Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Being careful about your facts: Longshoremen and the AFL-CIO

If you google "International Longshoremen quit AFL-CIO,"you will get pages and pages of results about the 40,000-member ILWU leaving the country's largest labor organization as a result of Obamacare.

The only major media outlet you will find trumpeting the story is Fox News, which attributes the break entirely to health care and immigration (it is s brief story and you should read it to discover I am not misleading you):
Union dumps AFL-CIO for its positions on ObamaCare, immigration reform

Breitbart is the source of the story for most small blogs:
In an August 29 letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, ILWU President Robert McEllrath cited quite a list of grievances as reasons for the disillusion of their affiliation, but prominent among them was the AFL-CIO’s support of Obamare.
The problem?  The hundreds of conservative, Ron Paul, and libertarian sites reporting this story pretty much just follow Breibart's lead, without ever bothering to check out Trumka's original letter.

In that letter, Trumka doesn't even get around to discussing Obamacare or immigration until the last of three pages.  The ILWU's main reasons for leaving the AFL-CIO have to do with disputes over contracts, AFL-CIO failures to back ILWU work actions, and actual legal attacks on the ILWU by other AFL-CIO affiliates.

Here's what Labor Notes says, in a far more honest summary of Trumka's letter than Breibart provides:

In an August 29 letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, ILWU President Robert McEllrath cited these ongoing juristictional battles as part of the union’s decision to disaffiliate. The skirmishes hit close to home: McEllrath comes out of Vancouver, Washington’s Local 4, where members of rival unions are crossing ILWU picket lines, and debate over the disputes was squelched at this summer’s state labor convention. 
The letter also cited the federation’s compromised positions on health care and immigration reform. Invoking the union’s radical and independent history, McEllrath noted the ILWU did not join the AFL-CIO until 1988—after being kicked out of the CIO during the McCarthy era for being “too red.”
In point of fact, to the extent that the ILWU left the AFL-CIO over health care at all, it left because the Longshoremen support an even more radical national single-payer option, and see Obamacare as a sell-out.  It is certainly not joining the voices wanting repeal or defunding of Obamacare to return to status quo ante.

The lesson in all this is to be careful crediting stories that report what you already believe or would like to believe without checking the sources.  Frankly, you should prefer the original sources over somebody else's analysis of them.

If you are out to build a libertarian movement, or a progressive movement or a Green movement or that matter, you really should try--as much as possible--to get your facts straight.


delacrat said...

Your title should say:

"Be careful about your facts: Longshoremen and the AFL-CIO"

kavips said...

I second the above comment. Unless I missed something completely in your argument.

kavips said...

I still can't figure out what the American Civil Liberties Union has to do with the Longshoremen and the AFL-CIO. :)