“The American labor movement truly needs you,” Trumka told attendees of the conference.
Trumka tried to explain every which way to Sunday why it would benefit the college students to team up with the teamsters. The union boss even admitted that he could see why unions would turn off young people.
“You probably think we’re a bunch of stodgy, old school people with outdated ideas, too interested in what’s good for us and too disinterested in what’s good for the others in our community,” said Trumka. “And I’ll be perfectly frank with you, there’s a grain of truth to that.”
Trumka admitted that unions were often seen as self-serving and as slow-to-change institutions, thus young people might not necessarily consider joining a union to be in their best interest.
“We are not always spiffy, and a some of us are kind of rough around the edges, but the labor movement and progressives do share the same core values,” he said.
However, he said that is something his union is looking to change and that this “generation’s struggle for jobs, for quality jobs, with fair wages and good benefits, so that those of you who are in debt can have the ability to pay it down,” is not just the struggle of young people. “That struggle is the struggle of the labor movement,” he assured them.
He promised the young attendees that Big Labor would always be there for the progressive movement and we “stand with you through it all.”
Not surprisingly, Trumka gave a shout-out to the Occupy movement, which he reminded attendees was backed by labor, saying, “It’s time we took back our country for the 99 percent and not the one percent.”
“America is in the process of rediscovering collective power, and we’re gonna change it for all of us,” he said, later claiming that collective bargaining is back now, too, while conveniently forgetting to mention the butt-whooping unions received last month in the Wisconsin recall.
In a desperate attempt to win over the Left-leaning crowd, he made the tired claim that ‘big money’ has corrupted politics for far too long.
“Big money has blocked Washington into a stalemate,” he claimed. “But this isn’t bad news. The good news is that we are going to change it.”
Of course, Trumka ignored the role of union money in politics, which donated nearly $400 million to Democrats in the 2008 election cycle, and are projected to spend at least that much in an attempt to reelect President Obama. Of particular influence is the National Education Association (NEA), which is not only the biggest political donor overall, but is also the biggest donor to Democratic candidates.
It’s not particularly surprising that big labor is now trying to get its claws into college students after its failed attempts to organize the Occupy movement. Unions, which are currently at odds with the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama, have few rocks left to turn over to look for new members at this point.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party is outpacing union groups at both the state and national level in grassroots organizing. Collective power in America is certainly back, but the momentum is not with the labor movement.
Casey Cheap contributed to this report.