Robert McEllrath, president of the 40,000-member group, informed the AFL-CIO of the decision in late August, citing adverse political positions on federal health care law as well as immigration reform. “We feel the Federation [of labor groups] has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along,” McEllrath said in a letter to the group.
McEllrath said the longshoremen oppose the federal health care law known as Obamacare in favor of a single-payer, nationalized health care policy. Under the new law, the federal government imposes a tax on the workers’ “Cadillac” health care plan.
“President Obama ran on a platform that he would not tax medical plans and at the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention, you stated that labor would not stand for a tax on our benefits." Following that promise, however, Obama pushed labor groups for exactly that tax, with the AFL-CIO acceding to the political pressure, according to McEllrath. "We feel the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along," McEllrath said.
Leal Sundet, a “committeeman” with the longshoremen’s union, went even further in criticizing the AFL-CIO, saying the group was marching “in lockstep” with Obama on the labor union health care tax. He and McEllrath also expressed stronger support for immigration policy reform than ideas floated by the White House and democratic members of Congress. Sundet said the President’s immigration plan would give only highly paid workers a “real path to citizenship,” while ignoring the working class.
Although the labor unions still exercise tremendous political power in American politics, membership has fallen in recent decades. Whereas once a third of the U.S. labor force belonged to unions, today only 11.3 percent of the workforce is comprised of union workers.