Wednesday, June 15, 2005

So What The Hell's Going On With The Labor Movement?

More than I can say right now, so read what others are saying. We here at Confined Space are mostly going to just keep focusing on workers.

Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post
In a sense, the leaders of American labor -- people who have spent their lives at the bargaining tables -- are engaging one another in a massive game of chicken. But such games can take on a life of their own, with all manner of unforeseen consequences
Jonathan Tasini in Working Life
My own view is that everyone should look at this coalition as a distinct, independent effort from the fight inside the AFL-CIO. I know that's hard--and there is no question that the coalition roll-out is designed to put pressure on Sweeney. But, it feels like more than that. Rather than attack the coalition, it would be far better for people outside of the coalition to wish it well, applaud its willingness to at least attempt to try to do something different--in a world where we will be dead if we don't rapidly change the dynamic in the workplace where workers are under attack every day.
Nathan Newman et. al. in LaborBlog
Ironically, a split in the AFL-CIO could lead to more unity. The SEIU-led coalition goal is to create organizing unity among its five unions -- plus probably the Carpenters. And the rest of the remaining AFL unions will no doubt feel pressure to unify more of their organizing drives or see the new coalition moving in on their territory. This is exactly what happened in the 1930s when the formation of the CIO led to the AFL back then launching a massive organizing drive, something the CIO unions had been demanding but something those unions refused to do until they had the pressure of an alternative federation breathing down their neck.

This may be unity of two competing blocks, but that's better than 57 separate unions all doing their own thing as happens today.
Bill Fletcher in the Black Commentator
The issues SEIU raised were important, but largely secondary to the greater challenge facing organized labor. Missing from the SEIU analysis (and virtually anything else that has subsequently appeared from either SEIU, its allies or its opponents) have been issues including a clear understanding of the forces of capitalism that workers are up against, including but not limited to globalization; the manner in which the US government has shifted more and more to the Right and become increasingly hostile to workers and their unions; how unions should organize critical regions like the US South and Southwest, and particularly how to ally with African Americans and Latinos in these regions in order to be successful; how to engage in political action in such a way that working people can advance an agenda and candidates that represent their interests and not simply the institutional interests of unions or established political parties; the continued relevance of fighting racism, sexism and other forms of oppression and intolerance if workers are to ever unite; how to work with and build mutual support with workers in other countries; and the critical importance of joining with others to fight for democracy.
Steve Early (CWA) in Tikkun: (For an opposing viewpoint from SEIU's Stever Lerner, you have to buy the magazine)
The real question is not whether change is needed, but whether that change should come from the top down or the bottom up. Stern’s suggestions are a management-based, top-down solution. Many rank-and-filers, like those associated with the unofficial Detroit newsletter, Labor Notes, instead have long argued that “putting movement back in the labor movement” requires greater grassroots activism. Labor Notes contributors Jane Slaughter and Dan LaBotz write in their edited compendium, A Troublemaker’s Handbook: How To Fight Back Where You Work—and Win!, that the best-laid plans of headquarters officials will fail to reverse labor’s decline if there’s not a corresponding transformation of union functioning—on the job and in local communities.
Charles Hecksher (Rutgers) and Jonathan Tasini (again) on the Lehrer Newshour (audio)


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