Guests: Melissa Harris-Perry, Randi Weingarten, Marina Sitrin, Jerry Nadler, Bill Fletcher; Daron
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
Derrick Rose is out of the NBA playoffs after suffering a torn ALC in
the Bulls playoff opener win last night in Philly. It`s amazing, a miracle
that I got out of bed this morning.
And the White House correspondent`s dinner was last night. We`ve got
a couple of highlights we`ll get to this morning.
Right now, joining me today, we have: Marina Sitrin from the Occupy
Wall Street Legal Working Group, also a fellow at the SUNY, University of
New York Graduate Center for Globalization and Social Change.
Democratic New York congressman returning to the program, Jerry
American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten, who --
if I`m not mistaken -- attended the White House correspondents` dinner, I
think I overheard went to a few parties and then got on a 3:00 a.m. train
to be here with us this morning. Thank you very much for doing that.
And Bill Fletcher --
HAYES: Yes, exactly. And Bill Fletcher, author of the upcoming
book, "They`re Bankrupting Us: And 20 Other Myths About Unions," formerly
education director for the AFL-CIO, now cofounder of the Center for Labor
It`s great to have you all here.
All right. I want to play a clip from the White House
correspondents` dinner last night. Jimmy Kimmel who I thought was OK. But
this one joke, to me was just a kind of perfect haiku about the Obama era
in a lot of different ways.
Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Remember when the country rallied around you
in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Ouch! It`s a very funny joke. It`s a funny joke for a
number of reasons, I guess if you`re explaining a joke, that makes it less
But I think it`s funny because the notion of unity, I think this idea
that when you look at the approval ratings of the president in the period
between essentially his election and inauguration day, they were 85
percent, 90 percent. You had -- it felt like a rare moment in a country
that`s extremely polarized along a lot of different dimensions. But
particularly among ideology and party, that there was a unifying feel of
And so, the unity part of it, which we`ve seen how quickly that
dissolved and the hope part, right, which is that this would be really
fundamental change. And, obviously, there`s a long disputatious debate
particularly within the kind of broad center left coalition about the
degree to which change has actually happened.
But I just wanted to start with you, Randi, about how that -- how
that joke went over in the room and what your feeling is about where we are
now compared to that moment, that sort of emotional moment of hope in
between the election, the inauguration and also just from the perspective
of where you are sitting as the head of a major labor union, your agenda --
RANDI WEINGARTEN, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Right.
HAYES: -- and what you want to see happen.
WEINGARTEN: Well, look, you know, one of the things about the White
House correspondents` dinner, it`s the only time all year that people
actually have some comedy with each other.
WEINGARTEN: And then it just dissipates immediately as soon as the
And one wonders, you know, you wonder about Washington. I got to
Washington when there was intense polarization already. But, you know,
people used to say that people at one point or another, would break bread
with each other, would talk to each other, would try to solve problems, and
that just doesn`t happen right now.
I mean, we feel -- It feels like everything is chess match or tennis
match or baseball game or basketball game, as opposed to how do you
actually just solve problems.
But I think the big difference is, you know, the economy, the
economy, the economy. What -- what I think that no one understood was how
soft the economy was that the president inherited. You know, we had this
raging debate about whether the stimulus was enough, because at the end of
the day, it is about the creation of jobs. It is about the creation of
good jobs. Not just jobs.
It`s a creation -- it`s investing in education. It`s investing in
infrastructure. And a lot of that has not happened particularly since
HAYES: This question of -- I think you were saying comity, C-O-M-I-
T-Y, right, not comedy?
WEINGARTEN: Right. Yes.
HAYES: Like jokes.
WEINGARTEN: But if you would like to do the double entendre, be my
HAYES: Yes. Well, I --
WEINGARTEN: I was saying comity, not comedy.
HAYES: Right. I think this -- the idea of increasing polarization
is something that I`ve been thinking about a lot, because I am decidedly of
two minds about it. And in one case I think I had the feeling that
bipartisanship was evil, was the enemy, that the culture of Beltway
clubbishness that we see on display at the White House correspondents`
dinner is exactly the kind of thing.
You can draw a line from that to the war in Iraq, in which you had,
you know, 20-plus Democratic senators voting for the war, the bailout, et
cetera, et cetera, right? Lots of things we feel were moments of
bipartisan unity, the vote to authorize the war in Afghanistan, which now
drags on 10 years later.
At the same time, I`ve also begun to feel that polarization -- there
is something uniquely toxic about the kind of polarization we have now.
And I`m curious, Marina, to get your thoughts on this coming from, I think,
a pretty radical perspective outside of that clubby world. How you feel
MARINA SITRIN, OWS LEGAL WORKING GROUP: It`s completely outside the
clubby world. It`s a different conversation.
I mean, the joke is funny and it`s very real. I mean -- so people
who have been involved in the Occupy movements around the U.S., the
movements around the world, but there`s a similarity. But we`re talking
about tens of thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people who are
in a different conversation, which is not hostile, it`s a different
conversation altogether. The government is not meeting people`s needs,
it`s not going to meet people`s needs, it`s kind of the expectation I think
of a lot of people.
So, we need to come together and figure something else out entirely.
So, it`s a different conversation about kind of what the government even
can do. I think there`s a total rejection of the kind of politics that
come from representation. People believing that actually we`re not
HAYES: You represent people, Congressman. What do you think about
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, it`s interesting of people
reject the kinds of representation, but there is no other concept.
NADLER: Unless you`re back to the small Greek city state, you have
top a representative government. Hopefully, it`s a democratic government
with a small "d" because otherwise, what have you got.
So you have to work through representative government. And the
question is how do you make representative government work? How do you
eliminate or reduce the power of money which is destroying our democratic
system? Those are the relevant questions. You can`t just reject
democratic government because there`s no alternative.
SITRIN: I actually think we need to open the conversation about what
democracy means. And I think that`s what the Occupy movements in the U.S.
and movements in Greece, in Spain, and all over the world, have been doing,
is that if we have no say in our lives, we, regular people, around
economics, war, social questions, all questions -- economic, social
political -- then what kind of democracy -- it`s a question.
NADLER: Agreed. But that comes back to the power of money in
NADLER: The power of corporate -- of corporations in politics. Let
me say one other thing about that. I very much believe in countervailing
power. Right now, you`ve got huge corporate power, huge corporations
dominating the world, dominating the country certainly.
There are only two possible centers of countervailing power to that
human beings can deal with that. One is government and the other is labor
unions. And you have to increase the power of both otherwise you`re going
to be slaves to corporations.
HAYES: I want to talk -- Bill, please.
BILL FLETCHER, CENTER FOR LABOR RENEWAL: No, I was just going to say
-- I`d like to step back a second to your original question. See, I think
between November 2008 and roughly May 2009, we missed a moment. And by we,
I mean basically liberal and progressive forces in this country.
That there was a misestimation of Obama in terms of who was and what
he was actually going to deliver. And there`s a level of passivity among
most social forces. It was sort of this magical view of that moment that
Obama would deliver and that we would sit back.
And so, we reveled, we partied, we`re excited. But while that was
happening and while the conservative forces were in disarray, we were not
doing anything. We were not putting the pressure on the Obama
administration that needed to happen. We should have been in the streets
HAYES: I just want --
WEINGARTEN: So, let me just --
HAYES: I just want to highlight something here, because I`m really -
- what you said is there`s a tension between what you each are saying,
Bill, and you Marina, in terms of -- you`re saying there`s a strategic
moment that was missed.
FLETCHER: That`s right.
HAYES: And you`re saying essentially it`s all screwed, and there`s -
- no matter what -- how much that mobilization we`re having, you`re saying
essentially there`s something fundamentally bankrupt in the ordeal about
the system, right?
SITRIN: Well, I`m both saying there`s something fundamentally
bankrupt. And it`s not just me. I think that`s what tens of thousands and
hundreds of thousands of people have been saying. But that -- also, that`s
not inconsistent with we need stronger labor unions, we need to have more
organization, we need to be in the streets.
So, both things can simultaneously be true. We need to ask the
question of what is democracy and economic interests that I think go beyond
just corporate power and government. I think it`s a bigger fundamental
WEINGARTEN: So, I think the fundamental -- I just want to get back
to what Jerry said. Because what`s also happening is there was like Bill
said, there was a lack of engagement. It was like, OK, job done, the
president is elected, we can sit back. I do think we can miss a moment
there, which I think has happened between Wisconsin, Ohio, the Occupy
movement since that point.
But there is something important -- let`s not throw the baby out with
the bathwater here -- as a social studies teacher. There is something
important and very enduring about our democracy. It needs to be fixed.
The public institutions need to be respected.
But at the same time, we have to be true to our values, but not give
up the basic notion of problem-solving.
HAYES: Congressman, you noted countervailing forces, which is a
HAYES: Yes. Right, it sort of revived mid century by Galbraith in
talking about the industrial state and how you balance these sorts of
centers of power, and you mentioned government and labor unions.
