When ‘Bargaining for the Common Good’ Isn’t
by Larry Sand November 30th, 2019
Union elites have set themselves up as the avatars of righteousness—selfless do-gooders who are taking a stand for the benefit of all. All too often, in reality, they are nothing more than plain old socialists.
In 2014, public-employee union leaders and community organizations gathered in Washington, D.C., and came up with a strategy to advance what they called “bargaining for the common good.” The new approach included using the collective bargaining process as a way to challenge the relationships between government and the private sector, working with community allies to create new, shared goals that help advance both worker and citizen power, and recognizing that militancy and collective action will likely be necessary if workers and citizens are to reduce inequality and strengthen democracy.
According to the left-wing American Prospect, a burst of activity followed the conference. In 2016, labor organizer Stephen Lerner said, “It’s been amazing to see how many unions, community groups, and people have adopted the ‘bargaining for common good’ frame and language.”
Writing in the Marxist People’s World Daily in May, Joseph McCartin explained that bargaining for the common good is necessary because “financialization, privatization, increasing inequality, and, most recently, judicial attacks on unions’ ability to collect fees from the workers they represent, which culminated in the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, have undermined traditional bargaining. Bargaining for the Common Good responds to these changes by recasting unions as defenders not only of their members but the community’s very well being.”
In California, United Teachers of Los Angeles leader Alex Caputo-Pearl has been described by Socialistworker.org as a “veteran union militant and community organizer” who believes strongly in “social movement unionism,” which is just another name for bargaining for the common good.
After the union endorsed Sanders, Jacobin, a socialist magazine, interviewed UTLA Treasurer Arlene Inouye, who discussed the need for “a massive redistribution of funds to schools and social services.” UTLA leadership, she added, is “thrilled Bernie put himself forward to fight for all of us. His comprehensive agenda includes critical issues like stopping climate change, canceling student debt, passing Medicare for All, and stopping the criminalization of immigrants.”
Also in the Golden State, California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas recently penned, “Union work is social justice work,” which encompasses bargaining for the common good. He stresses that his union “advocates for issues that reach far beyond the classroom,” including “racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and climate justice.”
And the press, of course, bought into the new approach lock, crock, and barrel.
With the advent of bargaining for the common good, the union elites have set themselves up as the avatars of righteousness—selfless do-gooders who are taking a stand for the benefit of us all. All too often, in reality, they are nothing more than plain old socialists. Their goal is to radically redistribute wealth, destroy the private sector and expand the size of government to Soviet-era proportions. And the appropriately named #RedforED leaders are angling to be the Politburo.
It remains to be seen how many teachers and other public employees will accept the unions’ far-left politics and continue to pay dues money to these organizations that are hellbent on destroying the country as we have known it for almost 250 years. To date, the great majority of teachers and other public-sector workers have shown little interest in changing what has become the new normal.