Politics as Unusual: Union-bashing blames victims, overlooks bank blood money

October 1, 2013
By

There’s a dangerous dialogue undermining the mayoral race. It’s irrationally contemptuous of organized labor, and is reflective of the rhetorical course that America is increasingly embarking on, in which economic realities are distorted by ignorance. In the past week, since Bostonians chose John Connolly and Marty Walsh to advance past the preliminary, there’s been much noise about the decision of an arbitrator to award Boston Police patrol officers a significant pay hike, and about how each candidate might handle comparable deliberations if elected. It’s the exact conversation that elite businessmen and corporate scoundrels want us to be having—one that excludes them entirely.

In certain ways, it seems that Americans are more skeptical of plutocrats and their complicit henchmen than of common working people. From lenders who feasted on inevitable foreclosures to executives who gorged on bailout bucks and left taxpayers holding the tab, there’s a general sense that nefarious suits are the closest thing we know to evil incarnate. This much we’ve been told by everyone from Paul Krugman to our most beloved sitcoms—“How I Met Your Mother” comes to mind—which endlessly skewer yuppies who rationalize greed. Bostonians, who are by many measures more educated and enlightened than the larger population, should be especially weary of the vulture class.

Yet, as we head into the final stretch of our mayoral showdown, it’s clear that unions will bear more of the communal brunt than will entities like Bank of America, former employees of which recently admitted in federal court in Boston that they lied to customers and were rewarded for coaxing homeowners into default. Instead of haranguing Connolly over banker bucks, local pundits have crowed about how Walsh is too cozy with workers; the Herald has been particularly brutal, going so far as to run an anti-endorsement against the former Boston Building Trades head. The hits have resonated; even for some avid Walsh supporters, his candidacy is inexorably handcuffed to organized labor.

This trend has unwound even as retention of the middle class has been a dominant election theme. In reality, research by the London School of Economics and Political Science shows that declining American unionization accounted for much of the inequality that set in throughout the 1980s and the decades after. As organized labor has continued to erode—nationwide, union membership has fallen from 28.3 percent of all workers to 11.3 percent in the past 60 years—that plight has worsened. According to the Center for American Progress: “The middle 60 percent of households took home only 45.7 percent of the nation’s income in 2012…well below the 53.2 percent it used to take home in 1968.” Furthermore, “Middle-class incomes…have now been in decline for some time, with the median household income in 2012 below the level it was in 1989.”

It goes without saying that unions need tough love—especially in Boston, where there are long negotiations looming with everyone from City Hall workers to firefighters. If we really want to save the middle class, however, what’s more important is that business interests are kept appropriately in check. In the least, it’s only fair to note that while Walsh swims in labor loot, Connolly—who hypocritically proposed a toothless “People’s Pledge” to sideline private interests last week, only to be roundly dismissed—is the clear favorite among financiers and lawyers, real estate and business backers. In addition to endorsements from corporate education groups funded by Bain Capital executives and the Walmart Foundation, the city councilor has welcomed cash from individuals affiliated with the likes of Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Liberty Mutual and Brown Brothers Harriman.

Though not quite the same caliber of compromised capitalist stooge that Newark Mayor and senatorial shoo-in Cory Booker is, Connolly clearly has more finance blood money in his war chest than his opponent. The only bank behind Walsh is Philip Banks, a union iron worker from Dorchester.            You would think that in a city racked with foreclosure and inequity—where the middle class is fleeing, if not being forced out—the institutions driving home our wreckage would be lynched publicly. Instead, as is happening elsewhere around the country, the enduring narrative attacks the victims, their families and the forces organized to protect working Americans. Boston should know better, but in a city where even some Herald-reading laborers consider themselves to be temporarily inconvenienced Beacon Hill billionaires, it’s still easier to kick the middle class when it’s down.

A former Boston Phoenix staff writer, Chris Faraone is now contributing editor at DigBoston.

  • Ratty

    We need to find an engaging way to describe to young people in Boston what civil rights and unions are. I work for a corporate backed Looney-Toon education non-profit. Last year in my teacher’s evaluation, the 24 year old girl evaluating me literally said and I quote. “Your ideas about democracy in schools are very interesting and new, but this is the way it runs around here. This is how all of my friends who did Teach for America were trained” — Young people in their 20′s, literally think the concept of “democratic schools” is a NEW idea. Like it’s some philosophical idea, I dreamed up all on my own not a huge institution called America’s Public Schools. I am thinking about throwing some union themed parties down in Fan. Hall for these young corporate Neanderthals, where you get a free “Yankees Suck” T-shirt if you can state the benefits of collective bargaining. I told them the correct answers to the FIVE (yes, five) written personal evaluations we must complete this year are simply Blowing in the Wind, LOL. But, I’ve got nothing against, “How I Met Your Mother.” – it’s a great show. Almost as good as watching the Corporate Looney Toons.