I want to talk about labor unions because we have May Day coming up,
International Workers Day. A day -- that`s a holiday that actually began
here in this country. That then we stopped celebrating.
NADLER: Can I say something before you get into about what --
HAYES: Yes, I`m actually --
NADLER: -- what Bill said, because I think when you talk about a
moment that we missed -- during the campaign, candidate Obama projected
himself as a candidate of change. But he wasn`t very specific about that
And everybody read into it whatever they wanted to.
NADLER: And to give the president credit, he never claimed to be a
left liberal. A lot of people thought he was, because they hoped he was.
NADLER: But he never said it. He`s been absolutely honest about
where he was coming from and it`s not what some of us are coming from.
HAYES: I want to talk about his relationship and the Democratic
Party`s relationship to the labor movement right after we take a quick
HAYES: All right. Welcome back.
So I want to talk about the relationship between the Democratic Party
and the labor movement. And the reason is, not just because we`re coming
up on May Day, but because if you look at the core of what a vision of a
healthier democracy would be, I think some kind of institutional power for
working people as a countervailing force, to the interest you talked about,
Just to set things up, here`s a chart and this shows the
relationship, which is incredibly profound between essentially union
density and the middle class share of aggregate income. You`ve seen those
two lines decline in tandem. And this is one of the big stories of the
political economy of America in the sort of era of inequality, which is
basically from 1970 on, or a certain kind of income inequality, I should
say, income inequality.
Let me play -- Congressman, you said about the president not sort of
campaigning as a left- liberal. This is projection.
But let me play two bits of sound. This is him in 2007 talking about
how if there was a strike somewhere, he was going to walk the picket line.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If American workers are
being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I`m in
the White House, I`ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I`ll walk
on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America,
because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.
When you head to Capitol Hill in a little bit to rally for the free -
- Employee Free Choice Act, say it loud enough so that the folks on the
other end of Pennsylvania Avenue can hear you. In this country, we believe
that if the majority of workers in a company want a union, they should get
a union. That`s not complicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So I think that -- just so that we`re clear. I mean, he
campaigned with someone who is going to be supportive of labor and one of
the big agenda items was the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have
made it -- would have changed the statutory way by which a union is
officially formed and recognized by the government. It would have amended
the Wagner Act, which creates the National Labor Relations Board process,
which is currently the way that that works.
And people who are not familiar with the way that these elections
work -- it`s very hard to win an election when the other side can
essentially conscript the voters, put them in a room, drill them with
WEINGARTEN: Delay everything.
HAYES: Delay everything.
WEINGARTEN: Fire the organizers.
HAYES: Fire the organizers.
FLETCHER: Threaten to move to China.
HAYES: Threaten to move to China.
Let`s keep brainstorming the ways in which -- the process is pretty
broken and part of what you see in the decline of union density is in fact
the process is broken. Employee Free Choice Act would have been a big
change. It was the number one priority, the number one priority for
organized labor and it didn`t happen. Why didn`t it happen?
FLETCHER: Fundamentally -- see, I would argue that the problem with
us, we in the union movement, that our entire approach on this Employee
Free Choice Act I think was flawed, from the beginning, that we treated it
as lobbying campaign within 495, within the Beltway, rather than taking
this as an issue to the people.
I didn`t expect Obama to do anything about this. I mean, it`s a
great speech. He`s a great orator. And that`s wonderful.
But if it was going to happen, it was only going to happen because we
raised hell. It was only going to be -- it was only going to happen if we
were able to connect Employee Free Choice with economic justice. And for
regular people, that`s not what happened.
And in fact, what was amazing was the way that the right was able to
flip the script. And they were basically able to say that this was a
threat to democracy. My God, when I saw George McGovern against the
Employee Free Choice Act, I said, it`s over, it`s gone, right? We blew it,
And so, I think the issue is that we weren`t, the leaders of labor by
and large did not look at this as this is an economic justice issue,
HAYES: To mobilize the public around. So, they saw it as an
interest group issue, to get essentially your narrow tax credit or your
foreign subsidy or something and push it through the Beltway.
FLETCHER: As opposed to what you saw in the `30s and `40s when
people embraced the unionism as the democratic and the small "d" feature.
WEINGARTEN: So, I think Bill is somewhat right, but also somewhat
wrong, because what we have tried to get labor law reform for 30 years.
And what we`re seeing --
HAYES: And this was a shot.
WEINGARTEN: This was shot. This was a real -- this was a real shot
because of the numbers. And what we have learned is that -- and Jerry said
this before -- about the effect of money. The number one objective of the
Chamber of Commerce was to defeat this. Not to create jobs in the
aftermath of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, but to
And so, where I think we went wrong is that we did not realize the
level at which the chamber was going all out to defeat this, because
remember, the years before, we got it through the House, we got it through
the Senate. We couldn`t get it signed by Republican president.
And so, I think that -- so I think what`s happened is, that in the
since 2010, what we`ve done is we`ve done what Bill has said. We`ve been
out there mobilizing every single day and trying to connect the public with
the need for the labor movement. I mean, what you saw after Walker`s
assault on union rights or collective bargaining, is finally people are
saying, you know, collective bargaining is right.
SITRIN: See, I think actually that shift the conversation to the we,
and when we talk about we -- we need to look at where unions came from,
where our rights actually came from, but it`s not the we mobilizing another
we. It`s we regular people self-organizing. That created unions, that
created this whole process. And that`s where looking at the new movements
now around the world, it is a self-organized we, experimenting with new
forms of democracy to create something totally different.
So while it is so important that we have labor unions that we can
strike -- it is outrageous that we cannot strike in this country. The
number one demand that we need to make, or make to just do, to enact, but
the self-organizing and the history of that in the U.S. or even in looking
around the world and how effective that has been. So, there have been
strikes in Greece for example, general strikes. And they, there`s still
But people who have been organizing in neighborhoods have been
saying, OK, the government says they`re going to increase, for example,
SITRIN: So, people in neighborhoods organize and they block the
cashiers in the hospitals.
WEINGARTEN: But it`s more than simply the mobilization or having
strike or having a demonstration. What it really is, is the check and
balance. In a capitalist democracy, the only check and balance for workers
is to collectively organize so that they can say to the boss, this is what
we need to live. And ultimately, when the bosses basically say, we`re
going to do everything we can to stop you from organizing and we see clear
as day by Chris` chart, that the, the fewer people who are in unions, the
more income inequality.
HAYES: But there`s also elephant in the room. You made the point I
mean to get to move into the world of inside 495. I mean, it passed before
in the House and Senate because there are Republican votes for it, right?
I mean, that`s actually -- there`s an elephant in the room here which is
the fact that there has been a radical shift in the level of partisan unity
HAYES: Let`s talk about that with you, Congressman, right after we
take a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIMMEL: I want to thank the Washington Hilton for hosting us
tonight. You know, President Obama wanted to move the dinner to the
Kennedy Center this year, but the Republicans wanted to keep it here at the
Hilton. So, they compromised, and here we are at the Hilton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There was a little pause before the president laughed at
that. I think that gets to this -- that sort of captures the notion of
implacable opposition and the degree to which we`ve seen a disintegration
of certain governing norms within the actual -- the institution of
Congress. I mean, the routine use of the filibuster, the holds on
nominations, all sorts of ways of obstructing that are technically within
the rules, but simply weren`t done before.
And that we`ve seen a disintegration of what isn`t done. A sort of
devolution process happening. How much -- when you think about the
Employee Free Choice Act and the fact that it didn`t happen in those first
-- in that first year, which was the window. What is your understanding of
why it didn`t happen? As someone who voted for it --
NADLER: And thought`s it`s very, very important and think that it`s
one of the most important losses of the last couple of generations. It
didn`t happen essential because on the one hand, you had the use of the
filibuster and I hate when the press routinely reports these days that it
takes 60 votes to pass something in the Senate that`s anti-constitutional,
anti-democratic and frankly unconscionable and has to be dealt with. But
that`s a different question.
But you had 60 Democratic votes -- three or four of them weren`t
really Democratic votes. You had no Republican support whatsoever.
There`s no Republican support for anything to do with labor or with
workers` rights in the last 20 years.
And the administration tried, but didn`t pull out all the stops,
really. Now whether it could have pulled out all the stops is still a
question. And, of course, the increasing power of money in congressional
elections has had a heck of a lot to do with that and everything else that
goes on these days.
HAYES: It also seems to me[5 that in the relationship between the
Democratic Party and labor -- obviously labor still provides a huge chunk
of the Democratic votes in any race, right? But you`re caught in this
vicious cycle right now, which is that as union density declines, it`s a
And as it`s a less-important constituency, you start to look at other
constituencies, who you can raise money from, where you can get your votes,
and then you don`t pursue the agenda of labor so much and then because you
don`t pursue the agenda of labor, labor continues to decline --
NADLER: I very much want to follow it up. Parties change over time.
Their constituencies change over time. Their nature changes over time.
The Republican Party today is an extraordinarily radical right-wing
party on social issues and economic issues. The Democratic Party today is
an increasingly very liberal party on social issues and a less liberal
party, one could even argue semi conservative party on economic issues.
