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Democrats take note... If you would like to win back the house and senate later this year you had better begin to define your message.  You had also better begin to speak to working americans.  What can be done to turn the tide for democrats - unions and working people?  These are just a few ideas.  Lately, labor's struggles mirror those of the democratic party -- mostly in terms of declining strength. Perhaps returning to a set core values would begin to advance the cause of working people, and in turn perhaps working people could help advance change in Washington.  Or is labor and the middle class bound to become a footnote in history?  What are the core values or essential missions for working people?  This is an attempt to define them.  

M. Ramsdell

Things continue to erode for working Americans, and labor has been dealt set back after set back. Part of the problem is that labor's message, focus and ideals has been lost on working people. In some areas labor is divided and different groups are battling amongst each other. This cannot help the cause of working people. The following ideas are advanced as an effort to refocus labor's efforts on what is truly important, and to help develop a platform of common ground between various labor groups and affiliations. This has been written without the influence of any group and hopefully favors none in particular.  

What are the sacred tenets of labor?  Is there any common ground we can all cling to in an effort to redefine the movement for working people, regardless of their affiliation or lettered labor group?  Can we build a platform that non-union employees will understand and seek to become involved with?  If we can clarify the principles that was once was the strength of labor, and set ground rules for our differences, are there areas for us to work together?  This is an attempt to create thought and discussion about the issues at the center of the workers movement, please take this in only that regard.  The following is a very basic list of labor's essential missions, ideals and challenges.

1. Organize Always.

This is the first and most fundamental challenge all labor faces.  Has there been a large-scale public national drive since the "Union Yes" campaigns in the late 1980's?  Every possible effort should be invested in increasing labors overall numbers.  This can be done with minimal competition between the different affiliations.  If unions are not getting bigger they are losing the fight, period.  The key to any union's effectiveness is the power of the membership.  This power also comes solely from the number of membership willing to participate and act.  One problem has been a lack of vision in regards to attracting new members.  There has been little done to compel existing members to understand the need to become active and involved in the organizing front.  The message to non-union employees has been muddled and muted.  Some workers regard unions as just a source of additional problems, or just another bureaucratic evil to have to contend with.  This view of labor must be replaced with the ideals of the workers movement that compels people to both join the fight and to fight to join us.  

2. Solidarity.

This simplest idea is often the most unobtainable ideal.  Differences between groups must cease, especially publicly.  Labor must coordinate its collective voice on as many relevant issues as possible.  We must seek to be inclusive rather than exclusive.  There may be tensions between various classifications at a certain employer.  There may be issues between the local, the districts and national chapters or group affiliations.  There may even be competing unions within the same classification or employee group.  When these things happen the differences between us must never be what defines each of our movements.  Bickering and open war among labor federations only suits the corporate agenda.  If a membership group is unhappy with the union it currently has and chooses to seek another union, and this choice made by the workers, then we must honor it and move on.   Competing labor organizations must not seek to influence membership within another group and active raiding of membership between competing unions must stop because it is counterproductive to the advancement of working people.  There are enough non-union employees in every industry to organize; labor groups must never battle over each other's members.  We must look to break down barriers that have traditionally divided us across labor groups, across companies and even across borders to find ways to have more of us standing together.  There must always be support for membership on a picket line.  Anytime a membership group is on strike we must all seek to find ways to support that group by whatever means we are able to.

3. Call to Activism and Charity.

Unions must function as a gateway to involvement, by offering support for groups that effort in charity or advancement of the human society, union halls can serve as rallying points for the collective good.  We must offer additional outlets for activism to fellow causes whether directly related, indirectly related or completely unrelated to the labor organization.  What good are cathedrals of labor if they stand empty every night except once or twice a month when there are meetings?   Red cross training or donation drives, baseball award dinners or even scout meetings might be examples of this.  The idea is to attract people into a union hall even if it is not for a union function.  Labor must strive to be a pillar in the community, strive to help people in all aspects of life.  The drive to help in charitable causes mirrors our own fight for the little guy, and it serves a greater good.  It is important to develop relationships with people and groups in the community in good times, to help earn support from others in bad times.      

