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Walking the Talk

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 17, 2007 1:50PM

It's only July, one year out, and already it feels like there is a presidential race going on, doesn't it? Maybe it's too soon to declare Bush a lame duck, but we're inclined to think he is.

In this most early of seasons, much has been made of fund raising, often at the expense of real discussions of the issues. Obama is setting records, regularly pulling in millions of dollars in small sums, Hillary is raking it in around the country, and McCain doesn't seem to have enough of it to keep running. Among all this talk of money, however, there has been little discussion of The Issues. Why is this president so poorly rated? Why is Congress held in such low regard? If you listened to the mainstream media, you would think that it was because they hadn't raised enough money.

2007_7_strike.jpgWith this in mind, Barack Obama went to walk the picket line at the Congress Hotel yesterday. You may remember this strike, which has been going on for about four years now. Back in '02 when HERE (then a union of hotel and hospitality workers) was gearing up for a major strike in Chicago in the middle of the tourism season. After years of corruption and neglect, the national union cleaned up the local, forced out the old guard, and held new elections. One of the first orders of business was reorganizing the shops that Local 1 represented, and making the fight for wages and benefits that were on par with the rest of the industry in similar markets. At the last minute, with help from then governor George Ryan, the hotels settled with the union, raising the wage in Chicago to around $13/hour. The Congress Hotel was the only holdout, demanding a significantly lower wage rate and higher premiums for basic benefits, such as health insurance.

Of course, Obama made sure to mention his picket walking in an interview last week in Las Vegas, a city with a high density of unionized culinary workers. “Four years ago, I marched. I'm marching today. I'll march four years from now,” he told CBS 2. Here lies the problem: Obama only seems to remember to walk picket lines when he is running for office. If this next election is going to be a referendum on the direction of the nation for the next four to eight years, if it's going to be an all out debate on the direction and purpose of the Democratic Party in America, our candidates will have to do better than just pay lip service to the issues that matter to people. As Hillary makes her calculated plays for constituencies, and Obama tries to play up his street cred with tales of his past as a community organizer, we're feeling more and more that John Edwards may be the only candidate that has an actual plan for the future of the country.

We're hoping that Obama doesn't have to come back and walk that picket line again in four years.

Image via In These Times