By Glynn Wilson –
MOBILE, Ala. — A strange series of events led to where we are today, with a reality television celebrity casino mob boss connected to Russian oligarchs in the White House turning back the clock on U.S. policies to combat climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.
Every media organization in the world is trying to capitalize on the traffic generated by public interest in the Russian hacking story. But due in large part to the anti-labor stance of newspaper publishers for the past 100 years and their lack of understanding of the American worker, and the known fact that broadcast news outlets follow the lead of newspapers, the mainstream media just doesn’t get this story or how to tell it to readers.
Even a great British newspaper like The Guardian doesn’t seem to have a clue how union workers played such a critical role in the election and in this drastic backwards change in policy.
To truly understand the dynamics at work, you have to think back to our coverage of the splintering of organized labor between 2011 and 2013. Like many trends on the national scene these days, these events can be traced back to what happened in Alabama. After all, Attorney General Jeff Sessions of Mobile is admittedly one of the chief architects of Trump’s 2016 electoral victory, and these events were not lost on him and his staff in the U.S. Senate.
Let’s connect the dots.
If you were closely following the news back then, remember the labor uprising in Wisconsin in 2011? Wikipedia even has a page devoted to it. It was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who set off this uprising by doing something Republicans all over the country wanted to do: Destroy organized labor as a political force to give big corporations the upper hand in U.S. electoral politics.
Remember the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission? Do you remember the facts in the case? It was the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United that wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts shortly before the 2008 Democratic primary when Clinton was running for president against Barack Obama.
This action was considered a violation of a federal law prohibiting electioneering communications near an election. But the high court found the provisions of the statute that prohibited corporations and unions from making such electioneering communications were unconstitutional for prohibiting free speech, in this case political speech. On January 21, 2010, the court held on a close 5–4 vote that freedom of speech prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation, and the ruling applies to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.
Most people who talk about this on Facebook these days remember the part about corporations, but forget that unions were also mentioned in that case — critically as the only legal counterpoint to corporate power. The court justified allowing unlimited spending by corporations by saying the other side had the same rights through unions.
But what the court and every news article and broadcast report about the ruling did not explain was the extent to which a majority of white, working class union workers in the U.S. have been voting Republican since Ronald Reagan became president in 1980. Many union workers started voting for Republicans all the way back to 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran his racist campaign for president against Lyndon Johnson, who by then had come out in favor of civil rights legislation.
How the Unions Turned Republican
In one of the most amazing things I have ever seen happen in all my 30 plus years of news reporting, I watched in astonishment as the political climate changed between 2011 and 2014. In April of 2011, I was covering labor and political news out of Birmingham, Alabama, and covered an event like nothing I had ever seen or heard of before.
In the wake of events in Wisconsin, and a move by Alabama Republicans in Montgomery to try to weaken the teachers’ union, the Alabama Education Association (AEA), by changing the rules on how they received professional dues, the head of the Alabama Mine Workers of America, a man I got to know named Daryl Dewberry, declared a day of mourning and shut down all the coal mines in the state for a day and paid to bring 1,000 union mine workers to Birmingham for a protest. I mean look at this coverage. You have never seen anything like this — before or since. Read the story and watch the video. Dewberry, a white union leader talking to mostly white coal miners with maybe a high school education and many with deep racist roots, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail?”
This should have been big news in Birmingham, but it was barely noted in passing by the local press and broadcast media outlets in the state’s largest city. They had no idea what was going on.
It’s a “conspiracy to diminish labor if they can,” Dewberry said in an exclusive interview with me. This was not reported by the Birmingham News, or on talk radio or Fox News. When asked to explain that more, he said it was “politicians manipulated by big business to do away with the middle class and union workers.”
Other speakers at the rally included Stewart Burkhalter, the outgoing head of the AFL-CIO in Alabama, who also talked about the national Republican plan to destroy the unions.
“The Republican Party and the well-funded right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights that some of our forefathers and Dr. King gave their lives for,” he said. “They are trying to destroy the unions, and thereby eliminate the middle class.”
But just two years later, on March 1, 2013, the environmental reporter for the Newhouse chain of newspapers in Alabama, Ben Raines, set off a series of events I’m sure he did not envision when he did the story comparing rates paid by Southern Company power customers in Georgia and Alabama.
Back in October of 2011, I had covered a reception by the state Democratic Party in which the party honored retiring AFL-CIO President Stewart “Buck” Burkhalter by inducting him into the Alabama Democratic Party Hall of Fame. Not the Republican Party Hall of Fame. The Democratic Party.