Certainly, if you look at film clips of Hubert Humphrey, or John
Kennedy, of Adlai Stevenson talking in the `50s, you`d see a rhetoric that
you don`t hear today. And increasingly, white working class voters are
not working their economic class interest. They`re voting Republican.
The Democratic Party is becoming a coalition of upscale, educated,
socially liberal people and upper income people. And we`re losing the
constituency and therefore the influence within the party of people
sensitive to labor issues and that`s a tragedy.
SITRIN: It`s -- so then what? I was going to say, so OK. Massive
problem, so then we need to talk about organized labor, organizing on the
ground. What are we doing to create the alternative? Because clearly it`s
not happening from the top.
WEINGARTEN: The alternative has to be that labor and community have
to work together like never before. In some ways that`s why labor
gravitated to the Occupy movement in a real way and it`s why in so many,
like in the battle in Ohio, community gravitated to labor. Why we are --
HAYES: Explain the battle in Ohio was.
WEINGARTEN: The battle in Ohio was, after 2010, what you saw was
this -- this huge tsunami in terms of the gubernatorial elections. And in
statehouse after statehouse, fairly radical right wing Republican putting -
- installed in as governors, and the first thing they did in the guise of
saying there`s economic, there`s a budget crisis, was to eliminate rights.
First, it was to eliminate economic rights and then it was to
eliminate democratic rights in terms of voter suppression. And then, now,
it`s to eliminate some reproductive rights.
WEINGARTEN: So what`s happened is in Ohio, where the only head-to-
head battle about collective bargaining in the public sector happened,
labor and community joined together, with civil rights movement and we
prevailed by a significant amount. Like 61 to 39 percent. But we made the
argument in the community about the importance of public service and the
importance of voice. I think that the Occupy movement has helped
enormously because it starts saying, how do we create community together,
to fight this economic inequality?
HAYES: I`m glad you raised that because it brings me to the question
of what is going to happen this Tuesday? Which is a big day, it`s May 1st,
it`s also a big day for Occupy`s mobilization. It`s a big day around the
world for labor.
I want to hear about what`s going to happen on Tuesday right after we
take a break.
HAYES: Tuesday is May Day -- a day marking the rights of workers
around the world. And while much of the world will mark Tuesday with
parades, celebrating the rights of working men and women, the significance
of the day typically goes unnoticed here in the states, even though here is
where it all started.
Occupy Wall Street is trying to recapture that spirit with a spring
awakening of sorts. They`re hoping for the first nationwide general strike
since May 1st, 1886, when more than 300,000 workers across the United
States walked off their jobs in support of the radical, radical crazy
proposition of an eight-hour workday.
OWS is calling this May 1st a day without the 99 percent.
Marina, I know you`ve been active in conceptualizing and working with
other people about what May 1st is going to look like. Just tell me a
little bit about how the movement is envisioning it?
SITRIN: I`m going to -- yes, I will talk about how the movement is
envisioning it. And to help give a sense of both kind of Occupy and May
Day and the concept of general strike. I want to use actually -- there`s
this phrase by Walter Benjamin, who`s -- you know, this thinker, decades
ago he wrote actually paraphrasing something by Karl Marx about, you know,
you think revolutions being this locomotive in history. And Benjamin said,
well, maybe we need to rethink that and maybe actually we need to think
about revolution as this concept of when people pull the emergency brake on
And I think in a lot of ways, what we`re talking about with
inequality and increasingly rising inequality and lower union density and
everything else. I think, as a population, we`ve pulled the emergency
brake. I think that`s where the Occupy movement is about. It`s just
saying, OK, stop, and we`re going to create something different.
And May Day and the general strike is another kind of stop. Stopping
in the sense of, you know, will we shut down all production? No, I don`t
HAYES: I think that`s a fair thing to say.
SITRIN: And other times in the future, absolutely not out of the
question. I mean, around the world, people do it regularly. If we had we
had actually the right to strike and something we need to demand as a labor
movement, we need to fight for our rights.
But the concept of general strike within the Occupy movements, is
stopping things as they`re existing now. So, if you can strike and there
are unions that are going on strike in Maine and in Pennsylvania and in
different states around the country and California. But then, if you
cannot go to work, not to go to work. But to do things differently, to
manifest our alternatives, and do things differently.
So, even if you`re forced to be at work, you can`t afford to lose
your job. Do something different at lunch. Go out after. Organize a
discussion with your co-workers and go out to the many, many rallies and
actions that are taking place from early in the morning into the evening.
And, you know, we can talk about all the different activities that
are being planned. And people can go to the different Web sites for Occupy
HAYES: We were talking about the strike idea, though, I want to zero
in on that, because I think the strike is, it`s fascinating part of our
history, although not so much of our present. And let me show this -- this
statistic, which I would -- I would nominate this chart in some ways for
the single-most important chart in describing American political economy
over basically the last half-century. It`s a chart of strikes involving
more than 1,000 workers.
And what you basically see is that there is no such thing any more,
functionally speaking in America. There are a few, it`s not zero. In
terms of general strikes, I believe it`s Taft-Hartley, that outlaws any
sort of sympathy strike, any strike that`s not directly related to the
bargaining that you are having with your own --
NADLER: And secondary boycotts.
HAYES: And secondary boycotts. So, any kind of -- it outlaws the
kind of solidarity that was used to achieve these huge gains in the past.
As a labor leader, what do you make of that? I mean, you know, I
remember when I was growing up, teachers` strikes weren`t that uncommon and
they`re not -- they don`t happen now.
WEINGARTEN: Right, but look, you know, we can actually then get into
a debate about strikes and civil disobedience and things like that.
HAYES: I want to have that.
WEINGARTEN: And, you know, I remember at times when I was a labor
leader in New York City, and I would say that I would not ever rule out a
strike. And I remember occasionally, Giuliani or the then-mayor would then
say, you know, threaten to put me in jail or threaten to put people in
jail, or threaten to bankrupt the union and things like that.
It goes back to Jerry`s point about how the field is not level. And
so workers, because the field is not level, workers have to take great
sacrifice in order to try to maintain the kind of middle class lifestyle
that all workers in America should be entitled to.
But let me go back to May Day, which is what`s interesting about
America, is that we`ve kind of morphed from May Day to Labor Day.
WEINGARTEN: And Labor Day has become the day where we think about
labor and we think about all those kind of struggles. But I`d like to see
on May Day --
HAYES: Well, we don`t really think about those. We think about
barbequing and the end of summer and that we have to go back to school or
WEINGARTEN: Exactly. Some of us kvetch about, you know, going back
to school, and, you know, I hope not too many people kvetch about going
back to school. But some of us still think about Labor Day and labor and
But what I`d like to see on May 1st is something that we`re doing on
May 4th. On May 4th, there`s a big push these days against bullying. So,
on May 4th, schools across the country are having a minute of where they`re
standing up against bullying.
I`d like to see, I`m going back to Bill`s point, about the education
in our schools, about what the labor movement was about. And why it had
some importance in terms of creating a standard of living in America that
befit the American Dream. And I think part of what we need to do is start
educating people about what the labor movement is about, what community
organizing is about, what mobilizing is about.
And so, there`s a big rally in New York that day that`s tying in
labor and immigration rights and that should be a movement for education.
SITRIN: But why not May Day? I mean, the idea of leveling --
WEINGARTEN: No, no, I don`t --
SITRIN: Why don`t we act like levelers?
WEINGARTEN: Frankly, I think we should do that kind of education
work on May Day. I think we should start -- I was a former social studies
teacher. We taught about the labor movement when I taught in the schools
in New York City in the 1990s, maybe one day or two days. We`re not going
to teach kids about the importance of economics, we don`t even teach kids
the importance of financial literacy if we don`t actually embed it in the
curriculum. And May Day is a great way to do it.
NADLER: And given the distribution of political power today, you`re
not about to embed it in the curriculum, unless you have a different
HAYES: You can teach abstinence, but not labor.
More on labor and the labor and the general -- the concept of the
general strike after this break.
HAYES: So, we`re talking about May Day, the history of May Day.
Interesting note, so the Haymarket, famous Haymarket massacre in Chicago
that happened. It was a protest in favor of the eight-hour workday.
Someone threw a bomb, the police responded with violent force, killed I
think eight or nine people were killed that day. It became a rallying cry
of moralization and --
NADLER: And labor leaders --
FLETCHER: Around the world.
NADLER: -- after a kangaroo trial were executed.
HAYES: Labor leaders after a kangaroo trial -- very important note -
- were executed. After that, Grover Cleveland, the president, moved,
instead of making May Day, Labor Day, created this other Labor Day. In
September, to sort of make sure that they didn`t have an official national
holiday that would be the occasion for mobilization and labor militancy.
And then there`s a sort of interesting history, which is that May
Day, because it became the national holiday of the communist regimes, of
particularly the USSR after the revolution there, and other places, then
the anti-communists in the U.S. pushed for May Day to be Americanization
Day in the 1920s.