4. Personal and Political Involvement.

Membership must commit to involvement.  This is no longer a Partisan issue -- Democrat versus Republican equals unimportant.  Issue by issue involvement with a concentrated focus on working class issues.  Democrat or Republican we must make the advancement working class issues, values and ideals clear to our elected representatives.  The idea is to expand the political muscle of labor issue-by-issue and state-by-state, holding elected officials who betray the interest of working people accountable for their actions.  Achieving this will require members to be both informed and involved.  Just paying your dues is simply not enough anymore.  Complacency in the membership must be challenged, because any chance of the labor movement's success is dictated by the level of involvement of those that believe in the cause.

5. Universal Health Care.

All Americans should have access to affordable healthcare.  Labor must be a leader in the battle for affordable healthcare for everyone.  The discussion in this arena has been dominated by Wall Street brokerages, malpractice attorneys, corporate lawyers and insurance companies.  This is why the situation has become such a problem.  Labor must lobby for the American worker in this arena.  The arguments in regard to healthcare and insurance reform must be taken on in manner that can look to involve non-union employees and non-labor groups.  More and more working Americans are facing life with reduced or no healthcare coverage and this must change.  

6. Defend Retirement Savings.

Demand stable retirement plans and pension reform.  The lottery must never involve less risk than counting on your pension or your 401k; there is serious work to be done in this area.  Whenever possible labor groups must seek to build alliances with groups involved in this fight.  AARP and other advocacy groups could be natural allies in this arena.  The idea that working people deserve a safe and fair retirement wage must be continually advanced.  Our mission in this arena includes defending social security, pensions and increasing the standards of living for retired people.  

7. Shareholder Activism.

This is about taking the battle from the break room to the boardroom.  Labor must begin to flex its muscle in the boardrooms of America.  Many membership groups either directly or indirectly own their company's stock in pensions, 401k's and other related programs.  Employee owners and trustees of the members stock should be voting the conscience and interests of the working shareholders.  Labor groups should make available ideas and teach its members about shareholder activism to encourage shareholder motions in an effort to promote changes and reform in the operation of the company.  There are several proposal ideas that can positively affect the governance of a company and that are in the interests of our membership, examples include limiting golden parachutes and option grants to executives.  Even if we fail to win the vote on a shareholder proposal, the media just might cover our efforts and draw attention to the issues of corporate governance we wish to change.  While many shareholder activists and even a few union groups have begun to advance this idea in the post Enron economy, this concept is still in its infancy.  

8.  Monitoring corporate responsibility, governance and fraud.

Speaking out on corporate governance out is critical to the survival of labor as well.  Collectively we must be vigilant and on alert for the next potential large corporate catastrophe like Enron and also speak out on smaller indiscretions like abuses by the company's board, its officers and its executives.  There have been glaring examples of corporate and executive malfeasance in the meltdown of several large corporations it is our duty to insure that those who violate their fiduciary responsibilities are held accountable.  We must speak out loudly against those who are doing a poor job of running their corporations.  When management is doing a poor job it is our membership that will be laid-off or have to take concessions.  No one knows the job better than those of us who are actually doing the work.  We cannot expect others to speak out on these issues for us.  

9. Standing for Honor and Reform

Unions must stand committed to honorable practices and reforming within their own organizations.  Ethics may be compromised in the "Boardrooms of America" they must never be by the unions.  Inclusion and involvement of the membership in key decisions must always be the goal.  Unions by nature are democratic organizations and this principle must never be compromised.  Accountability and responsibility for the union's recourses must be clear to the membership and is a trust that cannot be violated.  How we account for the spending of our member's union dues and utilize our assets must be clear to all and serve the interests of the members.  We must never think we are not accountable to those we serve.

