Tony Blair brought the British labor movement ("Labour" to him) into the 21st century and successfully led his country for ten years. Until he got caught up in weapons of mass destruction and invasion of Iraq boondoggle, he was the face of "New Labour." We need something similar here.
The most recent example of the need for change is the decision by WEAC and AFSCME to double down on a bad bet in the Democratic primary for governor.
As Judith Davidoff reported in Isthmus, many rank and file union members are upset that their leadership jumped in behind Kathleen Falk without asking for their input.
In fact, many of us who are pro-labor, and who marched at the Capitol a year ago, are Barrett supporters. Even more of us will simply support whoever the Democratic standard-bearer turns out to be.
So, there is a lot of head scratching going on about why the leadership of the state's two largest public employee unions decided to back one candidate so early in the process. Why not wait to see who the Democratic nominee turns out to be, and who shakes out as the strongest candidate for the general election?
It appeared that WEAC and AFSCME were starting to hedge their bets as polls show that Barrett holds a fourteen-point lead over Falk, even after they spent a couple million dollars building up the latter. But then they made a bad situation even worse by dumping yet another million dollars of their members' money behind Falk.
Why? There's little evidence that Kathleen is significantly better for labor and there's some evidence that Tom has a better chance of beating Walker. So, why blow a million dollars on a primary race that now cannot be used to go up against the governor?
This makes no sense at all unless you believe in back rooms. The leadership of WEAC and AFSCME has always been heavy-handed and blustery. Their style and approach just doesn't evoke a modern image for labor. AFSCME's Marty Beil is like Uncle Fester without the charm.
What's needed is a more democratic process, and more appealing and politically intelligent leaders. Blustering and trying to push your weight around like an old time union boss doesn't work in today's environment. These union leaders have become caricatures when what we need are leaders with charisma. It's time for new labor.