WEINGARTEN: And then Law Day.
HAYES: And then Law Day. Right.
So, a celebration of our opposition to those, to those forces.
We talk about the concept of the general strike and the fate of the
strike in the last 50 years, and we showed that chart that shows them in
front of this table.
And, Bill, there`s something you wanted to say about strikes.
FLETCHER: Yes. The critical thing we have to get is that with
PATCO, that`s when we really lose the right to strike.
HAYES: Please explain what PATCO is.
FLETCHER: The firing of air traffic controllers who went on strike
in 1981 by Ronald Reagan. And there`s this excellent book, "Collision
Course" by Joe McCartin that really details what led up to that.
It`s very much worth reading, but part of what you have to understand
is that the massive -- the decision by the Reagan administration and the
hard right to take a stand against PATCO, to fire them and to essentially
exile them forever, set in motion a series of events that led to dramatic
repression of workers around the country.
HAYES: That`s interesting.
FLETCHER: So that workers felt less and less the ability to go on
HAYES: It`s interesting, PATCO happens in `82?
HAYES: Will you put that chart up again? Because it`s right around
there when strikes fall of the cliff.
HAYES: And I actually wondered what exactly happened.
WEINGARTEN: And PATCO was a union that actually endorsed, my
recollection, it was a union that actually endorsed Reagan. So, there was
-- there was a whole bunch of repercussions for it because that`s when you
saw the real dividing line in terms of unions walking to the Democratic
SITRIN: But so -- I mean, I want to say something here that`s really
important. On the one hand, yes, we must fight for and insist on our right
to strike, and strike. But because we don`t have a legal right to strike
doesn`t mean we can`t shut down production. People do it all over the
world, all the time and that`s part of what Occupy is arguing for,
including on May Day and it`s happened even very recently on the West
Coast, where if workers can`t go out on strike, we can -- we, whoever we
are, deciding in relationship with workers and whatever that workplace is,
helped shut down production.
HAYES: But why? Explain why. What does that mean?
So I want to sort of play devil`s advocate and go through the logic
of this, right? I am a bodega at 117th Street and Lexington in East
Harlem. Why don`t I want my production to be shut done? Why do I want --
SITRIN: Well, you -- if you are the owner -- you don`t want your
production to be shut down. You, if you are the workers, which is really
who we`re talking about, we`re talking about the vast majority of people,
we`re not talking about the 1 percent, we`re talking about the 99 percent,
whether people identify as workers or not, we don`t own these --
HAYES: No, no, no --
SITRIN: What I`m talking about places where which are all over.
People are underpaid. Don`t have health care.
So how do we organize to demand it? We organize together and we --
HAYES: This gets to the point. Let`s go back.
You said -- you`re talking about the owner. The owner of a bodega on
Lexington and the 117th is not in the 1 percent. There`s no way that you
can conceive that. There`s no chance that that person --
SITRIN: We can break down the 99 percent. Though a lot of ownership
is actually it might not be one bodega. We would need to be specific about
who owns what and the shift and owner, there are very few small business
HAYES: But there is a tension. My point is that there is a tension,
there`s a general intention of cleaving things into the 99 percent and the
1 percent and cleaving things into what you`re talking about, the
disruption of production of workers and bosses, right? Because there are a
lot of bosses, right, ostensibly bosses, managers, even owners of things
that are in the 99 percent.
FLETCHER: A general strike has one of two objectives. A general
strike is one of two objectives, either it`s a symbolic demonstration of
force or you are really aiming to bring someone down, right? So, if it`s
one day, it`s a symbolic show. And that`s very, very important.
HAYES: What does it show? Wait, what does it show?
FLETCHER: I think it shows resistance, particularly at this moment
and that`s whey think is so beautiful about Occupy. It was -- before
Occupy, it was all about the Tea Party. Occupy emerges, you don`t hear
about the Tea Party.
FLETCHER: And you have people who are thinking more about standing
up and fighting for economic justice. I think that`s the critical point.
HAYES: I want to hear what you have to say. I want to get you to
weigh in, Congressman, but we have it take a break very quickly. We`ll be
right back after this.
HAYES: Randi Weingarten, I cut you off and I apologize for that, to
go to break. We were talking about what the sort of -- the history,
trajectory, symbolism and the actual political power of a notion of strike,
in a specific sense ands general strike in a broader sense. There`s
something you really wanted to say.
WEINGARTEN: So, look, in the United States of America, particularly
after the Taft-Hartley Law, what happens is that we strike over specific
issues and specific reasons. But more important than that, is that if you
look back at the eight-hour day, if you look back at the aftermath of the
Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the strikes that were successful became social
and economic movements -- which means that it was not simply the people who
WEINGARTEN: It was that we captured the public`s attention and the
workers` attention. And the piece that we are missing today, that the
Republican Party has been so successful at doing, is dividing worker from
worker, unionized worker from other worker. It used to be post-World War
II, that we were looked at as lifting all boats. That the union --
HAYES: Not as special interest.
WEINGARTEN: That the labor movement was used as a vehicle to
increase everyone`s economic equality. Whether it was the eight-hour day,
whether it was pensions, whether it was retirement security, whether it was
health care, whether it was wages.
HAYES: And so, we actually have a very important first step before
we start talking about strikes, which is that we are not an island, we are
a bridge-maker to all workers.
WEINGARTEN: And there`s a particular --
FLETCHER: We have to rethink unionism.
WEINGARTEN: Exactly right, and be broader about it.
SITRIN: It`s again going back to the different we, though. I mean,
that is a we. But the other we that I`m talking about is the we who are
going to go out on the street. It`s the same we that in 2006 was we the
workers, immigrant rights by the millions who went out in the streets, not
mobilized by someone, but self-mobilized.
HAYES: I should say very quickly, that in 2006 --
WEINGARTEN: But then to actually act on it, which unfortunately
never materialized after those amazing demonstrations all across the
WEINGARTEN: The demonstration here in 2006 was amazing. You could
not see a speck of road. There were thousands of people on the streets.
HAYES: Let me set this up. I want to make sure people are tracking.
In 2006, there was the biggest mobilization around May Day that had
happened in probably a generation. It was called a Day Without Immigrants
and it was mobilized for workers rights. I covered -- I covered the
protest in -- the rally in Chicago, which was one of the most remarkable
things I`ve ever seen in my entire life. I saw the northwest side, poles
marching arm in arm with Mexican immigrants from the southwest side and it
SITRIN: That`s amazing.
NADLER: But it was immigrants and it was pretty much limited to
either immigration -- either people who wanted -- current generation
immigration or people who remembered the immigration experience.
NADLER: And the difference that the Occupy Wall Street made -- and
it cannot be over emphasized, and we have to see where we go from here --
is that it changed the conversation. It changed the conversation in the
country from the austerity and deficits, to economic justice, the 1 percent
versus the 99 percent.
And, right now, what you have for instance is a sustained attack
because unions have been to a large extent destroyed this in the private
sector, 7 percent penetration now.
WEINGARTEN: Seven percent.
NADLER: The struggle of unions today is the public sector, so you
see a sustained attack on the public sector employees, along the lines of
and trying to divide public and private sector, along the lines of you
don`t have you, Mr. Private Sector Worker, Mrs. Private Sector Worker, you
don`t have a defined benefit pension plan any more, why should they?
NADLER: They should go to 401(k)s, the way you have, even though you
HAYES: Not only that, but you are paying their salary, right?
That`s the other --
NADLER: You`re paying each other, even though we know, that three-
quarters of people are not going to be able to afford retirement on their
401(k)s. So, we`re trying to say, you`ve been impoverished, they should
WEINGARTEN: So, it`s a race to the bottom, as supposed to a race to
HAYES: The opposite is the opposite of solidarity. Solidarity
being, of course, the kind of guiding ethos of any kind of strike, general
We`ll be back and talk more about that after this.
HAYES: Hello from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
With me this morning, we have Marina Sitrin, from the Occupy Wall
Street Legal Working Group, Democratic New York Congressman Jerry Nadler,
Randi Weingarten from the American Federation of Teachers, and Bill
Fletcher, author of the upcoming book, "They`re Bankrupting Us: And 20
Other Myths About Unions".
We`re talking about unions and the labor movement and May Day, which
is coming up this week and the mobilizations planned around May Day, the
relationship of the Democratic Party and labor.
We`re going to talk a little about austerity and what austerity
actually looks like in the most brutal laboratory environment of the U.K.,
where we`re seeing the results of austerity.
We`re also going to talk about why nations fail and what causes the
decline of nations with the co-author of an amazing book.
Bill you wanted to say something, because we`re talking about May Day
and the May Day mobilization that happened in 2006 around immigration.
BILL FLETCHER, AUTHOR, "THEY`RE BANKRUPTING US": Well, it`s actually
two things. One is, just going back to something Marina keeps racing about
the we --
FLETCHER: -- who is we, which is very important. As a trade
unionist, I`ve been a trade unionist all of my adult life, and what I think
is important is that there is a combination of institutions called unions,
and social movements. And those social movements rise and they decline at
different points. And you have to fuse a relationship between these two.
