ZNet Book Interview: Solidarity Divided
Can you tell ZNet, please, what Solidarity Divided is about? What is it trying to communicate?
"Solidarity Divided" is an attempt to provide a framework for activists who, in looking at the US trade union movement, are trying to figure out the origin and nature of the current crisis. It is NOT an attempt to examine every question relative to the development of the US working class, nor is it an exhaustive examination of each reform effort. It is particularly focused on efforts that began around 1995 with the coming to power of the John Sweeney administration in the AFL-CIO.
The book additionally attempts to situate the current crisis within the context of the failures of a certain approach to unionism that is grounded in the thought and practice of Samuel Gompers, later amended with virulent anti-communism.
Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
The book is a joint project between me--Bill Fletcher, Jr.--and Fernando Gapasin. Both of us have extensive experience in organized labor, holding various positions, inside and outside the formal structure. Fernando and I tried drawing upon our experiences but we also examined the record of efforts, particularly beginning with the Sweeney run for the AFL-CIO Presidency, to alter the path of organized labor. Fernando and I took different chapters to focus upon.
What are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
We are hoping that the book provokes a wide-ranging discussion and genuine debate concerning the future of the working class both here in the USA and globally. We would be excited if, for instance, the Resolution that was submitted to the AFL-CIO Convention in 2005 (see Appendix A of the book) was discussed within the movement and became an action item that unions, central labor councils, state federations of labor and the national AFL-CIO took up. We would hope that independent organizations, such as the emerging worker centers, would use the book to help think through how they can influence organized labor, but also think through their own strategies toward the birth of a new labor movement in the USA.
In all of this we are up against those who would wish to suppress debate and are more comfortable with sound-bites and rhetoric. Nevertheless, the initial responses we have received have been very positive and insofar as a debate is advanced, we will be very pleased.