Monday, November 19, 2012

AFL-CIO's answer to Hostess Bosses? Hope.

By Richard Mellor

"While Hostess Brands is trying to scapegoat the workers and members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), the real cause of the company's collapse can be traced back to its crony capitalism and consistently poor management. "
AFL-CIO on Hostess dispute.

Taking an example from Barack Obama's playbook, Frank Hurt, the president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union says that he is in a "position to be hopeful" in the wake of the Hostess Brand's attempts today to have a judge accept the company's bankruptcy plans to close 36 plants and layoff 18,000 workers.

It seems that what Mr. Hurt and the entire trade union leadership are being hopeful about is that some good capitalists will step in and buy the business; rescue workers from the "crony capitalists" that have ruined it .  The Wall Street Journal opened it's piece on the dispute today, "The Union that brought the 85 year old baker of Twinkies and Wonderbread to its knees....", this is the dominant voice of capital in the US, this is their opening salvo in a report about these events.  The capitalists know their "line of march".

Hurt is hopeful, that there is "more than a good chance"  that some of these good capitalists will "swoop in to buy the profitable parts of the company and give his members their jobs back" the WSJ adds.  It seems the hopeful Union official has misunderstood the work arrangement.  If these jobs were the workers' jobs, "his members" jobs, they would still be in them.  His members own the ability to work, their life activity, that the owners of capital simply bought and used over a period of time just like they would buy a chair or a vehicle.  The right to work does not exist in capitalist society. They do this because in the process of producing commodities with this life activity (what we call work) the owners of capital extract more value than they lay out in the process.  This is where profit comes from once they sell the finished product.  When better opportunities arise, the owner of capital, in a capitalist society has every right to employ their capital somewhere else. This is what they mean by freedom.

So the good Union leader can "hope" all he likes, the process will be played out.  We did not "hope" Unions in to existence unfortunately, our lives would have been a little easier but history a lot more boring.  As the good Union leader hopes Donald Trump might come along and out of the goodness of his heart purchase the use of his members life activity again, the bosses make their position clear.
"Nobody wants to have anything to do with these old plants or these union or these contracts", says Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn, referring to the good and the "crony" capitalists. Rayburn explains that there was some interest from a group of coupon clippers that own Pabst Blue Ribbon but their interest was based on a nice bankruptcy and that a "..liquidated Hostess would be free of its collective bargaining agreements."  Investors buying the company certainly wouldn't do so if it meant hiring back the workers who had struck. It's, "..beyond wishful thinking" says the CEO who earns some $2 million a year. They know the class lines and make sure they are on the right side of them. Their politicians, the courts, the police, the military ( a somewhat more risky element) are all used ion the battle to eliminate the workers' organizations.

Ken Hall of the Teamsters, whose union accepted the company's concessions, has no answer to the bosses either.  He supported the concessions although he will not have to work under the contract he tells his members is inevitable. Hall's three salaries totaled more than $250,000 in 2008 according to the TDU.  He doubts the bakers' Union leadership's view that someone will come in and buy the company, "Our view is that this is going to be a fire sale.", he tells the WSJ. He is right as the comments from the coupon clippers show.  As I stated in an earlier piece on the Unions, the bosses are not afraid of the Ken Hall's of this world.  Every leading labor official in the country has made it clear openly and emphatically that there will be no resistance to the bosses' efforts to drive US workers down to the levels of our brothers and sisters in India or Vietnam.  The coupon clippers are very confident after years of cooperation from the heads of organized Labor, even cooperating with them in the firing of uncooperative local leaders as the UAW leadership did in the dispute between one of their locals and the Freightliner corp in Cleveland NC.

We do not have to look far to see an alternative to the "hope" tactic.  Every dispute at the point of production must be generalized and linked to the struggles in our communities against foreclosures, or home robbery as it should be called.  Against the lack of health care, the cuts in education the crisis of youth unemployment and the growth of the prison industrial complex.  The war against public sector workers and the services we provide is the same struggle. The public sector, the most unionized sector, is being blamed for the economic crisis just like the coupon clippers at Hostess are being blamed  by the Wall Street Journal.  Factories like Hostess should be occupied and appeals be made to all workers and our communties nationally to come to the aid of these workers.

The idea that we can rely on the so called "good capitalists" or their politicians to rescue us is a proven failure.  Every freedom we have, every benefit and progressive social legislation, every right we have, has been won through the struggle of organized workers against organized capital. We can only rely on our own strength and only have to look at our history and our best traditions to see what works.  Workplace occupations, mass direct action and through that, independent political action is the road we must take.  Being prepared to violate their laws, challenge their authority through mass direct action was what broke the back of Jim Crow, General Motors and the Industrial capitalists who murdered workers with impunity in their rapacious quest for profits.

We reject that we have to compete with other workers domestically or overseas.  Workers throughout the world are fighting for their lives and futures against the very same forces that are destroying our lives here in the US; we must unite with global workers' against global capital.  If we look closely we will see that the workers who were shot in South Africa for striking the mines there, were shot by forces under direction of the very same forces that are savaging workers here.  Our first step is to reject austerity and backward motion.  But we have to recognize that we have to go further.  The wealth in society is our collective product.  How it is used in future production should be determined by those who collectively created it. If we decide we stop producing Twinkies and apply capital in a different way then we do so for the collective benefit of society.   But no one loses the right to work.
We have to control how we produce life which means we have to take it from the hands of the clique that presently owns the capital which is an essential part of the production process.  But it is only that portion of it spent on human Labor power that adds value and creates the wealth that the coupon clippers amass which makes it our distinct product.

History changes. How we produce the necessities of life changes. The only thing constant is change said Marx.  Every ruling class teachers that the system of production they govern is the only system of production and will last for all time.  Human history proves this false. Workers don't control the production of ideas in society that are taught in their schools, and especially universities, and we don't own, manage and control the means of producing the needs of society either------but we can and it's time we did.  The future of humanity is dependent on it.

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