How Unions and Environmentalists Might Build a Political Coalition to Save American Democracy

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By Glynn Wilson

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If only we could stop the bullshit, maybe unions and environmentalists could build a coalition to save American democracy. That was the view of labor union leaders and environmentalists this week at a national conference designed to build a sustainable future for good jobs in America, which it just so happens are green jobs too.

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The problem is a government and media system that are supposed to be protecting and fostering American democracy are too easily fooled by and foiled by those who would appeal to anti-government sentiment to stymy the system for everybody, according to responses to my direct questioning from Leo Gerard with the United Steelworkers Union and Michael Brune with the Sierra Club.

“One of the things that’s really troubling, and I think we just have to be straight up about it, is that we have been living in a period … of a broken political system,” Gerrard said. “The opposition party, the Republican Party, have tried to prevent any progress on issues that are very important to this country.”

It’s hard to fathom that they would try to stop a jobs bill, Gerard said.

“It’s hard to fathom that they would not support an infrastructure bill. It’s hard to fathom that they would want to cut people off food stamps,” he added, “It’s hard to fathom that they would want to terminate unemployment benefits for millions of workers.”

Gerard said he read in the airport on the way to Washington that the Koch brothers spent $27 million in the month of January targeting six senators who they think they can take out who supported the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s about building a political coalition in this country,” he said. “If we don’t create a political coalition they will run us over. They’ve got money. We’ve got people. We ought to go kick their ass.”

Micheal Brune, executive director of the national Sierra Club, pointed out that unions and environmentalists are beginning to work with one another on “underlying issues that threaten our democracy.”

“So why is it that people have to wait in line for two, three, four, eight hours simply to vote,” he asked. “Why is it that in more than 30 states all across the country it’s getting more and more difficult just to register to vote … More and more people who are elderly are finding it difficult to register to vote. More and more black and brown people are finding it more difficult to register to vote. More and more young people are finding it more difficult.”

It’s the same reason that in states where people’s right are being rolled back, they tend to vote for the Democratic Party, he said.

In the last two months of the election of 2012, he indicated, “$270 million dollars were spent by big polluters. These are the same folks who are trying to steal our elections and prevent people from engaging in democracy.”

“We shouldn’t have to fight over who gets access to the ballot,” Brune said. “We should fight over how they vote.”

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.