|ONLINE VERSION||SEPTEMBER 1999|
renomination of Linda Morgan by the Clinton/Gore Administration, considering Vice
President Gore's personal involvement in the matter, is a major disappointment to the
BMWE, Rail Labor affiliates of the AFL-CIO and the AFL-CIO. It is something that cannot be
taken lightly or downplayed under a sometimes-friends-disagree mantra. It shows a
fundamental disdain for working people, the leadership of the labor movement and brings
into question what working people can expect from a Gore Presidency. It also raises the
troubling ethics/honesty questions which have plagued, and continue to plague, the
This is a very difficult column to write because there is much about Vice President Gore I like, admire and agree with. I was hoping (and to some degree still hope) that the BMWE and I could personally support the Vice President in his bid for the Presidency. However his actions in this matter, and in other matters critical to Labor, Rail Labor and our membership, make me question his commitment to the working people of the United States in general and to railroad workers in particular.
At the outset, I realize that a government controlled by friends and allies will not always agree with Labor. People of integrity can disagree on many issues. I don't expect for the Vice President to simply be a rubber stamp for the labor movement and as part of a coalition and as president of a union recognize that no matter how hard you try, you can't satisfy everyone. All you can do is try.
But in order to be able to support the Vice President for President, especially given his sustained and continued low standings in the polls against a relatively unknown candidate, it is necessary to have a belief that he wants to do the right thing - he is committed to protecting the interests of working people against corporate excesses. His refusal to block Morgan's nomination - his willingness to allow a direct enemy of railroad workers another five years to inflict harm on railroad workers despite the clear, loud objections of the entire legitimate labor movement and their leadership - makes it appear that he is not committed to protecting us.
It is not simply because he allowed his staff to cynically and cavalierly lie to top leadership in the AFL-CIO and Rail Labor and refused to honor his staff's direct commitment to them not to reappoint Morgan that makes me feel this way. Although that is certainly problematic.
And it is not simply because Gore acceded to a backward Democratic Senator's demand that the Administration renominated Morgan over the vociferous objections of many strong pro-Administration elected Democrats and that her only support was (and is) the railroads and one renegade union that has been sanctioned as an outlaw by the AFL-CIO that makes me feel this way. That too is problematic.
Nor do I feel the way I do because the Administration, again with Vice President Gore's knowledge, renominated Gus Owen to the STB even after we provided the Administration with proof that Owen's ethics were questionable - proof that eventually caused Republican Senator John Mc Cain of Arizona to stop Owen's confirmation. Also problematic, however.
The fact that the Administration removed National Mediation Board Member Ken Hipp, a Republican who was fair to labor and management, isn't the reason I feel the way I do either. Once again - problematic.
Even Gore's allowing her to be renominated after being informed that she and her husband contributed thousands of dollars to the re-election campaign of the backward Democratic Senator doesn't make me feel that Gore is opposed to working people.
Gore's reinventing government initiative in the Railroad Retirement arena, an initiative that would have been harmful to all Rail Labor and which we had to fight mightily to defeat doesn't make me feel the way I do about Gore.
Gore's position on trade is another critical issue where he is at odds with U.S. working people. The Administration and Gore have refused to vigorously ??? labor standards or even fundamental human rights in applying its trade position, making it difficult for U.S. workers to retain good jobs while allowing the labor movements in the underdeveloped world to be repressed by their governments, making it difficult, if not impossible, for workers in those countries to improve their lot.
Taken altogether, these actions explain why the Northwestern Regional Association and the Pennsylvania Federation of the BMWE have passed resolutions urging me to use my influence as a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council to try to postpone an October endorsement of the Vice President.
But the matter goes beyond that. What has upset me is that the Gore campaign evidently believes that because Rail Labor is small and the BMWE is even smaller that it can take the kinds of actions it takes because we don't matter. Ultimately the Gore campaign believes that so long as it is politically expedient, he will allow tremendous harm to be inflicted on hard working blue collar Americans, because it will do just enough to keep a majority on his side - the campaign mistakenly believes that it can offend and harm smaller unions while providing just enough to keep the big unions happy. His campaign appears to believe it can split the affiliates within the AFL-CIO and lie to and ignore President Sweeney, Secretary-Treasurer Trumka and Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson when they struggle to see that Gore does the right thing.
What has me upset is that we should not even have had to fight to stop Morgan's reappointment. It is clear on its face that the whole labor movement opposes her because of the harm she inflicted on railroad workers - because of her willingness to expand the Reagan policies which allow her agency to abrogate collective bargaining agreements. This is not a complicated question.
When Gore allows a Linda Morgan to be renominated despite her actions - when he plays politics with the lives of hard working, blue collar working people while rewarding the greedy and trampling on the needy - I am forced, against my hopes and desires, to question his judgment. And when he permits an ethically challenged Gus Owen to be renominated despite knowing of the ethics violations which caused Senator Mc Cain to stop Owen's confirmation - or when he allows a Linda Morgan to be renominated when he and his campaign know that she and her family contributed thousands of dollars to the campaign of her mentor -- I am forced, against my hopes and desires, to question his ethics. When he remains committed to a trade policy that is devastating to U.S. workers and foreign workers alike, I am forced, against my hopes and desires, to question his integrity.
Hopefully my impressions are the results of miscommunications, misunderstandings, and missteps by the Vice President, his staff and campaign. Hopefully he and his campaign will realize that although principled people can disagree on issues, they will not disagree on fundamental principles. And hopefully they will realize their actions are not about disagreements over issues but about their opposition to an agenda and set of principles that improves the lot and lives of U.S. and foreign workers.
Hopefully Gore will make the corrections necessary, including withdrawing the nomination of Morgan, to merit the confidence I have had in him in the past. And if he makes us confident in his judgment, ethical standards and integrity by deeds not words, I have no doubt that he will melt away the troubling 14-point deficit he has been troubled with. Because if he takes the actions necessary to prove his commitment to working people, he will not merely be doing it in the particular areas of concern to us. He will be doing it on the basis of principle which will cause him to do the right thing for others as well.
When others see him functioning in a principled manner that protects them as workers from the forces of greed, he will win the two big polls - the primary and the election. If he does not begin functioning in such a way, then he will lose and deservedly so.
Vice President Gore - Do the Right Thing.