A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
Corporate Democrats are death on the party’s constituencies. With NAFTA, Bill Clinton delivered the “coup de grace” to heavily Black unionized manufacturing labor, and Barack Obama has his sights set on public sector employees, 18 percent of whom are Black. “They are an absolutely indispensable class if Black America is not to slip further into social dissolution.”
Clinton, Obama and the Collapse of Black Economic Stability
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“Obama has gone straight to the jugular of Black America, with his two-year freeze on the wages of federal employees.”
During the long night of struggle against Jim Crow employment practices, Black people found two avenues to avoid pervasive racism in hiring: One, factory work on unionized jobs, where the spirit of worker solidarity and the sanctity of collective bargaining lessened the impact of racism. And Two, Blacks found some refuge in the public sector, where civil service regulations and, sometimes, the cumbersomeness of the bureaucracy, itself, shielded African Americans from the more arbitrary workings of racism in the workforce. Before most jurisdictions had effective laws against discrimination in hiring and firing, the union and civil service provided Black America with a critical mass of good-paying jobs with employment security – a basic requirement for personal and community stability. It can reasonably be said that industrial unions and public sector jobs gave birth to the Black so-called middle class – or, more accurately, the stable Black working class.
The unionized factories that were such mighty anchors of Black economic stability are largely gone, now, their demise vastly accelerated by the corporate Democrat, Bill Clinton and his stewardship of NAFTA during his first term as president. In Clinton's first term, NAFTA made the dismantling of American manufacturing U.S. government policy, and then he deregulated the banks in his second term, making capital supreme and setting the stage for the Meltdown of 2008. With Wall Street on top of the world and manufacturing in deep decline, the unionized blue collar worker was doomed. Blacks were disproportionately represented in those jobs, in some industries making up 20 percent of the unionized workforce. The destabilization of Black communities in the old industrial cities is a direct result of the loss of good factory jobs with unions. Thank the rightwing Democrat Bill Clinton for delivering the coup de grace to heavily Black industrial labor, the quintessential Democratic constituency.
“The destabilization of Black communities in the old industrial cities is a direct result of the loss of good factory jobs with unions.”
With one pillar of stability gone, African Americans rely disproportionately on the only one left: public sector employment. African Americans are only 11 percent of the population, but make up 18 percent  of the federal workforce, as well as oversized proportions of state and local government jobs. The very fact that public employees are heavily Black makes them more vulnerable to targeting by Republicans. But corporate Democrats are just as vicious, and even more effective in pursuing Wall Street's agendas, as Blacks and labor should have learned from Bill Clinton. Barack Obama is Bill Clinton's protege, his political twin, with the same pro-business imperatives. Obama has gone straight to the jugular of Black America, with his two-year freeze on the wages of federal employees. The 18 percent of such employees that are Black represent the last major remnant of stable employment for African American families. They are an absolutely indispensable class if Black America is not to slip further into social dissolution. Yet there was nothing in Obama's futuristic “Sputnik” blather at his State of the Union Address that can replace Black public sector workers, whom Obama blames, just as Republicans do, for the nation's economic problems. How insane that so many Black folks put their faith in a man who is ready, willing and eager to destroy what is left of Black stability in America. No doubt he will then scold Black people, collectively, for not being rooted in community values.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com .
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .