Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Labor Movement: What Harold Meyerson Says...

I have voiced my skepticism about certain unions' (SEIU, Teamsters, etc.) proposals to slash the AFL-CIO's budget in order to rebate the funds to unions to be used for organizing.

Washington Post and American Prospect columnist Harold Meyerson agrees with me:
"For all that, the Teamster dues-rebate proposal around which the dissident unions rallied seemed more symbolic than real, and an inadequate expression of the deeper discontent fueling the revolt. Leaders on both sides of the question acknowledged that the rebates would augment their own unions' organizing programs by no more than 10 percent. Ultimately, however, the real impact wouldn't be the added funds to the member unions; it would be the radical diminution in the size of the AFL-CIO's budget and staff. And it's that diminution that seems closer to the heart of the dissidents' revolt. "We have to blow up the AFL-CIO bureaucracy," John Wilhelm, who heads the hotel side of UNITE HERE, told a labor forum in Los Angeles in February. "The staff should be cut by at least 50 percent." For Wilhelm and his allies, John Sweeney's AFL-CIO has become the symbol of a slow-footed and unsustainable status quo. "
I can't speak for the rest of the AFL-CIO infrastructure, but the loss of the federation's health and safety department isn't worth whatever might be gained by "blowing up" the AFL-CIO.

Meanwhile, in a completely different perspective on the struggles within the labor movement, former UAW Executive Board member and New Directions founder Jerry Tucker accuses both "sides" of focusing too much on form and process, doing nothing than rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, when a much more fundamental change in the labor movement is needed.
There is some evidence that the current debate inside the AFL-CIO has already foundered, despite its narrowly drawn focus. The internet ping-pong match of competing proposals is already giving way to news account postings of 'winners and losers' based on meetings and preliminary votes that have been taken internally. One possible result may be a split in the national center, with one or more unions withdrawing from the Federation.

U. S. labor needs a counter-offensive. And, the centerpiece of labor's counter-offensive, with or without all current labor leaders, should be derived from a new vision of America based on justice and the creation of a new social intersection for all of those abused by the nexus of corporation and state and today's neoliberalism.

A true crisis-resolution strategy must re-introduce a culture, and shared vision, of struggle and of common defense, through worker to worker, union to union, and social movement to social movement solidarity. Under one broad social banner, we need to declare war on poverty, racism, sexism, imperialism, and the denial of the fundamental right to affordable health care for all, full employment, shorter work-time, and many other of the true values due all participants in a just society.