Kennedy’s sins against labor



I was raised, like most Irish-Catholics, not to speak ill of the dead—at least while the wake is still underway. Of course, the affliction known as “Irish Alzheimers” exerts a powerful tug in the opposite direction. Forgetting everything except the grudges keeps you focused on those parts of a departed politician’s legacy that won’t be highlighted from the pulpit or, in Ted Kennedy’s case, in fulsome obituaries run as front-page news stories, op-ed pieces, editorials, and internet encomia throughout the nation.

Here’s my own view of the senator. I was not a fan of Ted when he was alive and expressed this dissenting opinion, on several occasions, in our local rag, The Boston Globe, after Kennedy’s recurring lapses as a friend of the working class became too painful to ignore. Ted Kennedy was not on labor’s side when key public policy shifts were engineered that disastrously weakened and marginalized American unions. After helping to deliver these legislative hammer blows, Ted was quick to offer his hand to a labor movement now lying flat on its back. But forms of assistance like boosting the minimum wage, helping immigrants, securing local defense plant jobs, or co-sponsoring the Employee Free Choice Act have hardly compensated for the ravages of “neoliberalism” that Kennedy aided and abetted. In the case of EFCA, any fundamental repair of federal labor law gets more unlikely every day, even if our vacant Senate seat gets filled sooner, rather than later.


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