Because the social movements will rise, they`ll emerge, they`ll be
very vibrant and they will inevitably decline. If you do not have
something there to pursue, you`ll be routed.
And so, part of what I think we have to think about, when I said
earlier about rethinking trade unionism, we have to rethink unionism in its
fundamentals. When you`ve been defeated in a conventional war, you either
surrender or you undertake an unconventional war.
We`ve been defeated head-on by corporate America. Let`s just be
real. Now the question is whether we surrender -- which I would not
advocate -- or whether we undertake a very different approach. And part of
that means rethinking the way that the unions operate, which means that
leaders of our unions have an obligation to throw the dice.
They have to do what John L. Lewis did in the 1930s. Mortgaging --
literally mortgaging their buildings, and saying, we have to do this. But
they also have to do something else, which is to, to link with these other
movements, like the Occupy movement, like immigrant rights, like the black
freedom movement and others.
And one of the failings of organized labor, particularly after World
War II, was that it retreated, particularly under the pressure of the Cold
War, from really being a social movement and really thinking with other
movements. It was almost irrelevant to the black freedom movement. At the
same time that the black freedom movement and the so-called civil rights
movement was arising, labor was largely, with the exception of a few
unions, taking a pass.
I think we have an opportunity to reverse that. But it`s going to
necessitate a combination of a rethinking by the leaders.
HAYES: And being less risk had been averse.
RANDI WEINGARTEN, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: But it`s more
than -- so, you know -- thank you for all that faith and confidence that
the leaders can do all of this. But I think it is about -- I think you`re
right, I think it is about rethinking.
And one of the most exciting things that we`ve done as the American
Federation of Teachers this year, is two things: working with students on
the student debt crisis and working with -- fighting back to try to have
those debts renegotiated. I mean, you did this on your show yesterday,
Chris, $1 trillion of debt. How can college be affordable when we say that
college is important and we don`t insure that kids have way to do that?
So, that kind of linking of students together and teachers and
together with other labor.
And the second is, I was honored to be part of Montgomery -- the
Selma-to-Montgomery marches this past March. And what was important about
that was not the march itself for me. What was important was that we
represent a whole bunch of folk at the University of Alabama.
And we did a whole bunch of teach-ins, with kids, with teachers,
university professors, to the point that we had thousands of kids,
students, actually marching with us on the last leg, understanding what it
was about, understanding the connection between labor and civil rights, and
marching together to fight the heinous immigration laws that Alabama had
HAYES: And, Marina, you had talked about student walk-outs.
WEINGARTEN: That`s working together.
MARINA SITRIN, OCCUPY WALL STREET LEGAL WORKING GROUP: There are
going to be some high schools, some students from middle schools, the
universities have totally mobilized. There`s three universities that`s
happening in Madison Park, actually someone who works at CUNY, there`s more
than as of last week, more than 100 faculty from CUNY have volunteered to
do the popular education in the park. So, taking the university outside.
But I want to get something to both Bill and Randi are saying, that`s
a little bit different. The framing on yes we need institutions, what does
that look like, and who is we, and the build-up and the mobilizing for May
There are general assembly and spokes councils, forms of direct
democracy that makes decision together, share information with immigrant
rights groups, people from organized labor, people who are not organized,
people who are more precarious workers, you know, have kind of random jobs
here and there, no regular jobs. Community groups, people from Occupy. So
a representation that`s more than just kind of a movement.
This is when people talk about the 99 percent, it`s not actually
specifically 99 percent, but it`s referring to this sensation of a we.
And that we don`t feel represented. We don`t feel like, I can speak
for myself, feeling like living in democracy. But this model of coming
together, and it`s I think from there that then we talk about what a labor
movement look like, not let`s look to the old institutions, but let`s
create new ones through this process of what we`re actually doing.
HAYES: I`m a huge fan of institutional innovation.
I want to say this sort of final point on this topic, which is, you
know, the we is complicated. Because we is about interest, right? And
there`s a tendency on the left, you know, we talk about oh, people are
voting against their economic interests and, you know, people have lots of
different interests and people in coalition of lots of different interest
with each other and conflict is unavoidable.
And so, it`s not just -- I guess my point is that it`s never just
that easy or simple. And everyone at this table knows that. But the
abstract idea of building a movement for the 99 percent is a lot more
difficult than what it looks like in person precisely because people have
different interests, they have the interests they have, and those interests
are often in conflict.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: But they all have some fundamental
interests. And when you live in a country where 98 percent of all of the
benefits of increased productivity, which have gone up 80 percent in the
last 40 years, goes to one half of 1 percent of the population and wages
don`t go up, everybody has got a common interest.
HAYES: Right. And the question is, is that common interest abstract
or real? And that`s the difference, because when people came out in the
streets in 2006, the populations that came out in the streets were like you
said, were people that had undocumented people in their family or felt a
kinship with them and saw the immediate possibility of threat, up against
the wall and that to me is the sort of --
NADLER: Given the fundamental corporate control of the major mass
media, and the fundamental corporate control of money, the only way you can
educate people is from the grassroots upward. And that`s what`s I got to
say about --
HAYES: I`m glad you said that because we`re going to shift the
discussion to what the GOP`s plan for our economy looks like, somewhere
it`s already in place.
But first, we`re going to take a minute to hear from our corporate
sponsors, and then we`ll come right on back.
HAYES: After two years of massive cuts to public spending, the U.K.
is back in recession. The Office for National Statistics in Britain
announced Wednesday, the British economy had contracted for the second
quarter in a row. In fact, as the figures show, the British economy is now
doing worse than it was at the same point during the Great Depression.
Let`s repeat that. This far into the Great Depression, the U.K. was
actually growing. Today, Britain`s economy is shrinking. That`s in marked
contrast to the U.S. which has actually experienced modest growth during
the same period of time. Right around 2010, as you can see, the U.K.
economy began to contract, even as the U.S. economy expanded.
So, what happened in 2010 that set the U.S. and U.K. economies on
such different paths?
Well, Britain had an election. A conservative government led by
Prime Minister David Cameron came into power promising savage cuts to
public spending, on everything from health care to education to welfare,
because he said that would turn the economy around.
In fact, Cameron`s policies have been virtually identical to the ones
that U.S. Republicans claim will turn our economy around because they see
the debt crisis rather than the lack of consumer demand as the biggest
problem plaguing the economy.
Here`s Cameron on Wednesday echoing Republican rhetoric on the
economy in a clash with opposition leader David Miliband during prime
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MILIBAND, OPPOSITION LEADER: Typical of this arrogant prime
minister, he tries to blame everyone else. The reality is, this is a
recession, made by him and the chancellor in Downing Street.
Why doesn`t he admit it? It`s his catastrophic economic policy, his
plan for austerity, cutting too far and too fast, that has landed us back
DAVID CAMERON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: We will not let anyone forget
who got us into this mess in the first place. More spending, more
borrowing, more debt, that is what caused these problems. It cannot be the
solution to these problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: For the last two years, the U.K. has been a literal real-
world test case for the policy prescriptions of the Republican Party. And
we now have the results.
And, Congressman Nadler, now as someone who is in Congress and
watched the whole debt crisis deal and the I would call peak austerity
moment in terms of the conversation that was happening in Washington about
the need for austerity, what scares me about what we`re seeing in the U.K.
is the fact that there is already a deal struck that`s going to lock in a
lot of austerity. And it is -- it is the debt ceiling deal.
And I worry, are we going to be headed in the same direction?
NADLER: Well, we may very well. It`s rare in life outside of
scientific laboratories that you get controlled experiments.
NADLER: And not only Great Britain, but Spain, exactly the same,
both elected a conservative government about a year and a half ago. Both
have instituted the exact same policies that Romney and the Republicans are
promising, the austerity public-sector layoffs, deficit -- you know,
cutting deficits, et cetera and both have gotten exactly what any Keynesian
economist would have predicted, a second recession.
HAYES: I will say there`s one difference, which is that the
conservative governments in Spain and England also raised taxes, which is
something that Republicans --
NADLER: Which means that, but they`re still, that wasn`t relevant to
what`s going on.
NADLER: What`s relevant is they`re reducing aggregate demand through
HAYES: Yes, right.
NADLER: Now, in the United States, we have weak economic growth,
which is better than collapsing. But it`s very interesting. The private
sector is going up, and hiring people. We`ve had 600,000 public-sector
employees laid off because of huge austerity in state and local
The net government, federal, state and local is deflationary. Even
with the stimulus, especially since the stimulus started petering out.
NADLER: It`s anti-expansionary. Now what Romney and the Republicans
want to do is just double down on this and create the same catastrophe.
HAYES: You made a very good -- which is very important point about
the way which affects the state level, because one of the big parts of the
Recovery Act, which is just payments to states to --
NADLER: But it was much too small.
