "immediately" - but by definition, reserves the right to consider repealing it later (indeed, the only reason to include the word "immediately" is to deliberately qualify the statement so that it applies only to a specific short-term period of time).
In a sense, we should thank Hickenlooper for being so honest, because it gives us a good look at how the larger establishment of the Democratic Party really sees the labor movement and the concepts of worker solidarity and collective bargaining. Unions are fine, says the Democratic Party, as long as they are providing massive Democratic campaign contributions, and as long as not too many people join them for the purposes of negotiating for higher wages, taking on corporate power, etc. But once unions get too uppity - ie. bringing back membership levels from 30 years ago, challenging corporate power, etc. - then a Democratic governor looking to appease his corporate donors is more than willing to consider unilaterally repealing the basic laws that allow workers to even try to join a union.
Think of the message that sends to current public workers - you may be allowed to unionize right now, but the more you do, the more risk you run of having your union rights taken away by executive fiat. As I said, it's an abuser-abused relationship - right there for everyone to see.
Follow David Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidsirota