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From the teenager who has just gotten their first job to the local manager at the big box retail store we should be able to join a union, from the single mother working two jobs to the engineer with a Masters Degree working for the giant technology corporation we should be able to join a union, from the summer intern to the high school dropout we should be able to join a union.  Yet, we cannot.  Why?  Because we are told we cannot.  

Unionization was one of the most successful ways to fight against the wealthy elite that this country has seen.  Yet over the last few decades they have been losing power and membership.  The old ways unions were organized are outdated and it is time to update the way in which workers associate with unions.  

I am not calling for a drastic overhaul of institutions that have served all workers in this country fairly well over the years.  Instead I am calling for a change on how we consider ourselves to be a part of a union and how we go about joining a union.

(If you are intrigued feel free to continue)

Like medical insurance, a union should not be tied to your job.  It is too easy for us to be divided as workers simply because we do not share the same occupation.  Instead, a union should represent its members across companies, occupations, and country of employment. If you lose your job you should not lose your union or its representation.  Instead being part of a union should be based upon dues paid and accumulated union dues (in case a person falls on hard times).

What I am calling for is the creation of a new union.  We can tentatively call it the American Workers Union.  This union will allow anyone to join who is willing to pay its monthly dues.  This union will give its members both group and individual support with employers.  

For example:

Say you work for a Wallmart and want to form a specific union at your local Wallmart.  They are notorious for violating the law to crush such an idea.  What if instead each individual employee joined the American Workers Union?  Wallmart could do nothing about this.  This would happen on the employee’s personal time.  In this country we have freedom of assembly and corporations cannot take this away from us (not yet anyway).  This new union could support these Wallmart employees in multiple ways.  They could offer legal advice on how to form their own local Wallmart union (The American Workers Union does not care if you join other unions as long as you pay your dues).  They could offer advice to individual employees on contract negotiations.  They could sue the Wallmart for anti union practices.  The list goes on and on.

Another example is the engineer at the giant tech company.  Say Intel decides that they want to outsource 2,000 jobs to a third world country.  Engineers are usually not unionized, but what if some of them were?  Those that were willing to join the American Worker Union would now be able to protest this move more effectively.  From being able to have legal representation to being able to possibly go on strike.

The key thing to take from this idea is that the union is no longer limited by occupation, local of employment, or even the existence (or non existence)of a union at the workers place of employment.  Instead the union is formed by individuals of the mindset that we are stronger if we work together and that by sacrificing a small payment that we will receive more compensation in the long term.  Such a union is formed on the idea that if economies of scale can apply to businesses then they can apply to employees.  

A factory worker is more likely to stand up for their rights if they are backed by 1 million people and have a feeling of help and security from their union.  The same is true of the burger flipper, retail manager, engineer, and any other worker in this country.

It is time for workers of this nation to come together and let our employers know that we can get around their rules and form groups that will represent our own interests that can hold just as much power as they do.

This diary is an idea I had and I would like to know what the Daily Kos community thinks about it.  Any feedback would be appreciated.  

Originally posted to ZatCSU on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 04:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors and Community Spotlight.


Is this idea something you think should be pursued further?

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Comment Preferences

  •  You May Simply Be Describing a Political Party. (18+ / 0-)

    I often mused here about the possibility of people other than employees joining existing unions. For example as a self-employed artisan I work with machines, could I join a machinists' union in some capacity by paying dues (possibly a reduced rate since I'm the owner and sole employee so there's no possibility of needing bargaining assistance)?

    The AFL-CIO has a civilians' organization called Working America which is a way for us to affiliate with the unions.

    You might look into that and see how close it comes to what you're suggesting.

    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 Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 04:28:29 PM PDT

    •  I know that there once was (and I'd bet that there (5+ / 0-)

      still is) a prohibition against the establishment of a "Company Union" in labor laws. Seemingly management would "unionize", force all employees to join, and then pick their pets to "negotiate" with. But I'm with you in believeing that some of the old stuff is now archaic and that modifications that enhance true "organizing" are things that need to be seriously explored.

      Quite honestly, Unions have gotten their asses kicked for decades, and society, all of us, have suffered the consequences.

      There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

      by oldpotsmuggler on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 04:57:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In Many Of The Northern Industrial States... (7+ / 0-)

      Craft Unions have always done what you are talking about.  You don't have to be employed to be a member of the Union.  If for example you are a plumber, you would register at the local and as employers needed Union Plumbers you would get a job.  

      However, if you are self-employed, you could not join a Union.  Why would you want to strike against yourself?

      •  Maritime unions do this too... (0+ / 0-)

        Longshore workers and crew members on commercial ships do this a lot of the time too.

        Job openings are called at the union hall and the member is able to take the job whoever the employer is.

        An able-bodied seaman could easily have a 30-year career at sea and work for numerous different employers in a union like the Seafarers International Union, for example.

    •  A better way (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fayea, dsb

      is IWW, which I and others elaborate elsewhere.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:05:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

      What the OP described is a political party. And, contrary to what the OP suggests, an occupation- or industry-oriented union is necessary. Such a union can understand the special problems of workers in a particular industry and for a particular company and represent them better in negotiations with that industry or company than a political party can.

      The devil is in the details, and the OP overlooks that.

  •  The union you describe already exists (29+ / 0-)

    it's an old union with a proud history  - the IWW, also known as the Industrial Workers of the World, and colloquially as "The Wobblies".  been around for well over 100 years.
    You can learn more here

    "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verite et de la dire" Jean Jaures

    by Chico David RN on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 04:48:07 PM PDT

    •  The IWW has helped some (8+ / 0-)

      bike messengers in San Francisco to form their own union and successfully negotiate with some local companies, IIRC.

    •  came here to say this, and some more (13+ / 0-)
      Not tied to your job: Check.  The unemployed and even self-employed can be in the IWW.  The only people who can't are those who have power to hire and fire (i.e. managers and capitalists).

      Represents workers across all industries and countries: Check.  IWW means "Industrial Workers of the World"- 'Industrial' refers to organizing workers by industry rather than trade (for example in the restaurant industry all workers in a single restaurant would be in the same union, as opposed to trade unionism in which the dish washers would be in one union, the waitstaff in another, the cooks in a third, etc).  'Of the World' means exactly what it says on the tin.  Although the IWW is overwhelmingly American, there are branches across Europe, in Australia, and even Uganda.  In theory, by organizing as a class and cutting across ALL other barriers (race, gender, religion, nationality, etc- they're all distractions), we can do things like fight outsourcing by making sure that workers are treated fairly in ALL countries.

      The IWW also has some extremely unusual strategic and tactical methods, such as eschewing voting and contracts for "Solidarity Unionism"- direct action and other kinds of pressure can often get results faster and more thoroughly than waiting for some lawyers or government bureaucrats to tell you if you won or not.  The IWW aspires to become "a union of organizers" rather than a huge mass of rank-and-file ordered around by a few paid professionals- in fact, the only person in the IWW bureaucracy who is constitutionally allowed to be paid for their work is the General Secretary, who is literally a secretary.

      Dues are in the $5-$20 range for any worker, half of which stays with your local branch.  All members get a report every few months, and annually, showing exactly where the money is going.  The IWW is extremely democratic in general; it's almost more of a federation of many semi-independent locals than it is an organization in the usual sense, which jibes with its general Anarcho-Syndicalist (not to mention fiercely anti-capitalist) philosophy.

      •  Glad to see I'm not alone here (5+ / 0-)

        Mentioning the IWW. Actually I come late to this thread and posted before reading comments.  My own comment posted to the main thread links to the concepts of One Big Union and Solidarity Unionism for the reasons you elaborate.

        Nice meeting you.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:02:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Can you name any accomplishment of the IWW (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in the last 20 years? This is not snark. There aren't many Union victories to point to in the last 50 years by any organization. I met a guy at a party in the 1990s who was an IWW organizer, and by this time in my life I had been involved in 3 Union drives and they were lost causes all. Anyway this guy gave me a card and we never met again. What I remember about this encounter was my surprise that there still was an IWW.

         Later I was involved in efforts to create a Forest Workers Union in Oregon with the assistance of the International Carpenters Union, never saw an IWW organizer during the entire effort. Another lost cause in any event.

        What does the IWW do, where are they doing it, and who are they doing it with? I'm checking for a website after I post.

        •  Limited - but better than a new start (4+ / 0-)

          There have been some limited and local successes - Starbucks workers in some areas, bike messengers in others.  I'm not saying the IWW has been a huge success, just that it fits the description of the organization the diary asks for.  They have a lot against them, since they tend to be opposed by all the major forces in America - the bosses, the government and the mainstream labor movement.  Partly because they were almost the only union that did not go along with purging socialists and communists when the red scare types demanded it.
          Most successful union currently by my lights is my own - California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee - which takes a very different approach than the IWW.

          "Wouldn't you rather vote for what you want and not get it than vote for what you don't want - and get it?" Eugene Debs. "Le courage, c'est de chercher la verite et de la dire" Jean Jaures

          by Chico David RN on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:07:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Zat's hit on something that frustrates many (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            joe wobblie, dsb, AoT

            people I know. How can Unions be more effective and how can we organize mass participation and membership outside of a specific work place?

            I've signed up with the AFL-CIO non member group, but I've never been asked to show up for anything, although I do get occasional emails on petition drives or information on a Union action. I would love to have a nation wide outfit to belong to that had some ability to move the Democratic party or accomplish something in my community,as well as help working families.

            But I think I'll sign up with IWW just for grins since I just bookmarked their website.

        •  In Wisconsin (6+ / 0-)

          in addition to agitating for the General Strike, which, despite failing, was a heroic effort, which is an accomplishment in itself, there's a 560 (telecommunications iirc) branch working on organizing a call center in Madison.  The sort of place big unions don't want to touch- shit wages, no job security, completely unskilled labor, no history of unionization, etc.  There's going to be a campaign to organize grocery workers at a chain of yuppie food pseudo-coops in the Twin Cities soon.  okay not accomplishments per se but that's what they're doing.

        •  They've organized morethan a couple Starbucks (4+ / 0-)

          and are actively working on the fast food industry, which should have been done years ago.

          I'm a card carrying member of the IWW and proud to say so.  I don't have as much participation in union activities as I'd like but I do support them.

          There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

          by AoT on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:05:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  One Big Union! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've read a lot of IWW history

        Republicans take care of big money, for big money takes care of them ~ Will Rogers

        by Lefty Coaster on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 05:27:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  LOL - See my down-thread post (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dsb, AoT

      Which I wrote after reading the diary (but not yet comments).

      IWW is arguably the most enlightened approach but declined in the US with the rise of the AFL-CIO, which tended to focus more on narrow member interests and contracts, ultimately to the detriment of the Union Movement.

      Personally, I think the IWW could be part of a union renaissance in the US if it got more interest and support from non-traditional sectors such as IT workers, which are ripe for unionization.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:57:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You actually are describing a "political party" (7+ / 0-)

    (though an idealized one, and not any that actually exist, as I understand it.)

    So how do we grow "Unionism"? Read up on "card check" as a begining point.

    So we either need a "Worldwide Labor" political party, or real world unions that can effectively substitute for one. And you're right that we need this both urgently, and immediately.

    But it seems to me that the only available answer is the one that I used to get when driving around the South and, clearly as an outsider, I used to stop and ask directions. The uniform answer then was always "you can't get there from here".

    Oh, and by the way, I wish you all the good fortune in the world on your journey. Humanity needs you to succeed.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 04:49:15 PM PDT

  •  Just yesterday I was speaking to a couple of (11+ / 0-)

    my colleagues about unionization. We work in the not-for-profit sector, which is a large (and growing) sector of the economy and has been largely overlooked by traditional labour unions. Specifically, we work for a health-related charity which has recently undergone a major restructuring, leaving us wondering about the future of our careers. (Incidentally, I've been in the not-for-profit sector for 17 years.)

    We understand the economics and we don't expect to be paid like auto workers, for example. But every worker has the right to bargain collectively, to know how their pay and benefits compare with others, to have a legitimate grievance procedure, etc.

    I'm in Canada, so I'm planning to contact the Canadian Labour Congress next week to learn how we might proceed.

    -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

    by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 06:54:39 PM PDT

  •  You Are Not Correct Here... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wreck Smurfy, dsb, jacey, sb
    to the local manager at the big box retail store
    By law, Management cannot join a Union.  The diferentiation is whether you are Management, not Hourly/Salary, skilled/unskilled, etc.
    •  Probelm with this (13+ / 0-)

      is that it is stuck in 20th century thinking. Wall-mart takes advantage of the idea that a "manager" earning 13$ an hour is not part of the same political class as a greeter making 8$.

      That's how they WANT you to think.

      •  But They Are Free To Join A Poltical Party... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        if they are part of a Political Class.  But if their job is to supervise employees they cannot join a Union.  Very reasonable.

        Is it possible that some of the people that you are calling "Managers" are not really Managers (of people) and therefore elegible to join a Union after all?

        My first job as a Forester, with a major Paper Mill, was in a Staff position.  It was a salaried position, I had liberal use of a company truck, unlimited (within reason) sick leave), a pension, and free coffee (true but just a joke).

        I did not supervise any employees therefore I was elegible to join a Union with other Staff Foresters (one additional) or other non-managing Foresters (7-10), mostly Timber Buyers.  The clerical staff at the time was also elegible to join a Union even though they were Salaried (non-exempt)

        But why would I have wanted to?  The purpose of joining a Union is to better ones employment position.  Joining a Union would have hurt me in that case not helped me.

        In some cases it is the Union leaders that are stuck in the 20th century and do not recognize what the employee adds to the companies bottom line and negotiates ridiculous condtions that hurt the company and minimally benefit the employee.

        Surely you don't want to elimnate all 20th Century (and earlier) Labor Rules such as Davis Bacon.

        Anything of great worth needs to be protected over and over.  Labor Rights are one of those things.  But if the Labor Movement expends their energy on unimportant things such as trying to change the law so that supervisors can join a Union, the battle will be lost.

      •  ALL Managers Should Have Proportional Access (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Blueslide, 4mygirls, revsue, Dream It Real

        to the same benefit pool -

        so, if you're a 13 buck an hour manager, and the big scum is a $130,000,000 a year manager, you get ... 14 seconds of hte corporate jet! you get 3 seconds of the executive washroom. you get 1/10000000000 of the options and bonuses ...

        that would cause a lot of pressure to stop defining these 13 buck an hour serfs as "managers".


        Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

        by seabos84 on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:33:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  that is legally InCorrect... (0+ / 0-)

      Management is not barred by law from forming a union.

      The NLRA exempts managers from the protections of the law, giving senior managers a powerful tool to suppress unionization among middle managers, but it does not prohibit managers from forming unions.

      Air Line pilots, ship captains and other middle managers have successfully unionized over the years, despite the legal obstacles.

  •  You should be able to join a union (6+ / 0-)

    even if you don't have a job.

    Unions should run their own health programs, hospitals, banks.

    Given govt's ineffectiveness, unions could be a way ordinary people could protect themselves from the depredations of the 1%.

    If they only had the vision.

    "A Republic, if you can keep it."

    by Publius2008 on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 11:35:18 PM PDT

  •  Wobblies (5+ / 0-)

    I see a few people above have already noted that you're basically describing the IWW. It's a great org. and a great idea.

  •  What you are describing sounds (4+ / 0-)

    similar to craft guilds, but not quite.  More than a union, less than a craft guild.

    Guilds were formed so those of similar occupation could share knowledge about the job, protect the members, provide the members with representation against unfair labor practices and laws, provide health care (such as it was back then), and provide retirement and funeral expenses.  They provided education for the children of the members, dowries for daughters, performed charity work, prevented monopolies, guarded against usury, guaranteed the quality of product produced by the members, and vouched for the character of the members. Members joined based on their interests - the city or country was irrelevant. Cobblers, bakers, carpenters, merchants, performers, etc.

    Guilds got too powerful in society and were brought down.

    They were re-invented as unions.

    Some unions have gotten too powerful and some too weak and I think, in some ways they brought themselves down.

    We need some sort of worker collective that protects the workers and the consumers in much the same way the early guilds and unions did, but re-invened for modern times, modern needs.

    Maybe giving it a name that isn't "guild" or "union" might help spread the idea more.  A league or a concord, perhaps.

    All knowledge is worth having.

    by Noddy on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:00:00 AM PDT

    •  Well, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dream It Real

      You have to remember though that Guilds originated in the medieval era as organizations that included EVERYBODY in a particular business -- the owners and managers as well as the workers or apprentices, and tended to be controlled by the Masters, i.e., the major owners in the trade, at the expense of apprentices as well as customers.  And they acted very openly in restraint of free trade for the purpose of protecting local monopolies.  The closest thing we have to a Guild today is the medical profession: everything is run of, by, and for the benefit of MD's; the laws enshrine their privileges and limit all supporting workers to taking orders issued by the holders of the Medical Degree, while absolutely prohibiting mere laypersons from any rights at all, including the right to make decisions regarding their own health and safety.  And that's a demonstration of why the Guilds were eventually opposed and busted down to more manageable powers.

