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Military V. Health
Right V. NEA, Again
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
MJ's Queer Family
You, Me & the SPP
Schwartz's Solidarity Stories
Gordon's Anarchy Alive
Yates's Working Class
Rich's Human Eye
SCENES OF RESISTANCE
Coups, UNASUR, U.S.
Hug Them While They Last
Nowhere To Fall
Hoodboy on Pakistan
Ramiro on Drug War
Zaps - 10-09
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Cards Stacked Against Labor
All kinds of techniques are used to reverse losing streaks in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Switching decks, tables, or croupiers is one way. Another is to take your action somewhere else. It's still a gamble, but maybe with better odds.
The problem with the labor movement is that it never leaves the table or takes its action elsewhere. Predictably, labor's latest legislative goals in Congress have been pushed aside. There seems little chance for either a viable government alternative to private health insurance or of democratic reforms of the National Labor Relations Act. Of course, the house odds in Congress always strongly favor big business and unions are seldom able to gain an edge. That's the record and everyone knows it. Yet, unions can still recoup their losses by putting aside their skittish "friends" in Congress for a moment and returning to what originally made them so strong—active members and hard bargaining.
It is time to focus on preparing already-organized union members for tough contract negotiations, the only time powerful threats of strike action hang ominously in the air. With union numbers in serious decline, there is no time to waste. Private sector membership is now below 8 percent. Labor's share of the auto industry, for example, shrank from roughly 60 percent of the workforce in the early 1980s to about 30 percent in 2006, with even less representation for hundreds of thousands of parts workers as Chrysler, Ford, and GM spun off these divisions.
There are three issues that can begin to galvanize union members to retake valuable territory previously ceded without much of a fight.
One Union, One Standard
A benefit of the Railway Labor Act (RLA) is that it stipulates national contracts. Airline and rail workers from the same carrier and in the same bargaining class and craft—north and south, east and west—all enjoy the same wages, benefits, and working conditions. This is a powerful unifying factor and should be the example for all negotiations. The other major national labor law, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), applies to most other union employees outside of airlines and rail. It does not have this national requirement and each local employee unit fends for itself. It is, therefore, each union's choice whether to take a stand defending industry and trade labor standards across the board.
The UNITE-HERE international union operates under the NLRA and successfully incorporated this strategy several years ago. The national headquarters fully supported its San Francisco Local 2 in 2004-2006 during an employer three-day lock-out, a strike, and a two-year boycott. Local 2 ultimately won demands to have the same contract standards throughout the city regardless of how large or how small the hotel. But most major unions have long abandoned such an approach.
One example is the United Steelworkers union (USWA) which decided to go "along with a decidedly less adversarial tone [when] the 1986 bargaining round produced separate agreements with LTV, National, Bethlehem, Inland, Armco, and US Steel, which cut the standard...." (Robert Bruno, Labor Studies Journal, Spring 2005). In abandoning uniform industry wage rates, the union allowed each Steel company to cut its own deal according to their individual economic problems.
This approach accelerated the decline of the USWA and of its members' standard of living. It also divided steelworkers doing the same work into different wage categories, thus hindering their solidarity. As an alternative, national industry bargaining for common standards would challenge employer attempts to use economic formulas to divide workers according to region and company.
Common Expiration Dates, Coordinated Bargaining
About the only good that came out of airline bankruptcies during the last several years is that the collective bargaining agreements were all lined up by the judge to expire around the same time. Because creditors of United Airlines (UAL) demanded five-year contracts at the minimum, all UAL unions opted for the same shortest possible duration of the concessionary contracts. That five-year span is up at the end of 2009. Negotiations are now being conducted with UAL by all the unions representing the overwhelming majority of UAL's 48,000 national workforce. In order of size, they are: the baggage handlers and customer service employees (IAM), flight attendants (AFA), pilots (ALPA), mechanics (IBT-Teamsters), and engineers (IFPTE).
It is a good thing that all the unions are bargaining at the same time, but it could be even more effective if negotiations were coordinated, which they are not. In 1969, there was a 102-day GE strike by 150,000 workers represented by 13 international unions. It was hugely successful because there was a coordinating bargaining committee (CBC) representing all the unions, who were united on the issue of reaching parity with workers in steel, auto, and aerospace.
This powerful example of coordinated bargaining still impacts today's GE bargaining. A United Electrical workers (UE) 2007 newsletter explains that "prior to the start of negotiations, each CBC union sends representatives to a series of CBC meetings to discuss contract proposals. Each union, in their separate negotiations with GE, is free to submit whatever proposals their members want, but through the CBC we try to achieve unity on the key bargaining issues. A union that feels strongly about a particular bargaining goal will try to convince the other unions to adopt it as a proposal so that the union will face GE as a united front on the issue."
This united bargaining approach is seldom adopted. In fact, labor's decline has been accompanied recently by more bitter divisions than solidarity. Andy Stern, the leader of the 2.2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for example, has embarked on a strategy of raiding members of other unions rather than staying focused on the 100 million-plus unorganized.
Leaving aside these tragic examples of crumbling union principles, contract negotiations should establish common expiration dates throughout their particular economic sector. Different union bargaining objectives could be resolved through genuine labor coordination as past history demonstrates.
Organize to Negotiate
Congress is not likely to pass legislation reducing employer harassment and threats aimed at union organizers. Staggering numbers of workers are terminated each day for attempting to legally organize a union. Many "estimates suggest that almost one-in-five organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their activities in a union election campaign" (Center for Economic & Policy Research, January 2007). Failure to pass urgently needed democratic reforms such as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is another reason labor must be more aggressive at the bargaining table.
There are currently several international unions who have successfully negotiated majority sign up at a number of locations, but they are too few. This is a job security issue. Union workers have seen their wages, benefits, pensions, and working conditions steadily deteriorate because of competition from non-union sectors of the economy.
Unions must win at the bargaining table what has been negotiated away by their "friends" in Congress. Contract negotiations should require employer neutrality and majority sign up procedures at all new expansion plants and with all contracted vendors. This would give union organizers a fighting chance to expand the union power base. Had the United Auto Workers union (UAW) employed such a bargaining strategy several years ago, they could have prevented expansion of non-union auto plants throughout the south and among the essential auto-parts production sector.
Of course, all these steps are predicated on a militant and mobilized membership ready to strike. It can only be accomplished through a sustained, long-term campaign to inform and interact with members. It will certainly be difficult to reverse decades of disinterest, apathy, and unresponsiveness among millions of union members. Some would consider it a long shot, but it really is our best bet to improve the lives of working families in this country. Even more emphatically, I would argue, it's our only real chance.
Carl Finamore is former president (retired) of Air Transport Employees, Local Lodge 1781, IAMAW.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.