10.  Striving for Performance and Safety.

Union must never forget they are under consent challenge to be better than other workers in their industry and better than workers from around the world.  The stereotype of the lazy union member perpetually on break must be obliterated from the public's mind.  Pride in our work is essential if we are to survive.  Union employees must set the highest standard in every industry we are employed.  Unions must also be leaders in advancing the ideas of safe workplaces.  We can create a dialogue between workers and employers to ensure worker safety.  It is in the interest of both the corporations and the membership to strive for the safest possible workplaces.  No one knows our workplace better than us.  We cannot count on anyone to speak on our behalf in the interest of our safety.

Of course, these ideas are just principles of idealism and they are not absolutes.  The ideas listed have only scratched the surface on each issue; of course every concept will have to be developed further.  There are certain principles that might be added, changed or removed to better suit each circumstance, these ideas are offered to begin the discussion on refocusing the principles of labor.  What are the true commandments of labor?  Every employee, union member and organization must decide what core principles will guide their own involvement.  The idea here is to develop a platform that can clearly be defined by everyone both inside and outside of the labor movement.  Our fight is an honorable one.  We can turn the tide against the workers movement by focusing on our common goals and reasserting our principles to the public, to our members, and to our leaders.        

If I am wrong on this tell me why, or send your comments to:

aloosecannon@fuse.net

  http://theloosecannon.net/

Originally posted to The Loose Cannon on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 06:51 PM PDT.

Poll

Is the labor movement dead in the United States?

24%48 votes
75%150 votes

| 198 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  You speak true (4+ / 0-)

    If I may, I'd add that the demise of unionism was achieved by the divide and conquer tactics employed by the corporates.

    What we need to do to counter this is to establish an all-encompassing union open to all workers regardless of specialty.

    In this way it would be possible to fight for afre wages/treatment/working conditions for workers across the job spectrum.

    With only half of the nation's workers participating (60-70 million) 'dues' could be as low as a buck a week and still be capable of building a formidable warchest quickly because a strike would remove half of the nation's workforce rather than a few thousand scattered across a single corporation.

    I'd join the USA union in a heartbeat...and if the bastards declared it 'illegal' I'd join it twice as quick!

    One union covering all workers is the only way to restore our leverage.

    An idea that's time has come in this day when even related unions no longer support one another when dealing with ruthless corporate tactics.

    Parties divide, movements unite.

    by Gegner on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 07:54:19 PM PDT

  •  without Labor, the Democrats are GOP Lite (4+ / 0-)

    very good diary. very good.

    economic democracy is what I want. I am liberal to the extent that I want equality for all and a living decent wage for anyone willing to work, and sufficient help for those who cannot so they do not live in povery and squalor.

    if it were not for the UAW having my family's back my dad would be screwed and eating government cheese and cat food in his old age. Union workers helped build this nation and are due.

    the worst thing that has happened to th democratic party is that it has lost the spine that the labor movement put there.

    •  Thank You (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bignoise

      I wholeheartly agree with your comments.  Democrats and labor have got to find a way to sharpen their message and the two must rediscover how important they are to each other.  This is not just about unions; it is about the survival and advancement of middle class America.

      Thanks again,
      MR

  •  the conservative case for unions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, 0hio, ActivistGuy

    Seriously.  Two points quickly, but there are more.  

    If you would hire a real estate agent to buy or sell a house, hire a lawyer to write a will or represent you in court, and hire a tax specialist to do your taxes, why is this that you are expected, as a layperson, to negotiate individually the terms of your own employment?  Layperson negotiating individually with corporate human resources specialists & their backup attorneys, is not a level playing field.  Union representatives, specially trained, backed up by their lawyers, is more of a level playing field.  

    Job performance does not correlate with negotiating skills.  This is notoriously true among geeks, where the best & brightest are also usually people with poor negotiating skills.  Those with good negotiating skills, as individuals, may or may not have good job skills.  Without a union, the good negotiators get the good deals; performance in core job skills is not rewarded as much as negotiating skill.  With a union, a rational and standardized system is put in place where advancement depends upon developing and using the actual skills that do the actual job.   This is also better for employers in the long run: the money they spend for wages is being distributed according to a rational algorithm that rewards actual productive work.  

