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labor The Stakes of the 2024 Election

Given who will be on the ballot in November, we urge all working people to hold their nose and vote for Biden, in order to live to fight another day — the cost of re-electing Trump would be too high.

This year’s presidential election is the starkest demonstration yet of how the two corporate parties which dominate American politics prevent working people from using our democracy to improve our conditions.

The only way out of this two-party trap is a strong and politically independent labor movement, with millions more working people organized into unions and other worker organizations independent of the existing political parties. Only then will we be able to force politicians to address the needs of the working class and then hold them accountable once they are in office, not only through elections but through other forms of political action such as marches, strikes, occupations and mass civil disobedience.

In November workers will be faced with an unappealing choice. The Democratic incumbent, President Joe Biden, has been moderately successful in improving workers’ rights and creating an economic climate favorable to workers, but has been unwilling to take on corporate power and has pursued a dangerous and cruel foreign policy. Unfortunately, the only viable candidate opposing him is former President Donald Trump, whose presidency amounted to little more than constantly stirring up the country with divisive rhetoric while handing massive amounts of cash to corporations and the wealthy and stacking the courts with right-wing ideologues who regularly make anti-worker rulings.

Legislation enacted in the first two years of Biden’s presidency — the American Rescue Plan Act, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the Inflation Reduction Act — pumped enough money into the economy to avoid a post-pandemic recession, and contributed to the favorable job market in which workers have been able to make real wage gains over the past year.

Biden’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board have been more pro-worker than we have seen in a generation or more. Of particular importance to UE, Biden’s NLRB has maintained the right of graduate workers at private universities to organize unions, which the Trump board was moving to revoke. This has helped bring tens of thousands of new members into our ranks in the past two years.

Unfortunately, outside of the realms of economic policy and labor law enforcement, the Biden administration has been a terrible disappointment. Biden has been unwilling to take on corporations, even as they pad their massive profit margins by squeezing working people with price gouging and other shifty business practices. His climate policy has failed to rein in the power of the oil and gas industry, or create the conditions to force the development of alternatives at the necessary scale and pace, and the continued burning of fossil fuels is causing ever more extreme weather events, threatening working people’s health, homes, and very lives.

Biden has done nothing to address the broken criminal justice system which continues to disproportionately lock up and destroy the lives of Black people and other people of color. He has continued the failed economic and military policies towards Latin America that create desperation and drive people to migrate to the United States. Rather than dealing with the underlying causes, he has imposed draconian and inhumane policies at the border.

Under Biden’s abominable foreign policy, billions of taxpayer dollars continue to fund wars. He has failed to use American leverage to halt Israel’s attack on the Palestinian people, which is increasingly being seen as genocidal. His stoking of a “new cold war” with Russia and China has made the world less safe, most dramatically in the administration’s cynical efforts to prolong the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides and increased the threat of nuclear conflict.

These are the reasons Biden is behind in the polls. If he had stood by the principles and policies that the working class needs, he would be far more popular.

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However, as awful as Biden’s record has been, the only alternative in our corrupt, two-party system would be to re-elect Trump in November. Trump has a clear record, and there is every indication that, if re-elected, he will move even more aggressively to boost the power and wealth of corporations and the rich at the expense of workers, people, and the planet — and to use the government to attack his critics, including the labor movement.

Trump’s only significant legislative accomplishment during his presidency, even with Republican majorities in both houses during the first two years of his term, was the 2017 tax bill, a massive giveaway to corporations and the wealthy. His appointments to the federal courts made that arm of the government even more solidly anti-worker, encouraging corporations to use the courts to challenge pro-worker legislation. At the top of the system, the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump appointees have cast the deciding votes in a series of cases that stripped rights from women, workers, students, LGBTQ+ people and people of color, most notably the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade and the 2018 Janus decision, which imposed “right to work” conditions on public-sector workers across the country.

Corporate and right-wing forces are laying plans to aggressively take advantage of another Trump administration to push through an anti-worker, anti-democracy, and anti-climate agenda on steroids. A group of experienced right-wing political operatives have put together “Project 2025,” a detailed roadmap for how to dismantle the government’s ability to protect Americans from corporate power. The right to organize, protections against discrimination, and health and safety regulations would all be on the chopping block in a second Trump administration.

Following the 2020 election, Trump engaged in a variety of both illegal and unethical efforts to overturn the election results, from calling the Georgia Secretary of State urging him to “find more votes” to encouraging his supporters to engage in a violent insurrection on January 6, 2021. Further undercutting our democracy, Trump and his allies have continued to spread the lie that the election was somehow “stolen” from him, without producing a shred of evidence.

Should he regain the presidency in 2024, Trump has made it clear that he will attempt to use the powers of government to punish those he sees as his enemies, joking in early December about “only” being a dictator on “day one”. His rhetoric is taking on an increasingly fascist tone, referring to political opponents as “vermin” and “human scum” and claiming that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” Describing classes of people as less than human in this way makes it easier to justify denying them rights and subjecting them to brutal treatment.

UE rarely makes endorsements within the two-party system, and we are not endorsing Biden. Instead, our hope for the future lies in a politically independent labor movement, and in those politicians in Congress and at the state and local level who are willing to put the working class first, not the Democratic Party. We encourage working people not to be completely distracted by the Presidential horse-race, and to pay close attention to their Congressional and state races.

Nonetheless, we have to be honest about the dilemma that faces labor and working people in the short term. The issue that makes Biden the lesser evil for us is the fact that the labor movement, and especially UE, has been making some real gains in organizing new workers under Biden’s economic policies and NLRB. A second Trump presidency would make it far more difficult to organize — and to build the labor party we need and deserve.

Given who will be on the ballot in November, we urge all working people to hold their nose and vote for Biden, in order to live to fight another day — the cost of re-electing Trump would be too high.