Tag Archive: unions


What’s labor supposed to do?

Facing setbacks in health care, a decreasing unionization rate (7.2% in the private workforce) , and the loss of the supermajority they would need to pass EFCA (as if the Democrats were doing something anyway), as well as decreasing public support (41%), unions are in pretty bad shape.  But then again, they had been for a long time.

What should labor do?

A number of things.

First of all, real people have little power in America.  Corporations and people of high means have a lot of pull, and individual politicians have some pull.  Democracy in America is democracy in name only. . . and most Americans know it.  They know that the government does nothing to pull together for everyday Americans and will drop anything to help out Wall Street.  Ironically, though such rabid corporatism comes as a result of the power wielded by corporations over our country, and such power is a natural consequence of capitalism, or the ‘free market,’ extreme right-wingers have built the Tea Party movement blaming government and claiming the ‘free market’ is the solution.  Let me reiterate. . . the people who are a huge part of the problem have grown stronger from the anger against the problems people like them have caused.  Why hasn’t the Left organized?  Why hasn’t labor organized in the face of layoffs?

What the people want–radical, liberal, and conservative–is democracy.  They rightly feel powerless against huge corporations and an unresponsive government–which, whatever head of our two-headed Republicrat Party beast is at the helm, does not seem to care about them.  Forget about business unionism–leaving corporations be, forgetting about ‘class issues,’ and demanding only wage increases.  BE A RABID FIGHTER FOR DEMOCRACY.  What the Obama election has taught us so far is that (1) people want change REALLY bad, and if you give them hope for it they will mobilize, and will carry the day, and (2) you can’t trust ANYONE in our bureaucratized government or the corporations that run it to actually do anything that is substantially good for you.

To reverse a paraphrased dictum from Machiavelli, politicians will do what we want if they love us or fear us. . . and their fearing us is more dependable than their love for us.  And by ‘fear us’ I don’t mean fear an uprising. . . I mean fear that we will impeach every single one, advance our own candidates, fill Congress and the Presidency with OUR PEOPLE.

We want Democracy.  Were unions to radicalize, democratize themselves, and democratize America, the people would love them.

Steps:

(1) Look inward.  Democratize yourself.  Make each union radically democratic–every single person has a change to make a real difference–no bureaucratized organizing body.  If people thought “I’d have a real say in my union!” that is a good part of what you need to do to change public perception.

(2) Support all workers, even the nonunion ones.  If you always look out for them, get them gains, workers not in a union will be more inclined to join, and more inclined to take your side and have a good perception of what you do.  It will help you organize, and help change public perception even more.

(3) Support even international workers and labor rights.  Corporations are international and organized and you should be, too.  Overseas workers are not your competition naturally. . . they are your allies.  If a corporation leaves American jobs here, and you argue ANYTHING that sounds like “they took our jobs”. . . you’re demonizing exploited workers who are suffering on their end from the actions of a corporation that is ALSO hurting YOU.  You create an “Us versus Them’ mentality against groups of people belonging to the “Us” group.  Remember, it is always corporations and globalization that hurts workers.  It’s really always capitalism, but you might not be willing to say that yet.  Not to mention that if millions of workers here oppose a company, it’s powerful, but if many millions of workers all over the world strike and boycott, it’s AMAZING, POWERFUL, and INSPIRING.

(4) Demand WAY MORE than just wage increases and REALLY COMMIT to it.  EFCA and Single Payer were great goals–you’re starting to see the need to advocate things that help the labor movement and ALL Americans, and that’s great.  But don’t depend on politicians.  Make noise, march, be rowdy and public, make YouTube videos and Facebook pages, have commercials during the superbowl, protest, strike, boycott! Fight the right-wing noise machine trying to make you look bad–make them, their lobbyists, corporations look bad instead!  They do it themselves, but no one calls them out on their tactics or their bullying, let alone their betrayal of America!  And never stop!  Buzz in their ears until they ring 24/7 whether you are there or not–and always let the public know what you’re doing for them.

(5)  Oppose pro-corporate bias everywhere.  You shouldn’t be afraid to call corporations out, to question their very essence and the system they are a part of.  Their bias hurts your true constituency. . . laborers and American citizens!  They have too much power in the workplace and in society.  Whose side are you on?  Oppose pro-corporate bias in the media, in the schools, in political campaigns. . . everywhere!  Stand for something!