      Guilds were very good for developing strong, high-quality businesses with highly-skilled and disciplined workers that created thriving and stable economic zones.  They were a little iffy on adoption of innovations and less than ideal in terms of individual rights.  Possibly they needed reform rather than wholesale replacement.  But . . . .(shrug) . . .

      •  I happen to be a member (0+ / 0-)

        of a guild that's existed for a couple of hundred years, and I have to say you are conflating the later period of guilds when they did become as you say (and as the later unions have become), but they were originally started for the exact same reasons as the unions were - to protect the workers and customers.

        Both the guild model and the union model have a lot to offer, until they become corrupt.

        Which is why I wrote my last 2 paragraphs in my original comment.

        All knowledge is worth having.

        by Noddy on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:49:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've always thought the quickest way to organize (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Noddy, farmerchuck

          the computer industry would be to organize like the IWW but call it a guild.

          There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

          by AoT on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:15:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep, (0+ / 0-)

            the computer industry needs organizing, it's shameful the way some companies treat their IT people.

            I do think a blend of guild and union, whatever it ends up being called, would be useful.

            All knowledge is worth having.

            by Noddy on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:24:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think caling it a guild would go a long way (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I'd highly suggest reading Cory Doctorow's For the Win for a fun story about organizing Chinese gold farmers in online games based on an IWW model.

              The point of the name is that a whole lot of people in the computer industry understand what a guild is from gaming, and calling it a guild would be instantly more appealing than calling it a Union.

              There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

              by AoT on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:31:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I was going to say that, (0+ / 0-)

                that people in the computer industry would understand the guild model from gaming, but then I remembered the IT department my daughter once worked in where the computer people didn't play MMORPG like WoW or even EverQuest, so I wasn't positive that was a valid statement.

                But I suppose even if they didn't play, they'd know about them.

                And yeah, having an appealing name for it is important. Unions have developed a bad name, but are still important in our society; upgrading and inproving unions into guilds might work. "Guild" doesn't have the same kneejerk response from large corporations that "union" now has.

                All knowledge is worth having.

                by Noddy on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:31:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  When I worked in hospitality, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I tried organizing two of the hotels I worked at.  Both attempts never really got off the ground.  There would be a couple us that were serious, a couple more that were willing, and many who had no interest because they were either part time or seasonal.  Then, one or two of the people that were behind it would move on to new job, leaving no influential voice among the house maids or behind the line.

      Faced with the frustrations of trying to organize a workplace that in an industry subject to high turnover got me thinking at the time that there must be a better model.  Observation at the time: restaurant/hotel work is somewhere between a factory and a contractor, in terms of length of service in a particular locale.  A factory worker will spend a long time at one location.  A plumber or an electrician will move from job to job weekly (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter).  

      So I questioned how a pipefitters' union exists.  The pipefitter may have a different customer or "boss" every week (I know many will be working for a firm that pays them, but thinking about this way allowed me to see a way to organize hotel workers).   The customer gets a stamp of approval by hiring a union worker.  Made me think the same could be done in the hospitality industry.  If you are a union maid, bellhop, waiter or whatever, the employer can hire you knowing that the union provides training (and even work eligibility and criminal checks, maybe.  I dunno that's kinda creepy.)  The employer would have to pay a premium for that employee.  Your comment on guilds just reminded me of that.

      "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars" --Casey Kasem

      by netop on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:40:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have to say (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4mygirls, brae70, dsb

    ...I really enjoy these types of diaries on Kos. Ones that seek more info and open dialog. The "How absurd/can you top this" diaries about Publicans are entertaining but not really thought provoking.

    Tipped and rec'd...thanks

    -7.5 -7.28, I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one.

    by Blueslide on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:42:21 AM PDT

  •  IF our political party delivered the goods, THEN (0+ / 0-)

    that is what you're recommending.

    since our political party allows the unemployed to be held hostage to the community pilfering of rich pigs - you are suggesting something else.

    I agree and disagree with your idea -

    I think all the people of 1 trade / skill / job should be in 1 union to represent for their interests which are unique to their skill / trade.

