Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

The Betrayal of Labor by Labor: On cynicism and deceit

April 26, 2012 Leave a comment

What you are about to read is typical of 99.99% of labor unions in this country.

It’s also a classic tragedy.

Labor unions have a special place in history, not just here in the U.S., but all over the world. Workers organizing institutions to defend themselves and advance their own agenda—i.e., protect themselves from the exploits of Capital and, for some, abolish it—is a noble story of the weak standing up to the powerful.

But for a while now, unions have become tools of exploitation of the working class.

The United Food & Commercial Workers union spends $350,000 a year on the salary and benefits of their labor boss, Joseph Hansen, who doesn’t have a real job. What Hansen apparently does for a living is spend $2-4 million of UFCW dues on election campaigns for the Democratic Party each election cycle. On their website Americans are told to vote for President Obama because he has the workers “interest at heart.”

At a time when workers are under attack by big corporations, special interests, and their cronies in government, President Obama has been an unyielding friend to working men and women. He has stayed true to the vision he outlined to the UFCW nearly four years ago. He is the only candidate for President in 2012 that has our interests at heart.

Not only has President Obama signed three free trade agreements and recently signed the JOBS Act—which Matt Taibbi of Rollingstone magazine writes “is not just a sweeping piece of deregulation that will have an increase in securities fraud as an accidental, ancillary consequence,” but that “this law actually appears to have been specifically written to encourage fraud in the stock markets”—but for two years the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, and made not one attempt to pass Employee Free Choice Act. Then there is President Obama’s bail out of the American auto industry which weakened workers and sent more jobs overseas, while at the same time contracting Spanish workers to build a rail system for us.

How the UFCW can keep a straight face when saying “President Obama has been an unyielding friend to working men and women” who “has stayed true to the vision he outlined to the UFCW nearly four years ago,” leaving him to be “the only candidate for President in 2012 that has our interests at heart” is remarkable. This is cynicism and deceit at its finest.

The reality is that unions are not democratically-controlled by their workers. More and more they are used to control workers, as witnessed in Wisconsin two years ago when labor bosses pushed workers away from direct action.

How can Labor defend itself when it is led by lawyers and crooks who are not even a part of the working class? Labor bosses are looking after their own interests, which is separate from that of the workers they claim to represent, and which is to maintain their CEO salaries.

Labor writer Steve Early recently wrote on the “survival strategies” of modern unions. In highlighting the prevailing conditions, Early quoted sociologist Stanley Aronowitzs as stating, “In short, the [worker] is now generally a client of the union rather than its owner” because for labor leaders “to call upon their members to conduct collective political fights — including direct actions that might disturb the comfortable relationship that the leadership enjoys with the employer — is well beyond the perspective, and therefore, the capacity, of the union.” According to Early, workers “must take ownership of their own organizations and return them to their workplace roots.”

That is absolutely right. Labor bosses have more in common with employers than the workers they claim to represent. Which is why labor bosses often act like bosses by keeping workers under control.

Again, the occurence in Wisconsin is a perfect example. Governor Walker’s bill contained numerous provisions that were harmful to the working class. But it was only the provision on collective bargaining rights that upset some Democrats and labor bosses like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the latter being the one who wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “So here’s working America’s message to governors like Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie: We believe in shared sacrifice.”

Translating gobbledygook: By “shared sacrifice” Trumka means “we will accept everything else in the bill but the provision on collective bargaining rights because that would in effect put me out of a job, and I rather enjoy my salary, hooking for the Democrats, and keeping the workers under control.”

Trumka, a lawyer with a CEO salary, claims to know “working America’s message.” The man couldn’t be anymore out of tune with the working class if he were a Republican.

Trumka then went on Meet the Press and the argument he used to prove that Walker’s bill was not about the “budget crisis” was because Trumka said “the employees said, or the members out there said, his workers said, ‘We’ll accept your cuts.’ ”

Again, Richard Trumka speaks for the working class.

And when Wisconsin workers started making moves towards a real general strike the labor bosses quickly shut them down and moved them into the political sphere via the “recall” effort where they were leading the effort, not the workers.

It is because of madness like this that workers must do as Early noted: “take ownership of their own organizations and return them to their workplace roots.”

And there is a labor organization structured to do that: the Industrial Workers of the World. If workers from other unions ever make such an effort they would have a model to learn from. The IWW is made up of various branches who retain autonomy. There is no President of the union making a CEO salary while spending millions more on a political party that constantly targets the working class for assault. The goal of the IWW is to abolish not only wage slavery, but bosses as well. It makes no sense to struggle with bosses at work, yet accept a boss in the union. For Wobblies, one boss is one boss too many.

The class divisions that have taken shape in labor unions—between the working class and the coordinator class—has allowed for a massive betrayal, and just like what is true for the economy, the same holds true for unions. Only by putting them under democratic control by the workers themselves can unions return to their “workplace roots.”