    Notice that I haven't even mentioned the Henry Ford factor, of employees earning enough to buy the products their companies produce.  This is obviously a factor, though it in turn depends on returning real industry to the American economy.  See also Kevin Philips critique of "financialization," i.e. "yesterday we produced real goods, today we sell each other debt instruments."  

    More to be said on these topics at some point; meanwhile I have a phone call....

    •  You were on a roll (0+ / 0-)

      I would like to hear more....

      "This is also better for employers in the long run: the money they spend for wages is being distributed according to a rational algorithm that rewards actual productive work."

      I totally agree with this particularly.  I believe a union can actually be beneficial but the problem is many problems exist in the labor movement as well.  Labor needs to sharpen its message and how it runs its affairs.  Perhaps it is only an interesting coincidence but so do the Democrats.  As both are in some disarray is it any surprise that working people are being rolled over by the "Society of Ownership".    

      Thanks for your comments
      MR

      •  here's the piece about level playing field (0+ / 0-)

        Markets work when they are free and fair.  A level playing field means the same rules apply to all participants.  Conservatives-of-convenience like to tout the market system when it suits them, but consistency demands that one plays by the rules even when it's not to one's immediate advantage.  

        Now consider this.  You go in for a job interview and you bring along your own personal attorney or negotiator to negotiate your contract.  Chances are the employer is going to skip right over you and hire the person who is competent at the job but is a poor negotiator, because they will cost less.  

        So clearly, individuals attempting to put themselves on a level playing field will end up getting bypassed.  The only way to deal with this is to prevent the employer objecting to the prospective employee having a professional negotiator on his/her side.  Long story short, that translates to union contracts.  

        In court, trying to defend yourself w/o a lawyer is considered the height of stupidity.  Yet each and every person (unless they're in a union) is expected to negotiate their own wages & working conditions, which is a transaction that will typically have the largest lifetime financial impact.  The inconsistency of that is mind-boggling.  

        Now what I'd like to see is a means by which people who are ostensibly "professional or management" can get unionized or similar representation.  No one's going to make me believe that anyone hired on "salary" really has the kind of authority and autonomy that truly qualifies as "management."

      •  'many problems exist in the labor movement' (2+ / 0-)

        This is the crux of the matter, I believe. Unions have some real problems that need to be solved. One major problem is corruption. I don't have any particular suggestions to solve this problem, but it must be solved. I am glad you included commandment 9 (Standing for Honor and Reform.) It is of prime importance.

        Another major problem is touched on by commandment 10 (Striving for Performance and Safety.) I would say that not striving for performance is responsible for the biggest image problem that unions have. Just about everyone can tell stories of experiences with people who simply don't do their jobs because they know the union protects them from being fired. Unions need to defend workers who are treated unfairly, but they shouldn't protect lazy and/or incompetent workers.

        Another problem is the overall strategy taken by unions, which seems to be to simply bargain for higher wages and benefits. In today's system of corporate globalization, this leads to more jobs shipped overseas where labor is cheaper. Although the "ownership society" that Bush has in mind is a cruel joke, a genuine ownership society is what we need in this country. As technology advances, labor loses bargaining power relative to capital. The only hope for the future is for that capital to be more evenly distributed. Unions need to see their role less as adversaries to corporations and more as owners. They need to use their influence not just to raise wages and benefits, but also to influence corporate management. Unions should leverage their influence to force corporations to value the wellbeing of their workers more than that of their shareholders. Commandments 7 and 8 are key. Workers should be able to veto golden parachutes, obscene executive compensation, and outsourcing. They should share in the fruits of their labor by gradually earning a share of the company they work for AND having a share in deciding how the company is run. That's a real ownership society. The trick is to avoid Enron-like situations where all of the workers earned capital is looted by corrupt executives.