    ALL large unions should then be watchdogs on pension security and health care access and retraining / education programs -

    because even though these community services SHOULD come from the community, the last few millenia / centuries / decades / years have PROVEN how f'king corrupt people will be when they're not watched.

    ALL large unions could then better organize ... teachers ... to beat those anti-teacher scum legislators whether the scum are from Spokane WA or Baton Rouge.  The stuff the teachers care about this year isn't necessarily what software developers or carpenters care about.

    I think you're on the right track ...


    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:42:54 AM PDT

  •  What you describe already exists (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dsb, AoT, some other george

    Wobblies, i.e., members of the International Workers of the World or IWW, come from all backgrounds and membership is open to all industrial workers.

    Since inception, the IWW has championed the concepts of One Big Union open to all and solidarity unionism.

    So why don't you know this already?  Because, after a great start, the IWW was shunned by other trade unions, particularly AFL-CIO unions, more concerned with serving the narrow interests of their members than gains for all workers, which ultimately hurt them all.

    But IWW persists, with many distinguished members, and still, I my opinion, the best philosophy and doctrine.

    You can join here, if you are serious.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:50:29 AM PDT

  •  Industrial vs. Trade unionism (5+ / 0-)

    Yep, IWW.  So let me describe the difference between a trade union like those of the AFL-CIO and an industrial union like the IWW.  

    Trade unions are organized by the particular trade you do, pipe-fitter, longshoreman, nurse.  Industrial union's are organized according to the "industry" you work in.  So a pipe-fitter working in a hospital would be in the health workers union.  

    The advantage here is that it organizes workers broadly across swaths of the economy, and thus can hold employer's feet to the fire in situations where one trade can simply be ignored.  If the delivery truck drivers at Walmart had a problem and took direct action (picketing, striking, etc) then the clerks, janitors, and pharmacists would also join the action in solidarity.  Walmart could probably defend against the truck drivers.  But it would be much harder if they had to defend themselves against everyone.  

    The industrial union doesn't limit itself to specific fights with specific employers, but organizes all productive activity within it's industry.  The Sex Worker's Industrial Union 690 (not kidding, it exists) would be responsible for coming up with reasonable policy for sex workers nationally, and advocating for it within the larger democracy.  The working class would have it's own parallel institutions to insure the government remains accountable to us.  

    It's a brilliant concept.  It died because of unprecidented police action against the union.  I was a member for many years.  The problem at the time, is that there are a number of entrenched members who are more comfortable maintaining it as a sort of museum than as a functioning union.  Despite that, there have been some good sucesses.  I organized the herb and natural food store where I worked in Santa Cruz and fought back against the boss for sexual harrasment and favoritism.  

    What the IWW needs is an influx of new members who ignore the perenial infighting of old cranks with personality disorders, and just use the infrastructure God and Joe Hill provided for us to do some organizing.  

    I'd also like to mention, since I was involved, that IWW was the second union in the US on-line with back in the early '90's.  Some pioneers we were.  

    •  That's happening! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe wobblie, dsb, Wednesday Bizzare, AoT
      What the IWW needs is an influx of new members who ignore the perenial infighting of old cranks with personality disorders, and just use the infrastructure God and Joe Hill provided for us to do some organizing.  
      The entrenched losers got more-or-less overthrown a couple of years ago.  Today the IWW is launching campaigns at a blistering pace, from the Starbucks union to the Minneapolis Jimmy Johns union, to agitating for the General Strike in Wisconsin last year, and launching new Solidarity Societies (like a union, but for anything, not just work- for example, if your security deposit was wrongly seized by your landlord when you move out), and now the grocer and retail industrial union is being launched.  It's still tiny, but extremely ambitious, and making much larger waves than its size suggests.  Needless to say, membership is growing by leaps and bounds.
  •  I'm with you (0+ / 0-)

    I've been saying this for years.  In today's world, more so than ever before, unions need to redefine themselves.  I spent 10 years in the U.P.I.U. and was involved in the union as shop steward, and grew up in a union family.  Although there are many many good things about unions, there are some issues that need to be fixed in the unions as well, and I think this is a great start to a redefining of a modern era union.

    My wife is a teachers assistant, and when Walker pushed the end of collective bargaining, they had a meeting with the union and I asked the union leader if they were looking at a re-branding of the union.  She had no idea what I meant.  I told her how today's union definition doesn't fit well in today's world, and just like businesses have had to hone their business to the current market, the unions needed to do the same.  IMHO, too many unions have rested on their laurels instead of growing with all the changes in the world.  Just as businesses and government have changed, so too should the unions.

