Will Richard Trumka Give Away our Right to Boycott?

There’s an important bill in the U.S. Senate.  It would give federal blessings to state governments that punish groups that advocate a certain kind of boycott.  Now boycotts have been a staple of trade unions for a hundred years.   I grew up on the Sears boycott.  My dad’s union magazine always had “Don’t Buy at Anti-Union Sears” on its back cover.  There was the grape boycott and the lettuce boycott, Farah pants and a whole host of others.  Bosses tried to fight it, but the right to say “Don’t buy” was a matter of free speech.

At one time it was routine for unions to even do secondary boycotts.  You’d boycott a company that was doing business that was being boycotted because of a strike or other labor fight.  Secondary boycotts were made illegal in the late ‘40’s.  But I digress

Now the new Senate bill #170 is not directly tied to labor issues.  It protects states that punish “entities” that call for boycotts or sanctions of Israel.  If it passes labor will still be able to call for boycotts…or maybe not.  Start going down a slippery slope and you often fall on your keyster.

So how does Trumka, the head of the national AFL-CIO, fit in?  Our right as Americans to boycott has been challenged and he is silent.   Now we know he’s a huge Rightist on Israel, supporting its wars and opposing the CT AFL-CIO went it asked in 2015 the national federation to support BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israeli repression of Palestinians.  But why isn’t he opposing any threat to the RIGHT TO BOYCOTT?

A boycott has never just been a only labor issue.  U.S. Jews launched a successful boycott of Ford cars over the lunatic anti-Semitism of Henry Ford.  They tried an even bigger one when Hitler came to power, of course, unsuccessful.  For years there was a Nestle boycott that finally forced that company to stop dressing women like nurses to sell infant formula in countries with little clean water.

Senate bill #170 should be torpedoed.  As they say call your Senator.  And call Bernie who has been silent about this bill.

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