Tuesday, January 17, 2012

AFL-CIO leadership's ad campaign: another waste of members' money.

Richard Trumka and friend
In yet another miserable attempt to reverse the disastrous decline in the power and membership of organized Labor, the strategists atop the AFL-CIO are coming out with a major ad campaign aimed at boosting its image. The AFL-CIO spent $53 million of its members' hard earned dues money getting one of the 1 percent's candidates elected president in 2008 and will spend millions more this year.  The Labor hierarchy will increase their efforts to distance themselves from the Occupy movement and co opt it when they can in order to support the other Wall Street Party.

The ads will be rolled out initially in three cities at a cost of $1.5 million the Wall Street reports . The ads will "avoid contentious images of strikes" says the Journal.  Such images would offend the employers and would be a breach of the agreement the heads of organized Labor has with them that workers and employers have the same economic interests.  This is cemented in the Team Concept philosophy that drives the concessionary policies of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win leadership that are so disastrous for workers and our material well being.

Elizabeth Shuler, the secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO doesn't think that workers see Unions as "fresh and innovative" and sees the campaign as an effort "to reach out to all Americans whether they're in a union or not.".  The AFL-CIO has paid a well known marketing firm which also does work for the likes of GM and and the Gates Foundation.

Although the AFL-CIO leadership denies it, it is pretty obvious that it is part of the elect Obama campaign that these allies of capital will ramp up as the election draws closer.  Millions more of their members dues money will be spent on electing pro-business candidates including the president. Past betrayals like the public option in health care, EFCA or ending as opposed to expanding predatory wars as Obama has done, are all shoved under the rug never to be mentioned in a union hall.  The Labor hierarchy wanted EFCA bad as it was a way they could get more members in to Unions therefore more revenue without actually doing any organizing.  It amounted to asking the capitalist state to ensure capitalists stayed neutral in Union elections. The limit of their organizing for EFCA was:
"Ask your senators and representative whether they are co­sponsoring the Employee Free Choice Act. If they are, thank them.
If they are not, urge them to co-sponsor and vote for this vital bill. Call them and write them right away"
The emphasis is the AFL-CIO's, its the limits of their militancy, urging your Senator (or their Senator) in bold means shouting at them I suppose.

The Labor hierarchy is in a bit of a crisis.  There have been some serious attempts by the bosses' to eliminate their jobs entirely as heads of the Labor organizations which they see as employment agencies with them as the CEO's; a branch of "Labor Ready".  In Wisconsin it took a major effort to reverse legislation that denied them the right to sit at the table with the employers and negotiate away their members' wages and benefits. The only two demands on the table during the huge and unprecedented uprising of workers in Madison were dues checkoff (revenue) and the right to sit at the table.  Concessions for their members was not an issue.

This blatant class collaboration on the part of the heads of organized labor, which is a product of  their world view, has brought organized Labor's numbers to the lowest level in years.  Last year, only 7.1 million private sector workers were organized (6.9%) and 7.6 million in the public sector (36.2%) for a combined total of 11.9% compared to 20% in the early 1980's.  Along with this decline, the figures showing popularity of Unions among the general public are pretty dismal. Last August, a Gallup poll found that 52% of Americans claimed they supported Unions with 42% disapproving of them.  There are numerous reasons for this including the obscene salaries of the top officials and their disconnectedness from the average working person. And obviously the class warfare directed against workers and our organizations by the employers on a daily basis is another reason.
But workers are not stupid. Strike after strike that goes down in defeat is clearly not the fault of the rank and file.  I was just on the American Licorice picket lines here in Union City CA and there was no demand on the table for wages or anything offensive.  The trade Union leadership have nothing but a damage control strategy that results in defeat after defeat.  It's hard to mobilize the potential power of Labor if you believe the boss is on your team and needs help.  In every aspect of our lives, the message from the trade Union hierarchy through the huge full-time apparatus that enforces their concessionary policies on the ranks is that we concessions are the only option.  Then they spend our money and resources on electing candidates of a Wall Street Party that most workers long ago abandoned. It is their refusal to fight for workers that brings these poll results and ecline in membership.

The trade Union leadership is so terrified of a victory, so terrified of the potential power within the ranks of the organization that their full-time staff are almost never pulled out of the ranks unless they have previously made it clear where their loyalty lies.  In general, they are hired outsiders who have no base within the ranks from which to challenge the leadership and its class collaboration; open your mouth and your fired. We are seeing as the capitalist offensive heats up, further rightward shifts by the bureaucracy and an attempt to distance themselves further from the Occupy Movement.  In Washington state we saw the disruption of an Occupy panel with ILWU speakers on the attempts to break that Union.   The scabs in this case is another Union, the International Union of Operating Engineers.

I do not agree with those that see the present Unions as irrelevant. While I once thought that a mass movement would develop first within these traditional organizations I think that the present stifling hold the bureaucracy has on the apparatus and the driving in to the far recesses of our consciousness the great militant traditions of the US working class has made this less likely.  In fact, recent events have shown this not to be the case.  However, I am absolutely convinced that organized Labor will be convulsed by the rising opposition to the capitalist offensive led by the Occupy Movement as splits and fissures open up as a result of it.  The ILWU situation in Longview Washington and the response of the state to the Occupy Wall Street movement is already doing that.

But there is one simple solution to the decline in Union membership and the loss of favor that Unions have in the eyes of many workers.
Demand what we need not what the bosses' and their representatives in the Democratic Party says is "realistic" and mobilize and fight to win these demands. Abandon the Team Concept and attack capitalism as vehemently as, er, Newt Gingrich.

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