Friday, October 30, 2020

Endorsements: Manipulating the Vote?

 ***Due to Blogger's new format change, there are random changes font size and colors***


I received a recorded phone call from the AFL-CIO. It's interesting how they tend to use a woman's voice. I guess that's to make us a little less defensive, especially when it comes to solicitors or telemarketers. Perhaps, they assume, we are more willing to listen to the sales pitch.

Anyway, this pleasant sounding individual asked to speak with me by name (first name only,  I guess that makes it seem more "personal"). She then asked me to verify my year of birth, so, naturally, I lied. They're making a sell's pitch.  It's none of their business when I was born. Besides, they're just trying to fit my response into some statistical category to gage which way various age demographics are leaning. 

I was asked next if I intended to vote in the upcoming election. I suspect that they already had the answer to that question (I've never missed an election after after I turned 18). The voter list they bought likely included my phone number, e-mail address and no doubt would have also included most of my public information, such as gender, marital status, address, and yes, my age! 

 I was informed that the call was about the upcoming election for U.S. Senate between Amy McGrath and Mitch McConnell. However, before asking me the obvious question, the caller reminded me that the call originated from the AFL-CIO, and then emphasized that "my union" had done all the research for me and concluded that Democrat Amy McGrath was their recommendation , then asked who I was voting for.

At that point I was toying between hanging up or playing along. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I don't need any person or group telling me that they have decided to relieve me of the "burden" of thinking for myself.  They know nothing of issues I'm concerned about. They know nothing about my personal financial or health situation. They know even less about my values.


Their endorsement reflects their interests, not mine. Besides, since when does a union endorse someone who isn't a Democrat no matter who the opponent is?  I served as a state chairman for a writers union for around eight years. I've been privy to a great number of closed door meetings. In most cases, the Democrat, no matter how unqualified, is endorsed before they ever hear from the other candidates.

I remember one instance where a certain Democrat I had known for years and I were talking before the candidate interviews started. We had talked for awhile when he started commenting about how much he disliked unions in general but loved the money they gave to endorsed candidates and how they would "Shanghai" members into doing mailings, making phone calls, or delivering yard signs on behalf of the candidate.  

During the interview it was pointed out that his campaign material lacked a "union bug" (a mark indicating that the material was made by a union shop). His handouts, mailers, and yard signs all lacked the union bug. He also admitted that he had never belonged to union, nor had anyone in his family. His answers were canned platitudes. No substance whatsoever. Obviously, his reception was lukewarm.  Next up was his opponent, a Republican, which is rare at union endorsements.  

This individual was someone I knew by name only. He worked at Ford or General Electric (I don't remember which). He was not only a union member, but also a shop steward. His brothers, father, and uncles all worked there. All were union members; some had been shop stewards as well. His campaign material all bore the union bug. His answers were concise. He even asked some of the members questions about their unions which most couldn't answer. Of course, he already knew the answers. He had taken time to research the issues affecting several of these key unions.

Needless to say, I was impressed. He took the endorsement process serious. He didn't act like he was showing up just to go through the motions. Want to guess which of the two candidates got endorsed? I bet you already know the answer. It was the Democrat, despite not knowing any of the issues for the office he was seeking, knowing any of the key points affecting the unions, being a union member, or even having the basic courtesy of using a union shop for his campaign material.


As far as I'm concerned, that's one of the biggest problems with unions, and is one of the reasons that unions are no longer relevant. Many endorsements are automatic. They put politics over the interests of their members. Union leaders are more interested in what benefits them than the ordinary rank and file.

If they were truly interested in the workers they would pit both of the parties against each other. They'd make them work to earn their support. By choosing to have so-called "friends" on one side of the aisle only, the fate of unions rise and fall with the fortunes of that party. Why would anyone do that? By having allies on both sides you don't have to worry as much about which party is in power.

Even the fact that the Democrats are literally just as bought and paid for by corporate interests as are the Republicans (corporations given five dollars to every one dollar donated by unions) it doesn't dawn on them to spread their support around. Union donations have become almost chump change by comparison.  As a result, only about 6.2% of the total workforce are still unionized. If that doesn't show the rank and file how badly they're being taken advantage of I don't know what does.

Now, make no mistake. Unions were the backbone of the Middle Class for many decades. Not only did they fight to give workers a livable wage, unions made jobs safer.  They provided security for the employee and their family. Unions brought an end to child labor, equality in the workplace, a fixed hour workweek, overtime pay, health benefits, and security from the whims of the owners and supervisors. Unions even made suburbia possible.

Of course, there has been a lot of negatives too, such as getting in bed with the mob, misuse of pension funds, rigged union elections (and endorsements), and so forth. Many of the issues unions fought for are now federal laws.


Some argue that makes unions antiquated, and perhaps to an extent it does. However, workers will always need some way of fighting to protect their jobs, including their wages and benefits. As union clout has declined, so has wages, benefits, and job security. 

As long as they pander to one political party, regardless of the legislation they pass, then they will continue to lose relevance. Workers will increasingly choose to look after their own self interests, which is why most ignore their union's endorsements. As for my phone call, despite being told that "my union" had already decided for me who I should vote for, I opted to think for myself as I've recommended my readers do for years, and declined their "recommendation" to vote for Amy McGrath.

Speaking of endorsements, you'll be seeing the news media attempting the same thing under the guise of "informed choice". They'll tell you they did all the hard work just for you.  They'll point out all the strengths of their choice while downplaying or outright ignoring their flaws. Naturally, the individual they oppose will have few, if any, redeeming qualities worth mentioning, but a laundry list of negatives, especially if they're conservative!

It's one thing when endorsements are from some trade or professional organization. You expect them to be partial, but when they're from the media, that's something altogether different. The news media is suppose to be in the business of providing the news in a impartial, fair, and balanced manner. Their job is not to tell you how to vote. Just provide the unvarnished facts and let us make our own decisions thank you very much.

As I mentioned above, these individuals are pushing their own agenda. They have no particular interest in what issues are important to you. They are interested in seeing certain policies being enacted or in seeing taxes being raised without regard of the ramifications.

 


I love it when they tell us it's "only" a few cents or dollars, yet they forget that the majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. They fail to take into consideration that everything else is going up in price---water, sewage, electric, cable, gas, groceries, medical bills and so on; everything but our wages.  They especially don't take into consideration those on fixed incomes.

We have a situation like that where I live. The school board voted to increase our property tax by 15% without so much as a "by your leave suckers"! The local media and power brokers were quick to cheer the increase, which, after all, benefits the students (or so we were told).

Several recent studies had concluded that the local school system was already top heavy and overpaid by industry standards. Meanwhile, the teachers were underpaid and the students weren't getting much of the money allotted to them. It was suggested that if they made several adjustments, it could potentially save taxpayers millions.  As an aside, years ago we enacted a state lottery with the proceeds to go exclusively to the schools.

While the lottery passed, the legislators ensured that they got the money, despite their promises to the contrary, which went into a general fund. Big surprise huh? A word of advice from "Captain Obvious"--- never trust politicians with your money.  


So, now they want to raise our property taxes again on the promise that this time the teachers and student would benefit. Oh, by the way, they never took the recommendations from the studies and reduced their top heavy administration or cutback executive salaries.

Despite getting more than enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot, the school board and teacher's union have tried everything in their power to get it removed, including alleging all sorts of falsehoods. To think they are responsible for our children's education!  It's evident that the local power brokers don't want the voters thinking or deciding for themselves. Politics as usual.

So, take it from me, a 40+ year community organizer and political activist, ignore the so-called "endorsements". Do your own research, then go vote.  You'll be glad you did.