  • ConeyIslandtoBoston

    I am voting for Marty Walsh for the same reason I voted for Liz Warren. The average person isn’t making it in Boston anymore than he is nationally. The Democrats who vote pro-Labor on a national level but not locally are elitists. They would argue that. Elitism seems to be like dementia. You can’t tell when you have it.

  • CitizenCharlesFosterKane

    “The only candidate on November’s ballot that has the cojones to institute real change is John Connolly.”

    Oh, that’s a good one. John “Flounder” Connolly, the political legacy, is going to institute real change? The same John Connolly whose mommy was appointed a judge because of coziness with Republican fundraisers? The one whose daddy was appointed to the Boston Licensing Board by a Republican governor to earn how much money for doing nothing? Seriously, Flounder is up to his ears in the Beacon Hill back scratching culture. Amazing how he was a city councilor while holding down a law practice and while his daddy was on the Licensing Board. Oh no, there’s *never* been any conflict of interest with Connolly. Marty Walsh’s support is out there for everyone to see. Flounder’s money men are well hidden and much more dangerous. You don’t think the downtown law firms and financial institutions want something from young Flounder if he becomes mayor? Connolly was born into the hack culture, grew up in the hack culture, and jumped into politics as soon as he could. Yeah, that’s *real* change. Connolly acts like he’s entitled to be mayor. He’s *never* worked for anything in his life.

  • nandy61

    Outside money is outside money. Why is Walsh any better for taking money from Blue-collar non-residents?!! The Globe reported in early August that ” a group closely linked to the national AFL-CIO has already spent more than $10,000 paying canvassers to go door to door for Walsh…Walsh’s ties to labor go beyond Massachusetts. On Aug.1, Walsh was in Washington, D.C., and went to a meeting at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO.That same day an organization that calls itself Working America filed its first expense report disclosing that it had paid people to knock on doors in Boston advocating for Walsh, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. The practice is legal, but outside groups cannot coordinate with campaigns.

    Working America is the political organizing arm of the AFL-CIO. Walsh said he did not discuss the group in his visit to the union’s headquarters.” BWAH! Right.

    And why do you automatically assume that Connolly is going to be the pansie of the financiers and bankers? He has no record of such bias. Meanwhile Walsh, while serving in the Legislature, became president of Local 223. He was appointed in 2010 to lead the Boston Building Trades, an umbrella group that represents unions of ironworkers, electricians, and others. The job paid $175,000 a year. He’s still the head of 223.)( And THIS GUY is going to serve all the people of Boston?! BWAH. Right.

    And calling Boston “a city wracked with forelcosures and inequity” is just simply ridiculous. The foreclosure rates in Boston were amongst the lowest in the nation amongst large cities. The middle class does flee for sure, but that’s because the SCHOOLS SUCK! The only candidate on November’s ballot that has the cojones to institute real change is John Connolly.

    • Heisenberg

      So if somebody has ties to Organized Labor they are automatically disqualified, but if they are the progeny of two political hacks we should embrace that candidate? John Connolly will be nothing more than a wholly owned subsidiary of banks, lawyers, and the like.

      Building trades’ jobs are a career pathway for city kids that are not inclined to go to college. They are self-sufficient, and should not be painted as the problem when they are actually a solution for many working families.

      The Organized Capital operatives behind Connolly make more in a week than Walsh makes in a year as general agent of the Building Trades (and he has relinquished that job to run). You’re either part of that corrupt and misguided group, or you are being used as a pawn in the simpleton game of “unions are the problem…trust us, the millionaires and the billionaires who will be pulling the puppet strings attached to Connolly’s body parts.”

      You are totally brain-dead if you think either of these candidates are going to straighten out the schools; and if Walsh is all about Unions, why is the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) contemplating sitting this race out? You know the BTU, correct? They made TWO endorsements in the primary…and neither one was to Walsh.

      Wake up, nandy61. Connolly, the second generation hack, will be systematically dismantled and will implode before November 5th. His boorish and overbearing attitude will be his undoing.