        Great diary. This is such an important issue.

  •  I Have a Feeling This Will Be Extremely Unpopular (0+ / 0-)

    but for a depressingly timely view of today's blue collar family economics, spend a week or two watching reruns of Roseanne.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 10:49:47 PM PDT

  •  Great work. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    0hio, ActivistGuy

    Well-reasoned and eloquent.

    Ever read this? Fine piece too.

    This is the geography of religion, homophobia, and money—an inextricable Gordian knot of political power not just in Thomas Frank’s Kansas, but also spreading from the blue-collar suburbs and prosperous exurbs of places like Ohio to poorer African-American and Latino neighborhoods of cities like Philadelphia. These are the deindustrialized swing states; places where Republican dominance could mean that party’s control of the presidency for decades. The left has all but abandoned these places where the factories closed and unions died. Here in the rust belt, a right-wing network of churches and businesses offers exactly what the CIO once did: both short-term material gains for members and a militantly transformative vision of the world. Their vision is reactionary and fundamentalist, of course, but it remains in every sense a comprehensive moral judgment on a crass, decadent twenty-first century America. As former union activist and current evangelical crusader Phil Burress said in closing to the New York Times (in language that might have come right from an old CIO militant): “our movement is not concerned necessarily with Republicans or Democrats; people who are in positions with those parties do what they do because it serves their self-interest. Our movement will be something more, to change this world with our moral vision.”

    Slap it. Shoot it. Kaboot it.

    by adios on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 10:51:50 PM PDT

    •  I have not read this but I am going to -- (0+ / 0-)

      Ohio figures to be a key battle ground again.  It makes no sense that this state is a red state.  I live outside Cincinnati, which still is a Neo-con haven even as the bush presidency self-destructs.  I do not understand how people here focus only on the distractionary issues and fail to see the net effects on the schools on their pensions on their jobs etc. Democrats and labor have their work cut out if they want to turn this red state blue -- particularly in southern Ohio.   Paul Hackett's recent success was encouraging but Jean Schmitt's district will likely still elect a republican.  We have got to develop a message that will reach these folks.  If we cannot reach the working class in Ohio -- Democrats cannot ever expect to regain the majority.  

  •  Whichever political party assumes power (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ActivistGuy, The Loose Cannon

    every American needs to stand together.

    We do not need the following bullshit anymore or ever again:

    Imagine if Congress decided that a single state in the US, such as California, was in desperate needs of jobs and investment and made dramatic changes to boost that state's economy.

    Imagine Congress did the following for only 1 US state:

    Drop the minimum wage to $0.53/hour
    Exempt them from child labor laws
    Expand the work week
    Reduce protection for health, safety, retirement and the environment
    On top of this, the companies residing in California still have free duty-free access to all of the others states. In other words, California companies could produce at a fraction of the cost of other states yet would be able to sell directly into all other 49 US states and compete at no additional cost.

    What would you think of that? You and the other 49 states might agree that this was absolutely ridiculous!

    But this is exactly what is happening right now with NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Not with California, but with Mexico at the time NAFTA was passed.

    When NAFTA was passed, many people thought the same way you probably do now. The results have indeed been disastrous:

    The trade deficit with Mexico is now one of the largest of US trading partners (5th largest deficit trading partner)

    Mexican wages remain as low as they were prior to NAFTA and are still a small fraction of US wages

    Wealth and power has not filtered to the people. Most of the Mexico is still controlled by less than 100 corporations in Mexico

    Many of our other trading partners have relocated facilities to Mexico to circumvent other trade agreements with the US

    US manufacturing has lost 3 Million jobs in the past 10 years
    Now CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) has been signed by President Bush and has been passed by Congress by one vote.

    On the basis of the one-sided disastrous factual results over the past 10 years, whoever advocated CAFTA and the continuing participation in NAFTA seems to be either grossly negligent as an American or is simply working on behalf of another country.