I had gotten to know Burkhalter and his wife, and he told me that night that he was not really retiring. He had another job in mind. He did not tell me this new job was the creation of the so-called Jobkeeper Alliance, an industry and labor front group formed with union money and money from Alabama Power and Drummond Coal to fight for the exportation of Alabama coal, and to fight against the climate policies of the Sierra Club and President Obama.
From talking to inside sources in the labor movement, it is now clear what prompted this dramatic change of events, clearly at the root of how Trump won the presidency and why he now proposes to change American policy on climate change.
Those workers who showed up in Birmingham were not impressed with the Martin Luther King speech. It became evident to the union leaders that their workers, who get most of their news from talk radio and Fox News, hated President Obama, the first African-American president, and thought the “liberal” Sierra Club out of San Francisco was responsible for them losing coal mining jobs. Never mind that it was the cheaper price of natural gas that prompted Georgia Power to change from burning coal to gas in many of its power plants, a move that has still not been completed in Alabama, mainly because Alabama Power has spent millions of dollars trying to clean up the emissions of its coal-fired power plants and wants to run them as long as possible without having to invest in new plants.
Due to a court order in 2015, some power plants in Alabama are scheduled to be converted and at least one plant in Green County made the switch from coal to natural gas in 2016.
So Daryl Dewberry went from being a staunch union leader in support of Democrats, to working against the Democrats in league with the Republicans. He ended up on the state Port Authority board to promote the exportation of Alabama coal and on a committee advising Republican Governor Robert Bentley. The United Mine Workers supported Trump in the election with money and manpower. This union has tremendous financial and administration influence on the state AFL-CIO, which has also recently jumped into political bed with the Republicans, even though the Republican super majority in the legislature continues the push to make unions obsolete with “right to work” legislaiton in the state.
I wrote a column about this stuff at the time under the headline: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star And Other Fairy Tales in the News
What happened in the wake of that story was devastating. When the union leaders went from supporting Democrats to backing the tea party Republican agenda in 2014, preventing a moderate Republican, Terry Dunn, from winning reelection to the Alabama Public Service Commission — for simply trying to do his job of holding hearings on utility rates — this changed the course of history and led to the fight for white, working class votes in the election of 2016.
Even Hillary Clinton went to West Virginia during the campaign to try to gain the votes of coal miners and other workers who sympathized with them, but we all know now that Trump got those votes.
Why was Trump successful in the Republican primary in 2016 where Scott Walker was not? Trump never attacked the unions and in fact went after their votes. In his first week in the White House, he invited certain union leaders into a meeting in the Oval Office. Scott Walker would never have done that.
I would argue that this story was mischaracterized by the Washington Post, a national elite paper that pushed a traditional narrative claiming unions are for Democrats: Donald Trump and labor unions don’t always get along — but they did today.
Trump Opposed Trade Deals
Trump also opposed trade deals such as NAFTA and the TPP, which unions have been against from the start, believing that the trade deals not only ship their jobs overseas, but give their jobs to immigrants. Why would unions support Democrats, when they are seen as “globalists” who cost them jobs, when a Republican like Trump comes along and promises to “put America first” and destroy those deals?
So now the narrative from the mainstream media is that Trump is dismantling the climate change policy legacy of President Obama because he is anti-science and has said global warming is a “hoax.”
But to understand what’s really going on here, you have to understand that this story is different from how things worked previously. This is not a story about rewarding campaign contributors from fossil fuels companies or lobbyists. Trump used his own money and that of Robert Mercer to win this election. He is not rewarding campaign contributors. He is rewarding white, working class voters — including coal miners — who gave him their votes last November, turning out in greater numbers in urban and suburban areas than black voters in places like Cleveland Ohio, Detroit Michigan and even Milwaukee Wisconsin.
So on Tuesday, Trump signed the Energy Independence Executive Order to roll back eight years of progress on climate policy.
We can debate the consequences until earth becomes hell and freezes over. But like they say, to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, you first have to know the history, the real story in this case. This is it, and you won’t see it anywhere else.
If that holds value for you, well, you know what to do. Hit the PayPal Donate button on the right. If every mainstream media organization in the world can ask you for money cliaming they are only publishing “real” not “fake news,” certainly we have the right to do it. We tell it like it is in ways they can’t because of their own corporate advertising base.
Order your Watchdog Press products here at CafePress.com.
© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.