    •  After getting rid of Walker, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brae70, joe wobblie

      the Wisconsin unions and workers in them need to do some serious introspection.  The union "leaders" are trying to just go back to exactly how things were before, don't rock the boat, absolutely no creative thinking.  They seem to think that labor organization begins and ends in government legislatures.

      •  Supporting Doyle (0+ / 0-)

        was the biggest sign that the WI unions were in trouble.

        He treated the unions like cash cows during election time and worked against them after both elections.

        He refused to work with them before the last election and only after the election tried to push something through which was too little, too late.

        Never again should a union support a politician who is a wishy-washy union supporter.   The Republicans have shown us that the long run is what matters.   A Republican in '06 wouldn't have done what Walker did in '10 and the Unions would have saved the resources they wasted on Doyle for a truly supportive candidate.

        Which is good news for John McCain.

        by AppleP on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 01:21:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary and great posts, thanks everybody. (0+ / 0-)
  •  The ultimate problem is that too many (3+ / 0-)

    Americans have a "management knows best" mentality along with idealistic notions that each individual can and should negotiate his/her own way in the world of work...thanks largely to Reagan followers who have successfully blamed all sorts of things (like inflation, outsourcing, overpriced health insurance, unemployment) on unions. In order for any kind of scheme to improve the lives of working people to succeed, we need to have at minimum a government that is not hostile to the needs of working people...and that is something we do not now have. We need a pro-labor government, which means both strengthening the pro-labor stance in the Democratic party, and strengthening the Democratic party. Without government support, any such "union" as described here will be as ineffectual as the IWW and other progressive groups have been.

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:01:30 AM PDT

  •  I've been advocating something like this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grabber by the Heel

    for a while now, only I called it "small-u unionism":

    I'm a union member, not a Wobbly, (42+/ 0-)

    but I agree with your assesmsent.  There needs to be a link to the labor movement for people who are not part of legally defined bargaining units.  The IWW is one, another is Jobs With Justice:

    For the IWW site:

    Reposted to Retail and Workplace Pragmatists.


    "If you love your Uncle Sam, bring them home, bring them home." - Pete Seeger

    by brae70 on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:30:04 AM PDT

  •  as difficult as this country has made it to (4+ / 0-)

    form unions, especially in those so-called "right to work" anti-worker states, it has occurred to me that there's got to be a way to enable ALL American workers to join some kind of an organization, whether it is called a union or not, whose exclusive purpose is to look out for and pressure elected officials on behalf of workers rights. Something like the AARP, but more like an American Association of Working People, where people can pay a very nominal, affordable fee (i.e. $20 a year) to be a member.

    The exclusive purpose would be to fight for working people. Heaven knows that the filthy rich elites have been sticking it to working people for long enough, and with people like Scott Walker, John Kasich, Paul Ryan, John Boehner and others who are willing prostitutes for the filthy rich and enemies of the working class, we need it.

    •  You can always join/form a union (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brae70, wdrath, joe wobblie

      Any time two workers act together to protect or advance their rights and conditions, that's a union.  You don't need a card, or dues, or an election, or a contract to be a union.

      •  any two people can collectively bargain? (0+ / 0-)

        with whom would they bargain?

        •  sure, if you're creative (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dsb, joe wobblie, AoT

          I meant "at least two".  But having your lawyers sit down and argue with their lawyers until there's a binding contract is hardly the limit of possible labor activity.  The IWW even tends to avoid the mainstream union trajectory (get half the workers to sign cards, have an NLRB election, get a contract) which has resulted in "labor action" being basically limited to protesting and elections.

          Instead (or in addition), we can use other kinds of pressure and action- in fact having an 'official' union can bind your hands when it comes to some things.  For example a union with a no-strike contract can face fines and injunctions.  But if you have a 'union of organizers' that includes enough of the workers, and workers in key jobs, you can strike and bring the boss to his knees even without a recognized union.  Fundamentally a strike is about economic pressure- you don't need the boss to recognize you; you just need them to recognize that they're going to keep losing money until they raise your wages, or end a speed-up, or improve safety conditions, or crack down on sexual harassment by supervisors, or whatever.

