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Volume 11 ••• Fall 2012
Washington Post

Can Dems mend fences with labor in time for the election?

By Greg Sargent

August 10, 2012

Amalgamated, the bank that was founded by clothing workers and remains union-backed, is announcing today that it will now be handling all of the primary banking needs of the Democratic National Committee, which had previously done its banking with Bank of America.

In a release announcing the decision, Amalgamated president and CEO Edward Grebow said: “The DNC joins a growing chorus of non-profit groups, labor unions, and progressive organizations that are choosing to bank with an institution that understands and is fighting for the values of all hardworking American families, and we are proud to have their business.”

The timing here is interesting. As Politico reported today, there are some tensions between the major labor unions and the planners of the Democratic National Convention. The unions have been saying they won’t contribute to support the convention because of its location in a right to work state. There have been other tensions: unions were angered over reports that the DNC had not come through with funds Wisconsin Dems wanted for the battle to recall Scott Walker (although both sides have since said Wisconsin Dems got all they wanted).

Labor has steadily complained that its priorities have been neglected during the Obama years, and unions were particularly upset with the Dems’ prioritization of the deficit over jobs after the 2010 shellacking (though unions were pleased when Obama pushed the American Jobs Act and pivoted towards more populist messaging and policy priorities). More broadly, the Occupy Wall Street movement helped highlight that the Democratic Party, as well as the GOP, has many ties to Wall Street.

The DNC’s move from Bank of America to the labor-backed Amalgamated is a sign Dems recognize that their populist message risks getting muddled by tensions with labor, and that they need to get everyone on the same page in advance of a very tough fall campaign. While it is easy to see as a symbolic move, if it means that Dems are taking those tensions seriously, it’s a good thing.