Sunday, February 01, 2015

For the Workers

 Although the US labor union movement is 3.5 million members smaller than 40 years ago it nevertheless remains a powerful expression of organized workers. Union organizing is not impossible, futile, or a thing of the past The labor movement is not dead, or dying. It is the best hope for workers of achieving better pay and working conditions through its collective bargaining.

Workers were driven out of unions, not by choice, but by:
1. Offshoring of what were union jobs;
2. Deunionization of major industries;
3. The rise of relentlessly anti-union companies to industry dominance;
4. The thwarting of the promise of the labor law by the general adoption of the union-busting playbook by employers;
5. The spread of casualization, irregular part-time and temporary work, and all the forms by which the employer-employee legal nexus has been undermined.
But, in the face of all that, workers continued to organize, and unions continued to support them. 

We are seeing in the worker movement, outside of the unions. In worker centers, especially among workers in temporary, casual, contractual and other insecure forms of employment, and in the fast-food strikes, workers are breaking new ground. These initiatives can’t reach or resemble the sustainability that union recognition and collective bargaining afford, but in other respects they are indeed part of the worker movement. They can resemble some of the features of unions, by:
A.    Operating democratically, being “of, by and for the workers”
B.     Emphasizing member participation as the foundation of their way of operating
C.     Building power by exercising it, at the workplace
D.    Being part of a movement, not just an organization.

Today’s class struggle come from three sources. There are fights that grow, more or less spontaneously, from workers taking risks. There are the fights picked by our enemies: fights like Wisconsin and so-called "right to work" anti-union measures, fights where our enemies try to bust a union through lockouts, bankruptcy, legislation or other tactics to become “union-free.” And then there are the fights we pick: campaigns where we go on offense, where we take risks in order to grow our power.

 One Gallup poll found that four in 10 Americans work more than 50 hours a week, and that the national average work week is an astounding 47 hours. Chronically connected to email on their phones and laptops, 35 percent of workers, according to a Pew Survey, find their working days extended unwittingly.

Movements often spring up, spontaneously. The economy we’re enduring constantly gives birth to grievances. But what flares up can flame out, unless we are prepared, and our organizations have the ability to recognize fights with mass appeal and the capacity to carry a fight as far as it takes us. So let our mission be solidarity. Educate. Organise. Agitate. It’s not a new idea, it’s the right idea.


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