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by Richard Mellor
Friday, Jun. 05, 2009 at 12:03 AM
Worker’s relying on our own strength and not the courts will drive back the capitalist’s offensive.
We all know by now that the heads of the organized Labor have hung their hats on the Obama administration passing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). They spent millions, upwards of 0 million, of their members’ hard earned money during the last election; not to mention providing staff.
The EFCA will make it easier for them to sign up new members. This is crucial for the likes of John Sweeney, Andy Stern or other top trade Union leaders as the low level of Union membership translates in to lower revenue in the form of dues. They see the Unions that they head as employment agencies with them as the CEO’s, and, like any good businesspeople, have to have income to function. Their status in society is also dependent on them being able to provide foot soldiers, money, and ultimately votes for their friends in the Democratic Party as well as making sure that any threat to this peaceful existence that raises its head within the ranks of organized Labor is quickly dissipated.
The EFCA, if passed will allow workers to choose a Union by simple card check without a secret ballot election. We have the right to join Unions now of course but the process up to a ballot is drawn out and the employers, quite naturally, use this period to intimidate and terrorize employees in to rejecting the Union. This climate of intimidation and harassment is not met with much resistance from the heads of organized Labor other than using the legal system. EFCA will mean they can “grow” the Union to use a business term they are fond of using without actually doing anything.
But the EFCA is not a done deal by any means. Arlen Specter, the Republican turned Democrat has shifted positions and now opposes the legislation as is. This was a blow only to the Labor leaders who are desperately need to maintain their links with the capitalist class, but it comes as no surprise to the average worker. Specter and other Democrats are working on a compromise proposal.
Along with the EFCA, the composition of the National Labor Relations Board is another major issue for the Labor hierarchy. The NLRB conducts Union elections and arbitrates disputes between private sector employers and employees. It is referred to as an “independent” arm of the government which is a myth of course. The President appoints members to the NLRB with the consent of all the millionaires in the Senate so they are as independent as the federal arbitrators who will have the authority to impose contract settlements under the EFCA if a Union and the employer can’t reach a deal.
President Obama has appointed two new members to the board that will give it a “pro Labor” majority; both of them are Labor lawyers. One of them, Craig Becker, is a lawyer for the SEIU and the AFL-CIO. He has written about the need for more legislation to protect organizing drives including an article titled. “Better than a Strike: Protecting New Forms of Collective Work Stoppages Under the National Labor Relations Act, and “Democracy in the Workplace: Union Representation Elections and Federal Labor Law” Working for SEIU and the AFL-CIO it’s not surprising articles by Mr. Becker on democracy within these organizations didn’t pop up when I checked him out on the internet. Lawyers in these positions are more inclined to defend the Union machine from revolts within its own ranks.
I have not read “Better than a strike” but it would seem natural that a Yale educated Lawyer would see the courts and the legal system as a better method of defending worker’s rights than us taking independent industrial and political action. Strikes have been so poorly led by Mr. Becker’s employers that rank and file Union members, despite heroic struggles and sacrifice on their part, have suffered one defeat after another on the picket lines. It would be more accurate to say that the strikes have not been led at all, that they have been crushed by a powerful combination of employers and the heads of the AFL-CIO and what is now the CTW Federation. For this reason, workers are very reluctant to engage in work stoppages that have sunk to an all time low. 12% of American workers are in Unions as opposed to 20% in 1983.
Naturally, one of Mr. Becker’s bosses, John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO along with his colleagues atop the trade Union movement are very supportive of President Obama’s nominees. Sweeney has endorsed them citing the “need to restore balance” * to the NLRB.
Relying on the courts and so-called Labor friendly politicians has been disastrous for workers. Strikes are lost and Union representation is its lowest in decades not because the employers are unbeatable, not because Chinese workers are stealing our jobs; it is this refusal of the heads of organized Labor to mobilize the potential power of their members and the working class as a whole in opposition to this workplace terrorism that has led us to this point. We need to counter the bosses’ terror with some terror of our own. Not senseless acts of individual violence and sabotage, but mass action, halting production, workplace occupations, mass picketing and challenging their anti-Union laws. And as important; severing links with the Democratic Party and building a mass worker’s party as an alternative to the two parties of capital.
The leadership of our Unions at the highest levels is among the most ardent champions of capitalism. They are appointed to commissions like Clinton’s Competitive Council and many of them attended universities where they soaked up the employer’s view of the world and the merit’s of the free market.
Andy Stern studied business management and Terence J O’Sullivan of the Laborer’s Union graduated with a degree in business. They rely on pro-market (albeit a “friendlier” market) academics as advisors on how best to combat the offensive of capital. Mobilizing the working class for them not only threatens the relationship they have with the employers, it can de-stabilize the system which will lead to nothing but chaos is how they see it.
But those of us within and outside the Labor movement have certain responsibilities that we must recognize if we are to change the situation. We cannot simply point our fingers at those who have brought us to this point. We have a responsibility to act. We have a responsibility to lead where we can, to challenge the catastrophic policies of the Union hierarchy when we are able. We must step to the plate.
There are oppositions within organized Labor and slowly more open opposition to the increased attacks in the wake of the economic crisis is beginning to develop. It is likely that foreclosures will increase and movements much like those of the 1930’s will develop around this issue. But in order to not end up like the Sweeney’s and Sterns, any movement against this offensive of capital must reject their failed method and return to the methods of the thirties that built the Unions in the first place. June Reyno, the homeowner in San Diego who chained herself to her house and was arrested twice for trespassing in her own home showed what needs to be done. ** The plant occupation at Republic Windows was a small but important step in the right direction.
Rejecting the laws of the market, demanding what we need and not what Wall Street, the Democrats, or the Labor officials tell us is “realistic” and developing a program and fight to win, direct action strategy to attain these goals; this is what will start t turn the tide.
*Unions Look to Labor Board Picks to Reverse Bush Rulings WSJ 6-3-09
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