HAYES: It was too small but it also ran out. So, what we saw, as
soon as the money ran out, because there was a year of payment, and
everyone, you know, Rick Perry who railed against the Recovery Act, of
course, used that money to close the state budget gap, governors gladly
gobbled up the money, because it meant repairing the balance sheets, it
kept people employed. Once that ran out --
NADLER: It not only kept people employed in the public sector, but
what people and the Republicans railed against the unions, et cetera, what
people forget about it also means the state didn`t not hire the private
contractor to fill the potholes who had private-sector employees.
WEINGARTEN: Right. So, you know, this is -- it`s so frustrating,
because what you see in the U.K. is also what you see in Wisconsin. Scott
Walker didn`t create any jobs. The number one issue that feels to me to
get out of a recession is to put people back to work.
So what`s happened is when you start cutting budgets and you lay off
more people. You`re not putting people back to work. So take even
education, which we haven`t talked about, 300,000 teachers and other
educators were laid off out of a base of about 3 million educators in the
United States of America. At the very same time as we`re saying, we need
to help all kids reach 21st century skills.
So, in real economics, what that meant was programs like art and
music, physical education. We do have an obesity problem in the United
States. All of those were cut. A.P. courses were cut.
So what you have instead of actually growing the economy, investing
in the things we need, investing in jobs, investing in infrastructure, you
have a contraction.
HAYES: Yes, please, Bill.
FLETCHER: It`s the equivalent of how we get lied into the Iraq war,
that you create a fear factor. The Republicans have been incredibly
successful in leading people to believe -- regular people -- that this
issue of the budget and the deficit is the critical piece and just as we
HAYES: It`s the terrifying threat.
WEINGARTEN: Because they think it`s the same as our own personal
budget, as opposed to a stimulative effect which will actually create jobs,
which will create more consumer demands.
FLETCHER: Obama conceded on this point too early. When he did the
freeze in the federal pay, I mean it was absolutely ridiculous. To make
the concession --
WEINGARTEN: But we have to --
HAYES: Let me, because we`re talking about controlled experiments, I
think we have to -- the fact that conservative governments were elected
explicitly, let`s all remember this, conservative governments on the
continent in Europe, right, ran on austerity, they got elected to office,
running explicitly on austerity. Then they passed austerity.
So to the degree that there is a public political appeal to the
austerity agenda, it is not distinct to the United States, nor is it
NADLER: I want to make two points. Number one, Spain, which is
having the same problem as Britain --
HAYES: Much worse. Spain is in terrible, terrible, terrible shape.
NADLER: Spain was running a budget surplus before the recession hit.
It was a recession that created the budget deficit there, which they
reacted to. But in Europe, they`re doing something we don`t have here.
In Europe, a government got elected on a program. The government has
got enacted on the program. They enacted the program. They did what they
said they would do. And the electorate is going to throw them out at the
next election because they don`t work.
NADLER: In the United States, because of the Senate filibuster,
because of a lot of other institutional problems --
HAYES: You can`t even have the experiment.
NADLER: There`s no accountability. You elect a government, if God
forbid, Romney gets elected, you try to elect. You try to create your
It doesn`t pass or it passes partially. Maybe we judge a president
by how much of the program he gets through the Congress and everybody
points their finger at the other guy when things don`t go well. You cannot
NADLER: -- to hold the government accountable.
SITRIN: Can we actually go back to Chris` point which is that
instead of arguing for why things weren`t done the way they ought to have
been done between `08 and `11? We do have this evidence now, from the U.K.
that an austerity program like this and from Spain and to some extent from
Italy and some extent from Greece, that the -- that an austerity program
like this does not work to get us out of the recessionary forces. It makes
And so, the question then becomes -- how do we show -- I mean, the
bigger problem in America is that we live in an evidence-free zone. This
is real evidence about why that is the wrong remedy.
HAYES: I think --
FLETCHER: If we go back to some of the issues around the Occupy
movement. And it goes to this issue -- let`s just go into Spain for a
second. It`s not like everything went downhill when the conservatives took
over. The so-called socialist regime that was running Spain, was already
instituting regressive measures.
And part of what happened with these elections is popular
disengagement. So, part of what we have to look at is why weren`t the
social forces pushing for a real alternative --
HAYES: Let me make one point very quickly, and then I want to go to
Just so everyone is clear, there`s obviously a huge difference in
terms of Spain, which is in the eurozone, Britain which has its own
currency, the pound, and the United States which has the reserve currency,
the worldwide over. Lots of things, the constraints on the policymakers in
the eurozone right now are much, much tighter than the United States, which
has access to its own printing press.
Marina, I want to hear you weigh in on this after a quick break.
HAYES: Marina, I want to go at it to you. I want to hear what you
have to say.
SITRIN: Well, I just want to weigh in globally again, not just kind
of U.S. Occupy we talk.
HAYES: Right. We`re talking about the globe.
SITRIN: So, globally these movements, before Occupy started all over
the world, with a similar spirit.
HAYES: A public space occupation, for instance.
SITRIN: In public space -- with the same kind of, I was talking
about the emergency brake in Egypt they said, was enough, it was enough all
over the world, and the movements against austerity, and Spain and Greece,
I mean, millions of people who organized to occupy public spaces. And both
in Spain for example, what I was going to say is organizing under the
slogan, first, of "they don`t represent us, they can`t represent us."
These are hundreds of thousands of people organizing in plazas, and
under (SPEAKING SPANISH) which is real democracy, but not we demand real
democracy. We are creating real democracy because we can only do that
together among ourselves.
Now, what this will look like -- this is the question that the
movements around the world are --
HAYES: That is the question.
WEINGARTEN: That is the question.
SITRIN: It`s a huge question, but I think we can`t just say -- well,
that`s impractical, let`s go back to economic and political and social
interests being separate and being determined.
HAYES: No. But in Spain, Spain has great depression levels of
unemployment and fundamentally there`s some decision to be made about
exiting the eurozone. I mean, there`s got to be some actual actions taken
by the elected sitting government.
SITRIN: OK. And if it ignores what the population says --
WEINGARTEN: But there`s more capacity in the United States to do
things to create the stimulative effect --
HAYES: Absolutely, yes.
WEINGARTEN: -- than maybe there is in Greece or in Spain.
But your point about taking this popular movement of Occupy, and
moving it to action, and uniting around an economic agenda. That is our
work. And that is our work as Occupy, that is our work as a labor movement
-- that is our work together.
HAYES: She`s not saying that. That`s not what she`s saying. She`s
saying, actually uniting around a procedural vision of representation.
WEINGARTEN: And I`m saying, I`m saying we have to actually, we have
to -- the movement of Occupy -- I think Jerry is right. I think you`re
right -- it changed the debate around economic inequality. But we have to
actually move to action and, yes, we have to embed the values of democracy
and representation. But we have to --
HAYES: But she is saying move into action with the current
mechanisms and tools is fundamentally a doomed project because the
mechanisms and tools are completely bankrupt.
WEINGARTEN: And I would respectfully disagree, because we`re going
to, if we don`t, then how are we going to help right that? So for me --
SITRIN: For an example right now, I want to give a right-now -- I`m
about right now.
SITRIN: Right now, people losing their homes and this is a similar
movement actually in Spain and the U.S., we`re inspired by what they were
doing. In Spain, people losing their homes. We ask, we petition, please,
please, no. People are still getting evicted.
So, what are people in movements in neighborhoods do? They organize
to prevent evictions, they call up and they find out the night before,
someone is going to go to get, exactly like the `30s, and you block it, you
don`t let the marshal in. That person gets 30 more days. That family gets
more 60 days or 90 more days. Going into courts, it`s the most beautiful
thing -- people singing to disrupt auctions of home foreclosures.
FLETCHER: But why are these things being counter-opposed.
SITRIN: So, work on it legislatively. But as it`s not happening, we
need to keep people in their homes.
WEINGARTEN: So, that`s why --
WEINGARTEN: We need to do both. For example, let me just go back to
education. For me, it`s not about some. It`s about all kids.
And so we need to create systemic ways of helping all kids get
educated, not some kids getting educated. We need to create systematic
ways of making sure that everyone whose house is under water has a way out
of it. That`s part of the reason that Eric Schneiderman and others have
create d a legal way to do that.
So, I`m saying it`s not an either/or, I`m saying it`s a both/and.
HAYES: I will say this though -- I feel that the one of the things,
the encouraging aspect to this is that it does feel like the austerity
fever has broken. That there really was a high point of austerity
obsession, austerity discussion that was happening in the U.S. and then
that moment did pass and it passed for a bunch of different reasons.
Partly it passed because they were able to impose kind of an austerity
measure (ph) of the debt ceiling deal. Partly it passed I think because of
the presence of Occupy.
NADLER: We will find out.
HAYES: That is the open question I want to end -- I want to end with
on you, Congressman, about this point which is can -- is there a way to
throw the brakes on the train of the austerity measure that`s coming down
NADLER: I think the answer will be on November whatever it is,
depending on what happens on elections.
HAYES: Shouldn`t you know what Election Day is?
NADLER: November 4th, I think. First Monday of November.
But the fact is, that would largely determine it. We`re going to
have in the lame duck session of Congress after the election in maybe 20
HAYES: A titanic fight.
