Facing the fact that many unionists may be reluctant to vote for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for the presidency because he is African-American, union leaders meeting in Chicago decided to confront that issue head-on by repeatedly emphasizing to members to “vote your jobs” and that economics trumps race.
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[Additional comment by Joel W.]
I think what this story and the ongoing struggle in the labor movement against the influence of racism in this election cycle suggests is that the idea advanced by some on the left that we shouldn't consider Obama's race but we must consider the issues alone when making decisions about how to approach the election is narrow and shallow thinking.
What this struggle by labor against the influence of racism suggests, however, is that whether or not Obama himself wants this election to be about race and racism, it is. That in order to make any advances on key questions like ending the war, winning passage of the employee free choice act, equal pay for women workers, winning advances on health care, and a better energy/environmental policy, labor is going to have to defeat the influence of racism in its own ranks and help to do so in the public at large.
Winning this battle is so crucial that it foregrounds the fact that there is no alternative for any person in the working class or its democratic allies to siding with Obama.
But why not support the Green Party candidates? Surely the struggle against the influence of racism applies in that case. It does, but in this election there is a chance to combine this important struggle with an actual electoral victory that promises real change. The Green Party candidacy is ahead of its time; it has neither the numbers to win nor the numbers to actually govern. In fact, it may not even have the numbers in this cycel to spoil, as in the past.