    Link, http://www.economyincrisis.org/

    •  I think this is a profound way of looking at this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      0hio

      I believe you have hit the nail on the head.

      To a certain extent "free trade" has done little to benefit working Americans.  Most of the predictions about what would happen when we pursued these policies have come to pass.  The standard of living for working people in most of the world has not advanced either. Only one group has reaped the benefits from these policies -- multinational corporations.

      My question to everyone is how to we begin to impress this argument on the average working class person.  More Americans have less healthcare, less disposable income and are working two jobs to get by.  Yet, many of these same people are part of the 35-40% percent that is voting for republicans in red states.  The message to these people must be sharpened and we must be able to reach these folks.  Otherwise we will be looking at another Republican mandate.

      Thank you for your "well put" remarks

      MR

  •  commonwealth of toil (3+ / 0-)

    Good one! I don't think it's much of an exageration to say that any kind of decent future for humanity depends on a free labor movement, here and elsewhere.

    People constantly blame unions for declining membership, but the main reason for this in the US is the export of jobs.  

    Of course, part of the answer is organizing but coalition building is just as important.  In the last year in WV we have seen what this can do in opposing the privatization of Social Security, raising the state minimum wage, protecting the widows and widowers of workers killed on the job, and expanding health care.

    The labor movement has always been at its best when it sees its mission the way people like (WV native) Walter Reuther did, i.e. to "fight for the welfare of the public at large."  

    That's the road to resurrection.

  •  Moral Vision (0+ / 0-)

    Kudos to Adios...

    When unions began to imitate corporations and stood for hierarchy, sinecure, and "old boys." They lost a lot of support.

    When working class values veered toward Reagan and Bush Jr.--solidarity went out the window.

    The blood and sweat of the working man has built this country.  That valuable tonic is lost amid our panic, self-interest, and self-loathing.

    A note to "Loose Cannon," the words democracy and accountability occur only once in your note.  I see these as essential to the success of the next labor revolution.

    "Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal." Richard Nixon on David Frost (1977)

    by Agent Orange on Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 09:40:44 PM PDT

  •  Has Anyone Consulted a Union? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMarshall, The Loose Cannon

    I searched this diary on the word " I " to find references to personal union experience, and found only one, from the child of a union worker. I find very few personal refrences in blue collar topics here, noteably unions and illegal immigration.

    I'll raise the same notion I've raised when minority issues come up, that given the reach of dKos it might be very useful to have a leading union figure or two commenting or diarying here regularly or at least once or twice.

    I've never been union so I have no connections myself to extend an invitation. But it seems such a waste to have such astonishing access to a segment of the party not being used when it's so easy.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 09:54:49 PM PDT

    •  Re: Has Anyone Consulted a Union (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMarshall

      With the exception of specific craft and class unions.  It has been my general experience that union halls will welcome non-members with open arms, especially someone who is an activist and wants to help try to make a difference.  If this is not the case then it is probably not a union you would want to be associated with anyway.

      There are other avenues you can explore as well.

      I have provided a few links you can check out.  There are many other groups you could consider also.

      I recommend joining Working America even if you are not in a union.  

      How To Join a Union

      Jobs With Justice

      Working America Activists

      Sadly it seems there are not enough people outside of labor fighting for the cause of working people.  I wrote an article on this you might like.

      The American Nightmare

      Thanks for your comment --
      It made me think

      MR

  •  fantastic diary (4+ / 0-)

    I'm actually starting to get involved in a union campaign in my industry.  The Reality Organizing Committee, a division of the Writer's Guild of America, is dedicated to organizing all nonunion television production, where the networks and the production companies are literally getting away with murder.  We have a new tactic which we'll be rolling out shortly.  In fact, I just got an email today to help with the website.  I've actually posted a bit on this before, and will continue to do so.

    Thanks for inspiring me to carry through.  We will not get anywhere as Democrats without being on the side of the working man.

    Union Yes!