          The strike is the 'nuclear bomb' of labor activity of course, and it's not the only option.  My favorite kind of creative tactic is called 'job conditioning'- if there is some really odious rule, the workers simply cease to obey that rule, or implement a new rule, or whatever, all at once, and without asking permission.  For example if there's a speed-up from 50 widgets per hour to 100, and no one can keep up and injuries are increasing, then the workers can all at once go back to the reasonable rate.  Or if everyone is told they have to work forced overtime without pay, the workers all refuse.  Or teachers all stop teaching an objectionable curriculum, such as abstinence-only or 'intelligent design'.  That sort of thing.  It works best with rules everyone knows are bullshit, so that if management provokes a crisis by firing someone for it then the dirty laundry will be out in the open.

          And of course there are other kinds of action that can result in de facto collective bargaining without a strike or contract, such as 'work-to-rule' (most jobs require cutting corners for the sake of efficiency; obeying every rule to the letter can drastically slow things down but you can't get in trouble for it as easily).  Or a mass confrontation with the boss- everyone all at once marches up, someone reads a prepared statement with a demand, and either they agree to it or you promise to escalate- less than two minutes and everyone's back at work.

          Collective Bargaining for a contract can be a tool of unions, but it is not the only tool a union can use.

          •  how many two-person unions are there? (0+ / 0-)
            •  Unofficially? Countless. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joe wobblie, AoT

              If you've ever stuck up for someone at work, that's a two-person union.

              • clarify... (0+ / 0-)

                ...what the diarist seem to be talking about my comments are more about larger groups of people pooling their collective resources, financially and people-wise, to help give more clout to average, everyday workers on a national scale.

                Small "unions" of two or more people in the sense you're talking about is fine, too...but it's hard to see how much impact two or three people will have on Congress, for instance.

              •  The lack of solidarity among workers & the lack of (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Bob Guyer, brae70

                education on, and knowledge of, labor history in the U.S. is a huge impediment to organizing American workers on any scale.

                I have belonged to one private sector Union, Steel Workers, and a Federal worker's Union, and in these situations workers were successful to some degree in protecting their rights. A union steward could really make a difference.

                But, when I worked in non Union shops doing skilled craft work, I witnessed how hard it is to organize young workers to a common purpose in the age of reagan. Everyone sees themselves as the future boss, not as a worker among other workers with shared problems and interests. There is a maddening tendency among younger workers to identify and sympathize with management. They seem not to see their needs or even safety as legitimate as the demands of the employer.

                We need to find a way to frame worker needs and worker identity in a new language that will engage younger workers in this new gilded age.  


  •  Union or political party... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grabber by the Heel, Bob Guyer

    In the end the unions have to be a political party, or be joined at the hip with a party that has strong unions as a basic or sole tenet.  Because you need a political party to protect the unions, to be the way that unions function in the political arena, where society decides which way that will go.

    Since there's been mention of the IWW, I'll hearken back to Eugene V. Debs who in the '20s was trying to form not a reform party, not a middle-class party, but a workingman's party with no compromise.  I'll let Mr. Debbs speak for himself, from 1925:

    "Much has been said about wresting the power of monopoly from the hands of the few who hold sway in our affairs. Let it be understood that the economic power is always and everywhere the political ruler. How are you going to wrest this power from the hands of the autocracy, who are in the minority, unless you organize the workers and their sympathizers, who are in the majority, unless you educate and organize the masses? And build up the political power that will wrest from them the power they have to oppress and exploit the people by taking from them the private ownership of the instruments of production that make them the economic masters and the political rulers of the nation? "

    Today is more similar to 1925 than anytime in between.  Read the whole speech, and see just how similar:

    Debs Speech to 1925 Conference for Progressive Political Action

  •  What you describe (0+ / 0-)

    sounds a lot like a "guild."

  •  How much are the dues (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grabber by the Heel

    and where is the paypal link?  Count me IN!  (and I'm self employed, just want to create some power for workers!)

    Go Bernie Sanders! You are what a politician should be!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:44:25 PM PDT

  •  Wobblies (0+ / 0-)

    Industrial Workers of the World.  Wobblies Join them.  This is what they do.

  •  There is such a group (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grabber by the Heel

    One group that fits most of your description is
    Working America of the AFL-CIO.

    There are also a couple of unions of free lance workers.  One is for writers.  It is affiliated with CWA.

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