NADLER: A titanic fight and I suspect that we will not have enough
time to finish dealing with it and all the things that are supposed to
happen on January 1st.
HAYES: Kick the can down the road.
NADLER: Kick the can down a few months down the road.
HAYES: Right now, I`m obsessed with a book called "Why Nations
Fail." It totally blew my mind, and I want to talk to one of the authors,
right after this.
HAYES: We`ve been talking about inequality, organized labor and the
Occupy Wall Street movement, what labor and Occupy had in common, is that
their efforts by citizens to hold financial and political institutions
But what happens with institutions break down and the mechanisms for
holding those institutions accountable fail?
There`s a new book out which I am obsessed with, that attempts to
answer that question. It is called, not humbly, "Why Nations Fail," and
provides an in-depth historical account of the corrosive nature of what the
authors call "extractive institutions" -- institutions that are rigged by
elites to exploit the labor and resources of a population.
It is the presence of these kinds of institutions in a class of self-
dealing elites that leads, the authors contend, to the kind of crippling
endemic poverty we see across large swaths of the world today.
I`m pleased to welcome the co-author of "Why Nations Fail," Daron
Acemoglu, to the table.
Thank you for joining us.
DARON ACEMOGLU, "WHY NATIONS FAIL" CO-AUTHOR: Thanks for having me,
Chris. It`s great to be here.
HAYES: Let me give a quote from the book that I think -- to that
extent that summarizes the thesis. You say, "Poor countries are poor
because those who have power make choices that create poverty. They get it
wrong, not by mistake, or ignorance, but on purpose."
What does that mean?
ACEMOGLU: So, I mean -- I think if you look around policy circles,
the prevailing idea is that you know, you know prosperities about
enlightened leadership. Countries that have good leaders, that have good
advisers, you know, come up with creative ideas and solve the problem.
HAYES: Education in right place, have the right technical solutions.
ACEMOGLU: Exactly, the right macroeconomic policies, austerity
measures what the book is talking about.
But when you look around the world in history, it`s not that people
make choices that condemn societies to poverty because they don`t know the
solution. They know the solution, but there`s a big conflict of interest
in society about who is going to be the winner. And the elites who often
control political power choose to make choices that condemn the rest of the
society to poverty.
HAYES: What is fascinating about the book to me is that, I was just
saying, it has sort of two ideological valiances to it. On one level,
you`re -- I think you`re an economist, right? Your co-author is a
political scientist. You`re a fairly mainstream economist I think in terms
of the way you view, you know, market equilibrium, maintaining good
markets, secure property rights, all of these you talking about.
And other, there`s the sort of radical history that you tell when you
talk about places, the legacy of colonialism, it sounds like reading the
open veins of Latin America, which is a radical history of Latin America.
You talk about -- one of the things you talk about is the way that
extractive institutions, the term you coined, their persistence over time.
And I love this little anecdote. The Meta (ph) is in Peru.
Talk about what the Meta in Peru and how it has endured to this day.
ACEMOGLU: That`s a fascinating example as you just picked it up.
The Meta was a coercive labor system that the Spaniards set up to get
people, forced laborers to work in the Potosi mines in today`s Peru and
Bolivia. And it`s created a big catchment area where all male laborers
were forced to go and work in the mines.
And the remarkable thing today, and this is based on a study done by
one of my students, (INAUDIBLE) at MIT, if today, you look just outside the
border of the catchment area and just inside, you still see a 30 percent
difference in living standards. You know, this is, you know, hundred of
years after the Meta was actually set up. And what`s so telling about that
Meta system is that it`s really a coercive labor system that`s been
designed for the benefit of the elite, the conquistadors, who were going to
make the extraction of the silver from the mines.
And, you know, and coming back to your idea -- to the point that you
made about neoclassical economics -- you know, today, we kind of think
about, you know, markets versus non-markets. Perhaps that`s like the main
thing that distinguishes people on the left versus the right.
But, you know, actually, when you look at history, throughout
history, even today, when you see state power in societies, it`s very
rarely for protection of workers. It`s often in the hands of the elites.
Because they control the state power and there are no institutional checks
on them. They can use it for the coercion of workers and coercion of
children even for their benefit.
HAYES: You talk about extractive institutions and their duration.
And there`s sort of a depressing aspect of this because one of the things
you say is when we look at places that had very promising revolutions
against colonialism, across the global south and the developing world,
which then became exploitative system, you`re basically saying that what
happens is that people that win that fight, that win independence, inherit
a whole bunch of extractive institutions, and rather that remaking those
institutions, they now realize, well, they can just benefit from the same
ACEMOGLU: Yes, there`s a sad story. There are so many examples of
revolutionary movements that come with the right slogans. But once they
come to power, they just sit atop of these new extractive institutions and
they find it very expedient to use them, first perhaps for other purposes,
but soon just for their own enrichment.
But I don`t want to imply that there are no ways out of it. I mean,
there are many societies that have broken out of the cycle of extractivity.
HAYES: I want to hear about how you break out of that cycle, how you
form inclusive institutions, and I also want to see where you think the
U.S. sits on this spectrum, because, obviously, that`s weighing in all of
our minds, right after we take a break.
HAYES: All right. We`re talking about why nations fail.
And, Daron, you wanted to make sure that this wasn`t just a --
there`s something hopeful about the book, too. I mean, there`s sort of a
dark cast to it, which is about the fact that so many movements come into
power, then just take over the extractive institutions. How do -- if
institutions matter so much and if they permeate for so long, how do
institutions get reformed to actually be what you call inclusive?
ACEMOGLU: I think, you know, and this is relevant to the discussion
on the Occupy movement. I think grassroots movements are very crucial. I
think many of these systems actually need a shock and when that shock
comes, sometimes they are in a powerful enough to start building inclusive
We`ve seen this in England, for example, with the Glorious
Revolution. But more importantly in the 19th century, with all the
democratization movements. And in the U.S., I think a very important one,
is the civil rights movement.
So, the civil rights movement started changing the South -- you know,
perhaps the change is not as complete as some people would like it to be.
But after hundreds of years of slavery, Jim crow and Ku Klux Klan, and all
sorts of repression, it started changing, not just because of federal
troops there, but because there was a real grassroots movement in the form
of the civil rights era activists.
HAYES: You want to add from international perspective.
SITRIN: These people mobilizing, forcing institutions to change and
having lived in Argentina after the economic crisis, one of the many things
people did was workers who were getting shut out of their workplaces
started it take over the workplaces, and run them with assemblies and
horizontal ways and actually those workplaces continue to be run, there are
many hundreds. There`s health clinics and newspapers and grocery stores.
And those that have existed and continued to exist actually are doing
better and it`s forced the government to make new laws to recognize the
fact that workers have taken over private property, or running it
themselves horizontally, and creating an actual alternative from that
movement. So, kind of being inspired by that and thinking about the
alternative powers that we actually have and have forced institutions to
recognize from it.
FLETCHER: And just to borrow from Malcolm X, sometimes people use
the word revolution too loosely and that there`s a difference between
independence movements and revolutions. And many of these independence
movements were elite-led, that mobilized the mass base, but didn`t have any
particular intention of any real transformation.
HAYES: And one of the things I think is really fascinating and
radical about your book is the idea that all elites everywhere are sort of
disposed to extraction.
ACEMOGLU: Right, absolutely. But institutions can constraint this.
I think there`s nothing wrong with elite-led movements as well as they are
So, when you look at the Glorious Revolution, for example, we talk
about in 1688 in the United Kingdom, over in England, which is the basis of
a lot of the inclusive institutions that develop in the U.K. today, it
wasn`t elite led, it was constrained by the institutions that it created.
HAYES: Where do you see, I mean, the obvious elephant in the room is
the U.S. and the fact that I`ve written a book that`s` going to come out in
about six weeks, which is about a law of the same themes, specific to the
U.S. and about the nature of the elite failure in the U.S., which I think
is sort of the dominant --
ACEMOGLU: Very much inline with --
HAYES: Yes, the dominant theme of the last decade. Now, where do
you see the U.S. on this spectrum, and what do you sort of project forward?
ACEMOGLU: I mean, I think in the grand scheme of things, the U.S.
has a lot of problems, but it`s still an inclusive society. I mean, we
have free media. We have people taking part in democratic process. You
know, there`s very little electoral fraud.
But I think there are worrying signs. I think the root of it is not
just economic inequality. This will lead to economic equality. We`ve had
a huge increase in economic inequality.
But the main thing is associated with the economic inequality, we
have creeping political inequality and when societies --
NADLER: It`s not so creeping.
ACEMOGLU: It`s not so creeping.
ACEMOGLU: It`s been going on, it`s been going on, it`s been
increasing a lot. But it`s coming to a very high level right now.
And when you see inclusive societies taken an about-face and start
declining, that often starts from political inequality. When the elites
are able to ascertain their power so much that they start taking control of
everything and then they use their political power in order to increase
their economic wealth, their economic advantages, that`s when things --
HAYES: This sort of vicious cycle.
