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The Washington Post reports that one of the largest and most powerful unions in politics has attacked the Congressional Black Caucus for its engagement with Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer of African-Americans. The SEIU has long targeted the world's largest retailer for what it calls worker exploitation, but the CBC has cozied up to Wal-Mart instead:
The Service Employees International Union has angered a number of African American House members by protesting Wal-Mart's involvement in a Congressional Black Caucus fundraiser.
The conflict between two mainstays of the Democratic Party began after Anna Burger, SEIU secretary-treasurer, wrote caucus members "to express our disappointment that the Congressional Black Caucus has given Wal-Mart an opportunity to fashion a false image as a friend of African Americans and of working people generally."
SEIU and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sponsored an April 27 caucus fundraiser. The union has criticized Wal-Mart's personnel practices as anti-labor.
Caucus member Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) described the letter as "presumptuous."
"The attitude of the letter was that somehow we were allowing someone to do this as though we had no free will or common sense," he said.
The CBC chairman, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), said, "I couldn't imagine them writing a similar letter to other members of Congress, Democrats, Blue Dogs [conservative Democrats], Republicans."
Perhaps Rep. Watt doesn't have much of an imagination, as it wouldn't take much at all for the SEIU to write such a rude and "presumptious" letter to the GOP at all. The conflict between the two special-interest Democratic factions also didn't take much imagination to predict. While the outreach from the CBC to Wal-Mart might surprise some, a Democratic movement towards the billions of dollars that Wal-Mart represents should surprise no one. Even a group as normally strident as the CBC understands the power of Wal-Mart and has to accommodate that power to a certain degree.
Of course, the SEIU also has power of its own, but the power it has relies on a false sense of solidarity from its rank and file. While the union, and others like it, control millions of dollars that they push into the political process, the votes the SEIU ultimately represents amount to much less than advertised. The union members select their votes based on a number of reasons and values, and since many join the SEIU only because of closed-shop laws, the diversity at the member level runs much deeper than at the executive level. Unions have been in a rather steep decline for the past few decades, and if the Democrats continued to blow off corporate concerns for union factionalism, they'd be signing their political death warrant. Even the CBC understands that much.
This may well portend a bigger problem for the Democrats as they struggle to hang onto their Left while pursuing the center. If the unions insist on purity -- if they object to every overture made by the Democrats to mainstream business, and especially if they make a public row out of it -- the Democrats may wind up losing them to the Greens or another fringe party on the Left.Sphere It View blog reactions
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A lot of folks have problems with Wal-Mart. Local retailers. Unions. The list goes on. But Wal-Mart has come up with a plan which is working. New stores are going up in poorer neighborhoods.The pitch goes like this: Wal-mart is [Read More]
Tracked on May 17, 2005 10:45 AM
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