Communications Union Head Chafes at ‘Limits of Democracy’

As an ever-shrinking number of newspaper readers can attest, most major U.S. papers skew liberal. But its not every day the head of a union representing journalists lays out a list of goals that might have been written by MoveOn.org, and displays a contempt for democracy more at home on the editorial pages of state-run organs in third-world dictatorships.

But there was Larry Cohen, AFL-CIO Organizing Committee chair and President of Communication Workers of America (CWA), of which the Newspaper Guild is part, calling on progressives to “unite in a years-long campaign to restore and reclaim both workers rights and U.S. democracy.” According to report on the Guild’s website, Cohen was addressing the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C., when he declared that reclaiming democracy would mean overcoming, well, democracy. “The limits of democracy alone have blocked us,” Cohen said.

Fresh from applauding President Obama’s statement in support of same sex marriage, the Newspaper Guild published a fawning account by Mark Gruenberg of the Press Associates Union News Service of the speech. In it, the “feisty Cohen” pined for the good old days of perennial Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, and implausibly compared the lot of U.S. workers to impoverished Brazilians and oppressed Middle Easterners.

So what about democracy is keeping workers from democracy and economic justice? “Senate filibusters, the huge flow of corporate money into politics, the lack of legalization of immigrants, and voter suppression legislation proposed or enacted in 38 states.”  

According to Cohen, sinister “Radical Right business-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, the secretive author of anti-worker, union-busting, voter suppression and other Right Wing laws,” is also to blame since it, and others like it, “know they can’t win elections unless they shrink the electorate.”

Cohen compares this campaign to unite 50 million progressives to other successful mass movements, the “30-year effort, led by former Brazilian Metal Workers President Luiz Ignacio ‘Lula’ da Silva to build unions,” and the Arab Spring.

The consequences of not acting, according to Cohen, are that “the nation would continue to slip under the increasing control of corporate interests and their money.”

Democracy, it seems, is only legitimate if it benefits the left. Keep Cohen in mind next time you pick up a newspaper for some objective journalism.