    D-Day, the newest blog on the internet (at the moment of its launch)

    by dday on Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 11:36:55 PM PDT

    •  i'll look for it (0+ / 0-)

      Good luck with that, I've heard reality-TV is pretty ugly.

      "While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free." - Eugene Debs

      by matthewc on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 04:20:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and it's spreading (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BMarshall

        The networks have been so successful keeping down costs with reality and nonfiction TV that they're trying to port the model to the scripted world.  Basically they set up independent production companies for each new program in an attempt to distance them from working union agreements.  The telenovelas on "MyNetwork TV," the new Fox channel headed this fall, are getting like $500 a script, obscenely lower than the WGA mandatory minimums.  They can do it because their indepedent production company is not covered by the current CBA.

        Basically all television is poised to go nonunion if we don't fight it.

        D-Day, the newest blog on the internet (at the moment of its launch)

        by dday on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 09:37:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Some anecdotes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marek, deselby, Caldonia, The Loose Cannon
     
    I am a Union member. SEIU.

    Here are some frustrations:

    Some people rail against the Union while reaping the benes.  These people are always Repubs or "Independents".  They complain about "Welfare cheats" while they suck on the Union teat  and refuse to pay their Union Dues. If they don't pay their dues for 3 months, dump their asses.  Kick them out.

    I have called them out about this hypocrisy.  Sadly, they don't seem to get it.  I have told them they are free to work at a non union hospital.  But no, what they want is union benes w/o union dues.  

    They want to be rich.  My response is, how many paychecks are you from living on the street?

    Republican greed & it's all about money is a mindset that is hard to crack.  

    We have some traveling nurses from the south & other "right to work" states.  I tell them they need to organize & unionize.  They say that people in their states are afraid to unionize.  I say do it anyway.  What could be worse than all you guys coming to California to earn a living wage?  And while you're at it, vote for some state taxes that can get you some roads & bridges,  decent schools, an occasional sidewalk, & some flood control.

    On the other side of the problems unions face is that, yes, there are union members who just lean on their brooms & don't take any pride in their work.

    Unions need to establish some pride in work, rather than just defend lazy ass "welfare cheats".  We need to develop a way to get members to work to a standard.  Too many people know they can't be fired for negligence b/c the union will defend them no matter what.

    Unions should be models of excellence.

    It shouldn't just be about membership numbers, but membership quality.

    The 2 extremes are weighing us down.  

    IMO, we need more internal discipline.  Make management want Union workers rather than fear us.

    Union should mean Excellence.  Everyone should want to be Union & everyone should want to hire Union.

    Of course, this is all moot since our only output these days is weapons.  The military Industrial Complex is our last industry.  That & the dying medical/service industry.  

    Our country is collapsing.  Maybe we are just shouting into the wind.  

    These are the times that try men's souls. Founding Father Thomas Paine

    by x on Mon Apr 24, 2006 at 11:49:00 PM PDT

    •  solidarity forever (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marek, x, Caldonia, BMarshall, The Loose Cannon

      I find myself nodding in agreement with your comments, x.  As a union member (and union organizer) myself - over in the AFT-, the free-riders are the bane of my organizing existence.  Unfortunately, with laws requiring fair representation regardless of membership, kicking them out is out of the question.  We can blame Taft-Hartley and its outlawing of the closed shop for that.

      I don't think that your point is moot just because of the decline of the manufacturing industries in the US.  Granted, that's where union's dominated before, but the service industries are ripe for unionization.  The union movement has to go where the jobs are, and right now, they're in the services and in the non-profits.  Unionize folks wherever they are.  This has been SEIU's great legacy, and places like LA and Las Vegas are the epicenter of this new organizing.

      Incidentally, kudos to the Loose Cannon for a great diary - I hope you don't mind if this gets printed out and posted on the bulletin board in our local office, because folks need to read this.  And thanks for SusanG for making sure this one didn't scroll away from the attention of us less active laborites!

    •  This is a brillant take (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Caldonia

      Well said - Well said.

