Butt-kissing Border Patrol union misleader hurts his own members
Brandon Judd is more interested in winning favor from Trump than he is in fighting for pay for his own members. | C-SPAN screenshot

When your boss appears all-powerful, it sure looks easier to kiss his rear end than to put up a fight, but it’s been the bitter experience of decades of labor history that the kissing of ass (theirs) sooner or later leads to the kicking of ass (ours).

Speaking of ass kissing, leaders of the union of the Border Patrol agents have puckered up big time in support of the Trump administration’s shutdown of the government and withholding of pay from their members. It’s shameful that these misleaders renounce the interests of the whole federal workforce, including their 700,000-member international American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and ultimately the whole U.S. working class whose interests are being sacrificed.

It’s not only shameful, but it’s also inexplicable, because it’s hard to see – beyond advancing career ambitions in the Trump administration or the right-wing talk circuit for Brandon Judd, the president of the Border Patrol workers council – any benefit that the union’s actual members stand to gain from the shutdown debacle.

After all, it wasn’t until DT staked his tough guy reputation on a border wall that this union misleader proclaimed a wall as the be all and end all of border security.

In fact, in March 2017, Judd testified before the Senate that, “We don’t need a great wall of the United States. We don’t need 2,000 miles of border wall.” A year earlier, less than 5 percent of his union members surveyed mentioned a fence or wall when asked for suggestions to improve border safety.

The Jan. 3 “press conference” and eagerness to be the front man for Trump’s policy seem to be more of an attempt by Judd to ingratiate himself into Trump’s inner circle of right-wing operatives. Judd, who is based in Tucson, was available in D.C. for the hastily called press conference because he was apparently involved in a shadowy meeting with the president. At the photo op, Judd didn’t have a word of protest on the pay freeze inflicted on his members just days before or the fact that they are being required to work without pay now.

What kind of union leader doesn’t care about his members’ pay?

Meanwhile, here’s a shout out to my union brothers and sisters in the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council.

Two words: Google PATCO!

In 1980, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization broke ranks with most of the labor movement to endorse Ronald Reagan for president. Reagan campaigned on an anti-working-class platform that emphasized “trickle down” economics whereby making the rich richer would “trickle down” to help working people. Let’s see how that worked out for the 13,000 PATCO members.

With a contract coming up for renewal in the year after the election, perhaps the PATCO leaders felt that their best shot was to break with their fellow workers and throw in their lot with Reagan, then campaigning to unseat President Jimmy Carter, counting on receiving favored treatment. After all, air traffic controllers were a prestigious and skilled workforce. Perhaps they felt protected by the something of an elite status they occupied with the public.

But in 1981, when the air traffic controllers exercised their collective power to withhold their labor and went on strike, demanding better pay, working conditions, and shorter hours, their friend Ronald Reagan had no use – or respect – for them. He declared their strike illegal and fired the entire workforce. Yes, he fired every one of them and smashed to smithereens the union that had endorsed him.

Meanwhile the Reagan administration, true to their word, also trickled down on the rest of the U. S. working class.

Employers in the private sector walked through the door the Reagan administration had opened: They busted unions left and right; they lowered wages and closed factories. Social Security benefits suffered, federal spending on education went from 12 percent of the total education funding to 6 percent. Environmental standards were gutted, resulting in thousands of needless deaths and illnesses in working-class communities and workplaces. The profits of military contractors skyrocketed while spending on food stamps, Social Security, and Medicaid paid the price.

There’s a hard-learned lesson here: A section of the working-class flock is misled into thinking their foxy bosses are going to invite them to a banquet in gratitude for helping them raid the other birds’ sanctuary. But come banquet time, the lowdown fowl who opened the hen house door will find it’s a short flight from the photo op to the soup pot.


Roberta Wood
Roberta Wood

Roberta Wood is a retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wood was a steelworker in South Chicago, an officer of Steelworkers Local 65, and founding co-chair of the USWA District 31 Women's Caucus. She was previously Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party. Currently, she serves as a Senior Editor of People's World.