(6) Organize! Organize! Organize! Find what industries have low unionization rates, and start there.  Find out what demographics, states, cities, and occupations unionize little, and reach out to them based on their situations, the uniqueness of their jobs, their histories, their values, their cultures.  Treat each group as its own, distinct population–it is!  Conduct studies and hire rhetoricians, psychologists, sociologists, and figure out what barriers to unionization exists in each group, and transcend them!  Your strength is in people.  And I repeat, DEMOCRATIZE and fight for REAL BENEFITS.  Let these people lead their own fight and represent to the people in their shoes once you’ve started organizing them, and let them determine what agendas are most important for them.

(7) Look outward.  Democratize EVERYTHING–fight for greater self-determination and democracy in corporations, in their management, in their boardrooms, and between workers, communities, and shareholders.  Fight for a greater democracy in American political structures.  Be a force for democracy, and be SO PUBLIC ABOUT IT, so transparent, that no right-wing extremists can lie to the public about you.  Make everything you do about making the government and corporations more accountable to the people and no one will think of you as ‘just another big, selfish, scary organization’.  And unlike Obama, walk the walk AND talk the talk.

Do these things and I promise you the labor movement will turn around.  So will the country.  And we will all be better for it.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100228/ap_on_bi_ge/us_frustrated_labor_4

Good contemporary data: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm

Wal-Mart, Hillary Clinton, and Unions

Hillary Clinton and Wal-Mart

Why do labor groups support Hillary?  Supposedly, “Clinton has been endorsed for president by more than a dozen unions, according to her campaign Web site, which omits any reference to her role at Wal-Mart in its detailed biography of her” (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4218509). 

Hillary’s chief strategist, Mark Penn, who is the “Worldwide President and CEO for Burson-Marsteller, an international PR conglomerate known for . . . busting unions”

(http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2007/03/hillary-clintons-union-doublespeak.php’). 

She had a seat on Wal-Mart’s board of directors for, I think, six years prior to 1992 (and what notable political event happened to her family in 1992 that would have made a Wal-Mart connection inconvenient?), after which the seat conveniently ceased to exist.  In other words, it was not a fillable seat, it was one that existed for her

But how anti-union is Wal-Mart?  Let’s let them tell you . . .

Wal-Mart Training

But are its claims accurate?  Do Wal-Mart employees need a *horror movie music* UNION?!?!?

Check out http://wakeupwalmart.com/facts/.

“Wal-Mart Anti-Union Policy

Wal-Mart closes down stores and departments that unionize

  • Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquierre, Quebec in April 2005 after its employees received union certification. The store became the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America when 51 percent of the employees at the store signed union cards. [Washington Post, 4/14/05]
  • In December 2005, the Quebec Labour Board ordered Wal-Mart to compensate former employees of its store in Jonquiere Quebec. The Board ruled that Wal-Mart had improperly closed the store in April 2005 in reprisal against unionized workers. [Personnel Today, 12/19/05]
  • In 2000, when a small meatcutting department successfully organized a union at a Wal-Mart store in Texas, Wal-Mart responded a week later by announcing the phase-out of its in-store meatcutting company-wide. [Pan Demetrakakes, “Is Wal-Mart Wrapped in Union Phobia?” Food & Packaging 76 (August 1, 2003).]

Wal-Mart has issued “A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free,”

  • This toolbox provides managers with lists of warning signs that workers might be organizing, including “frequent meetings at associates’ homes” and “associates who are never seen together start talking or associating with each other.” The “Toolbox” gives managers a hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize. [Wal-Mart, A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free at 20-21]

Wal-Mart is committed to an anti-union policy

  • In the last few years, well over 100 unfair labor practice charges have been filed against Wal-Mart throughout the country, with 43 charges filed in 2002 alone.
  • Since 1995, the U.S. government has been forced to issue at least 60 complaints against Wal-Mart at the National Labor Relations Board. [International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards in the United States: Report for the WTO General Council Review of the Trade Policies of the United States (Geneva, January 14-16, 2004)]
  • Wal-Mart’s labor law violations range from illegally firing workers who attempt to organize a union to unlawful surveillance, threats, and intimidation of employees who dare to speak out. [“Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart,” A Report by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, 2/16/04] ” (From wakeupwalmart, above)

Or if you think that site biased, look at the Human Rights Watch.  Yup, that’s right.  Human Rights Watch.

http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/us0507/2.htm#_Toc164069630

 How does this affect Hillary?

 Hillary was not adverse to using her Wal-Mart experience to champion causes she believed in.