  •  Union is the side that won the Civil War (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMarshall

    All Loose Cannon says is true.  

    Experience proves that selling the idea of unions to workers requires more than logic.  Modern times require new labels (rebranding is the fashionable term, I think.  Had Enron employees organized would they be without pensions today?

    In the South, "union" is the side that defeated them.  "Labor" is something my parents sent me to college to avoid having to do.  Being a member of a "local" makes me wonder what big "brother" is doing.  

    Lets think of new ways to say these things.

  •  on the whole i agree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Loose Cannon

    i think this post is a good start to a conversation.  but there are some further issues to consider:

    How do unions deal with immigration?  On a related note, how do unions deal with globalization and trade?  

    Moreover these commandments paper over some very thorny issues.  For example, many people consider AMFA to be a union whose membership was built on raiding other unions, which is a violation of Solidarity.  When AMFA decided to strike against Northwestern, should other unions have respected those picket lines?

    These are just a few scattered thoughts.  I'm glad you posted this diary to get the conversation going.

    •  It is just a start... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMarshall

      The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  

      I am glad you brought up the AMFA strike at Northwest.  I believe this is a critical area that Labor has gone wrong.

      I wrote this piece with a few things in mind when I sat out to write it

      1. The division between the AFL-CIO and the newly formed change to win group.
      1. The split and anger between the IAM and AMFA during the beginning of the mechanics strike with Northwest Airlines.  
      1. The possibility of AFA raiding the PFAA at Northwest Airlines during contract negotiations while the carrier was bankrupt. (This possibility has become a reality now)

      I sought to find common ground for labor in labors ideals.  I was trying to put the divisions in a certain context and help find ways to work together.

      Here are some links to ideas I have on that issue.

      The Loose Cannon - AMFA issues

      Beating The Red-Tailed Stepchildren

      Thank you for your comments,

      I enjoyed your take..

      MR

      •  ctw vs. afl-cio (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Loose Cannon

        hmm, very interesting.

        the amfa and afa/pfaa issues are different from ctw vs. afl-cio.  i believe ctw and afl-cio explicitly vowed not to raid one another's unions at the time, and as far as i know they've abided by those promises.

        i know less about afa vs. pfaa, but from what i understand there were a lot of unions, not just iam, who were angry at amfa for its past union raiding.  the pilots and stewards, for example, crossed the amfa picket lines.  i think partly these decisions were reflections of anger at the past union raiding, and partly the results of personal conflicts with amfa's president.

        at the same time, the AMFA strike had an important principle behind it - that the company (Northwestern) shouldn't be able to get away with its meticulously planned union-busting efforts.  you shouldn't be able to hire and train scabs a full year and a half before a contract expires, especially when you're messing with crucial issues of airline safety as in the case of a mechanic's strike.  personally i'm sympathetic to the AMFA strike and i don't fly northwestern, but i certainly udnerstand the animosity directed to AMFA.

        as for ctw and afl-cio, i actually think this split is needed right now.  eventually, probably inside of 5 years or less, the two will merge again.  and i wouldn't be too surprised if it was afl-cio choosing to join ctw instead of the other way around (would we then see a federation called ctw-afl-cio?)

        but the point is CTW is giving AFL-CIO a sort of kick in the pants to get its organizing act together.  i remain skeptical of CTW but I think they are in the process of proving themselves; we'll see how the current Make Work Pay campaign plays out.  for better or for worse, CTW is the face of "social movement organizing" today, and i think moving in that direction is very important, so much so that a temporary split in the movement is worth it.

        you can already see afl-cio making overtures in response to ctw, although i doubt they would ever admit it.  if you read the afl-cio press release list/blog you'll see quite frequent references to CWA, the most CTW-like of the AFL-CIO member unions.

        anyway, i'll give your blog (blogs?) some further reading.. looks like you've explored these issues in quite a lot of depth.

        Think our country is too conservative? Then grow more liberals! http://www.plantingliberally.org/

        by PlantingLiberally on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 08:34:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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