ACEMOGLU: Vicious cycle, and we are in the midst of it in the United
States. We`re not -- it`s not a bygone conclusion, but we have started
NADLDER: I often say that the increasing power of elites in
politics, which is basically a function of the increasing importance of
money in politics, which is on the order of magnitude different than it was
a generation ago. It`s metastasized cancer in our Democratic system. And
if we don`t change it in the next 20, 30 years in some way, then historians
will eventually right of the American republic, as the Roman republic, that
a good 200-year run, but then it devolved to autocracy (ph) or oligarchy or
SITRIN: I think people are saying it now.
NADLER: Well, people are starting to say it now. But the historians
will write that eventually.
ACEMOGLU: But I think we`ve been here before. I think that`s one
important thing to say. I mean, I think I share all of these.
But we`ve been here before. We were here in the Gilded Age. Our
political institutions were much worse. The Senate wasn`t elected. There
was no regulatory state.
The politicians were much more in the pockets of the robber barons
than today. And the economic inequality is much worse. And it was having
a really corrosive in the form of the monopolies.
ACEMOGLU: But, you know, with the populist movement and the
progressive movement, we actually rebounded. So U.S. institutions showed
Now the key is, there`s no guarantee they`re going to show it again.
So some sort of mobilization is important.
But it`s also I would like to add and perhaps it`s a place where
we`ll sort of diverge a little bit from the other guests, is that actually
I think it`s very important that these grassroots movements ultimately
become institutionalized. During the -- in the aftermath of the Gilded
Age, the progressives did not influence politics by remaining a protest
movement. They actually took over both the Republicans and the Democrats.
ACEMOGLU: And that`s crucial. I think the Occupy movement is really
trying to protect itself from the parties. But as long as it remains
outside of parties, the fact is going to be very limited.
HAYES: Well, one of the things I think is interesting is the idea of
the sort of time scale institutional permanence. That`s one of the things
I took away from the book.
NADLER: I think what Daron just said is very important. And that is
political parties are subject to change and these movements have got to
occupy the political parties.
HAYES: One last --
SITRIN: We`re not a protest movement. We`re an alternative
movement. So if we create structures, they are alternative structures. We
are at a different table.
HAYES: I want to thank our guest, Daron, Acemoglu, co-author of the
fascinating new book, which I really cannot recommend highly enough, "Why
Nations Fail." It`s just a phenomenal read, really thought-provoking.
Thank you, Daron.
ACEMOGLU: Thanks very much, Chris.
HAYES: What we should know for the news week ahead, coming up right
HAYES: In just a moment, what you should know for the week ahead,
but first a quick update on last week`s discussion about Iran nuclear
talks. The "Los Angeles Times" quotes unnamed U.S. officials saying the
U.S. might be open to letting Iran enrich uranium up to 5 percent purity,
well below the weapons grade threshold if Iran agrees to unconditional
inspections and other oversight measures to ensure Iran`s nuclear program
is purely civilian.
So, what you should know for the week coming up?
We should know that Occupy Wall Street is attempting to revive the
dormant American tradition of labor solidarity on May 1st by calling for a
general strike and organizing a variety of actions across the country.
You should know that the original May Day was occasioned by a brutal
and violent oppression of labor actions in support of what at the time was
a radical and controversial agenda the eight-hour work day.
As you watch events unfold this week, or participate in them or
criticize them, you should consider what views we now see as radical and
controversial and worthy of suppression will one day be firmly part of the
As you watch the increasingly heavy barrage of political ads this
election season, you should know that you will be able to find out just how
much broadcasters are making off the super-PAC`d, supercharged industrial
complex. Thanks to a 2-1 party line vote from the Federal Communications
Commission on Friday, local broadcasters will have to publish on the
Internet information about their political advertising sales, information
they were already required to keep, but wasn`t accessible online.
Broadcasters, including our parent company, fought tooth and nail
against some provisions of the new role, saying they would expose
proprietary information. But transparency advocates note it doesn`t go far
enough since the information that`s uploaded won`t be searchable.
You should know the House will now take up an reauthorization of an
updated Violence Against Women Act after it passed the Senate this week by
a vote of 68 to 31. You should know that every Republican woman in the
Senate voted for the bill, while all but 11 Republican men in the Senate
voted against it.
We should know that North Carolina is the only certain state without
a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and you should know that
may not last much longer.
You should know that on May 8th. Voters on the state will be voting
on amendment one, which would ban not only marriage between same-sex
partners, but also domestic partnerships or any other official recognition
of same-sex unions. You should know the amendment is so extreme, it has
attracted criticisms even from opponents of marriage equality who say it
goes too far. And you should know it has catalyzed an inspiring movement
in the state to stand up for marriage equality.
We`ll be talking about amendment one here on UP next week.
You should know the White House has threatened to veto the Cyber
Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a so-called Internet security bill
that passed the House this week by an 80-vote margin.
You should know privacy and Internet freedom groups that raised
alarms about the now abandoned SOPA and PIPA legislation say this bill
threatens the privacy of Internet users and consumers. You should know the
action is now in the Senate, which will take up the bill. You should know
without a swarm of public attention like that, which defeated SOPA, the
Senate is highly unlike to prioritize the privacy concerns identified by
the ACLU among others.
All right. I want to hear what you guys think we should know as the
I`ll begin with you, Marina.
SITRIN: OK. May Day, Tuesday, beginning first thing in the morning
and there are million things taking place throughout New York City. So, in
Bryant Park, people are organizing the 99 pickets which is kind of in the
99 percent spirit, but against corporations, and supporting labor unions
and workers organizing.
Throughout the day, there will be different things taking place,
popular education happening in Madison Park and Union Square has a
permitted rally. It`s an immigrant rights rally and a labor rally.
In the afternoon, at a concert with Tom Morello and all kinds of
other fun folks.
HAYES: And we should note, because we have viewers across country,
that there are things happening --
SITRIN: All over the country. Just look on occupytogether.org and
you will find in your city, town, or village something happening. There
will be millions of people doing something. And even if you`re not in the
street mobilizing, do something differently. Have lunch differently with
your coworkers, relate differently -- to think about strength not just in
production, but we relate differently, we are making this a different day,
we`re retaking this day as our day, as the 99 percent.
HAYES: Congressman Nadler, what should folks know?
NADLER: Well, folks should know that this coming week, Congress is
not in session. It`s a so-called district work period, you can probably
see your member of Congress -- your congressman or congresswoman at home,
in a town hall meeting, you should tell him or her that you -- several
things: number one, stop the war against women, do the -- reauthorize the
Violence Against Women Act and even if includes American Indians and
undocumented aliens and lesbians in the protections. Those people
shouldn`t get beaten up either.
HAYES: Good point.
NADLER: Second of all, tell them you don`t think the cause of this
recession is environmental protection. That -- or public employees.
Public employees didn`t crash the economy. Wall Street did. And you don`t
HAYES: Randi Weingarten, what should people know?
WEINGARTEN: So, what people should know is that speaking of
corporations, one corporation this week actually put a billboard up,
Kenneth Cole, saying that should everyone be well red, R-E-D, and pitting
teachers against students. And so, many of us are filling out signon.org,
a petition that says, Kenneth Cole, you should be working with teachers and
students, not against teachers and students. Please sign that petition.
HAYES: Bill Fletcher, what should people know?
FLETCHER: Double underline May Day, and just said that May Day
should not just be a day, but a moment when we`re thinking about
alternative approach to the economy, and not just having the elite step on
us a little less.
HAYES: That`s a good way of putting.
I want to thank to my guests, Marina Sitrin from the Occupy Wall
Street Legal Working Group, Congressman Jerry Nadler, Randi Weingarten of
the American Federation of Teachers, and Bill Fletcher, author of the
upcoming book, "They are Bankrupting Us: And 20 Other Myths About Unions" -
- thank you all.
Thank you for joining us.
We will be back next weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 8:00. Eastern
Time. Our guests will include David Frum, former speechwriter for George
W. Bush, probably won`t be talking about the general strike with him.
You can get more info about next weekends programs by liking "Up with
Chris" on Facebook.
And coming up next is the one and only Melissa Harris-Perry.
Melissa, what do you got today?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Chris.
Actually, we have got a very kind of emotional and I think incredibly
important discussion about the death penalty this morning. Of course, as
you know, Connecticut just repealed it, California might be next. And
we`re going to ask whether or not we`re really on the cusp of a major
change of this issue here in America. We`ve got Barry Scheck from the
Innocence Project and the mother of a death row inmate, and lots of other
And the other issue for me is I am -- I`m honestly quite sick and
tired of the conversation that somehow food stamps are causing the
recession. So, we are going to ask about whether or not ending welfare as
we know it actually contributed to poverty in this country.
And then, of course, we`re going to talk about Obama being cool. So,
that will be fun.
HAYES: Straight from planet wonkery (ph) to slow jamming the news,
as only Melissa Harris-Perry could do. That will be coming up next. Thank
you so much.
All right. We will see you next week here on UP.
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