Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bosses' gain, we lose in Labor/Management Partnerships

The stifling bureaucracy that sits atop the AFL-CIO is boasting about the successful Labor/management partnership that they've entered in to to replace New York's Tappan Zee Bridge.  It will create "thousands of family-supporting jobs", the AFL-CIO announces. * Not only that, "some.....economically hard hit veterans" will get jobs through the AFL-CIO's Helmets to Hardhats program.

The Tappan Bridge job has a PLA, a Project Labor Agreement worked out between the Union officials and the bosses as part of the Team Concept strategy that has such devastating effects for workers and our organizations.  If it were not for the PLA, the AFL-CIO states, "veterans would not receive an advantage in securing jobs on the project. PLAs are pre-hire agreements between labor and management that require all construction jobs to be filled by local workers, include diversity requirements, establish wages and work rules covering overtime, working hours and dispute resolution and ensure safety guidelines on the job site are enforced."

While this sounds impressive, and it is no doubt positive that a job be 100% Union, these agreements between the Union hierarchy and the bosses invariably include concessions favorable to the boss such as overtime rates and such.  The right to strike (legally anyway) is invariably imposed for the length of the PLA so if there is a strike in that industry, workers on the PLA job would not be able to join it without violating the PLA agreement.  One building trades worker told me that he was on at least two jobs where the contractors violated the PLA hiring agreement by bringing non Union Labor on to the project.  These non-Union contractors were driven off the job by the Union workers on it.  In other words, the rank and file defended the site from cheaper non Union Labor. It is a strong, organized and militant rank and file that guarantees our rights, wages and benefits on the job rather than agreements between employers' and Labor officials around individual jobs or projects outside of regular contracts.

While the interests of the Labor officialdom and the rank and file of the Unions are the same at times, more and more they are in conflict as our leadership, especially through the Team Concept, acts to help individual employers maintain market share and tying workers interests to the bosses making solidarity and united action almost impossible.  This is the primary source of all the betrayals, support for concessions (not for the officials of course as they don't work under the contracts they force on their members) and open class collaboration on their part.

The consequences of the Union hierarchy's partnership with the bosses through the Team Concept has been catastrophic and no Labor/ management agreement will reverse this. The few jobs the Tappan Zee project will create for ethnic minorities or veterans will barely affect the extreme crisis facing these two groups, only a generalized offensive of our own against the market and its supporters will do this.  As the veterans return home they are finding many obstacles to help for mental, and physical problems caused by their experiences. As for the public sector, jobs and services are still being savaged. "Between 2007 (before the recession) and 2011, state and local governments shed about 765,000 jobs. Women and African Americans comprised about 70 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of those losses." (economic policy inst.)

The Wall Street Journal reported this week on the state of California's answer to state park and recreational closures as contracts for running these public amenities are being handed over to the private sector.  Public expenditure crowds out private capital from the marketplace reducing profit-making opportunities so the recession has opened the door to further "rescues" from private capital as privatization speeds up. 

Partnerships between Union officials and bosses benefit the bosses and the Union officials as they inevitably bring years of Labor peace and and conditions favorable to the profit making for the boss.  They undermine rank and file involvement in the running of our Unions which is favorable to both the Labor hierarchy and the boss. The AFL-CIO spin machine is famous for portraying defeats as victories and these projects as more than they are.  They will not stop and are not intended to stop the offensive of capital. 

* Union-Management Partnership Creates Thousands of Jobs Rebuilding Tappan Zee Bridge

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