“Fellow board members and company executives, who have not spoken publicly about her role at Wal-Mart, say Mrs. Clinton used her position to champion personal causes, like the need for more women in management and a comprehensive environmental program, despite being Wal-Mart’s only female director, the youngest and arguably the least experienced in business. On other topics, like Wal-Mart’s vehement anti-unionism, for example, she was largely silent, they said.” (MICHAEL BARBARO, “Clinton Moved Wal-Mart Board, But Only So Far,” New York Times, May 20, 2007, italics mine).

Is she still connected?

“Despite her criticism, Mrs. Clinton maintains close ties to Wal-Mart executives through the Democratic Party and the tightly knit Arkansas business community. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, speaks frequently to Wal-Mart’s current chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., about issues like health care and even played host to Mr. Scott at the Clintons’ home in New York last July for a private dinner.

 

And several months ago, Mrs. Clinton helped broker a secret meeting between a top Wal-Mart executive and former Democratic operative, Leslie Dach, and leaders of the retailer’s longtime adversary at the United Food and Commercial Workers union, according to several people briefed on the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly.

The goal of the meeting was to tamp down the rancor between the company and the union, which has set up a group, WakeUpWalMart.com, that has harshly criticized the chain and leaked embarrassing internal documents to the news media, though an accord has not yet been reached”  (Barbaro). 

Quite frankly, Hillary’s appeals to labor and claims to want to increase the American “middle class” are hollow, empty appeals towards an audience, the American labor force (not to mention Wal-Mart’s notorious international sweatshop labor force, local communities affected by Wal-Mart’s practices, etc), that Hillary seems perpetually intent on betraying.  A vote for Hillary is a vote against the poor and the working class.

Prices of food, and most specifically necessary foods like rice and grains (generally) have been skyrocketing http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL2464117420080424?sp=true.  More broadly, food prices have risen over the last few years, this last one in particular, to the point where riots are occurring internationally http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/agflation.  “World food prices rose by 39 percent in the last year. Rice alone rose to a 19-year high in March — an increase of 50 per cent in two weeks alone — while the real price of wheat has hit a 28-year high” (http://www.alternet.org/workplace/83457/).   Some countries in Latin America have responded with a recent pact to increase food production http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKN2344733220080423.  This food price crisis has affected most if not all of the global South, including most of Africa, Latin America, much of Asia, etc.  Consequently, global poverty has increased and, in many places, riots either have occurred, are occurring, or are a constant threat.

Moscow News Weekly summarizes: “Large-scale poverty is fraught with social explosions. A wave of massive unrest caused by the growth of food prices has swept Egypt, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Madagas­car, and Ethiopia in Africa alone. There are hunger riots on Haiti in the Caribbean, and in the Philippines in South-East Asia. Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf, predicts new hunger riots in many Asian countries as well, including food producers. ”

If riots continue and governments are overthrown, the emerging governments would likely be geared towards the satisfaction of needs an some egalitarian principles of distribution.  Oftentimes this is the response to a crisis of the people such as this current food crisis.  Additionally, this tends to promote a swing of Leftist movements (and strengthening of existing ones).  But in light of history, Leftist and populist movements need to be cautious and look out for (1) U.S. intervention, and (2) IMF penalties. 

The United States has a history of interfering with and opposing any Leftist or populist movements, foreign or domestic, either democratically elected or emergent from a revolution.  A few notable examples of CIA-backed coups and coup attempts (from a rather large list) see http://theinsurgent.net/index.php?volnum=13.2&article=usterror.  Chomsky also writes heavily on this topic, and Naomi Klein’s recent The Shock Doctrine goes into detail over at least a few notable examples.  Historically famous examples are the attempt to overthrow Casto in the Bay of Pigs Invasion (1963), the socialist Indonesian president Sukarno (1965), the assasination of democratically elected Marxist president Salvadore Allende in Chile (1973), CIA training of the Contras to oppose the Leftist Sandanista government in Nicaragua (throughout Reagan’s presidency), etc.  Domestically, suppression of populist, Leftist, and labor movements has been widely documented throughout US history (look at the early history of the American labor movement, the period of McCarthyism throughout the late ’40’s and 50’s, or the Reaganite war on labor (http://www.dickmeister.com/id89.html).  America has a strong history of destroying Leftist, populist, and labor movements internationally and domestically, and consequently, whatever governmental situations these revolting countries end with, they need to be ever watchful.