Tuesday, February 21, 2017

So-called lefts who cover for the union bureaucracy who refuse to fight the bosses.

Workers prepared to fight. Union leaders refuse to lead. 
Sean O'Torain.

Labor Notes, the magazine which writes about some aspects of the life of the trade union movement published a couple of letters in its last issue that were written by labor officials and addressed to Trump. 
They can be found here.

As they usually do, these members of the labor officialdom who wrote these articles, make every effort not to offend our enemies, make every effort to appeal to their kindness, their sense of morality. Their approach is pathetic to put it mildly. They are also careful not to offend their colleagues atop organized labor. In one letter, a retired IBEW staffer writes: “I don’t pretend for one minute that any labor leader’s job is easy, especially after the defection of so many union members to a Republican Party that has never buried its animosity toward unions.” He blames the rank and file for their defection from one party that betrays workers to another that also betrays workers as opposed to seeing that it is he and his colleagues failure, refusal, to offer any serious challenge to the increasingly aggressive assault on workers and our unions that is the problem.

In the other letter,  an assistant business manager for another IBEW local writes, “When you build things for a living, you find yourself in coalition with developers and energy companies. This makes some of our environmental friends uncomfortable—just like our friendship with environmentalists makes some of our business allies uncomfortable. But given the state of the labor movement, we need friends, even friends we sometimes disagree with. “

These two letters explain in a nutshell why we’re in the state we are. They both blame Trump as they partner with his class colleagues through the Team Concept that makes building and strengthening the labor movement impossible. A rank and file member looking to change the unions, looking to find some way to fight back, would not be impressed and certainly wouldn’t write such mild mannered rebukes. 

As we have pointed out in previous posts, it is not the weakness of the unions that is the problem; it is the failure of organized labor’s leadership, their refusal to mobilize the potential power of their 14 million members in crucial industries to drive back the bosses’ assault on our living standards. They refuse to abandon the Team Concept philosophy, the view that workers and bosses have the same economic interests and, as we can see from the short quote above, they consider them partners, teammates, and when teammates are in trouble, they help them out. In the building trades, and all unions, the philosophy is to make concessions to the union contractors and bosses in order to help them compete against the non-union companies and workers. Anyone with a brain can see this leads to a race to the bottom and that the way we “lift all boats” is organize the non-union. But that would mean a fight, and threaten the relationship the union officials have built with the bosses based on labor peace.

The bureaucracy atop organized labor has a left wing, many of them academics, lawyers, members or former members of so-called socialist and other left organizations, that support and provide a left/liberal cover for the right wing leadership at the helm.  

As we pointed out in another post on the Boeing vote in South Carolina, the role of the leadership is rarely if ever mentioned by these lefts that have become "experts" on the labor movement and are referred to in some circles as labor leaders themselves.

Steve Early for example, is doing the rounds talking about his new book. He has written extensively on the labor movement. He is speaking in Chicago on March 6th. Early is a lawyer and writer who was a former CWA staffer for years. His labor life has been in the ranks of the bureaucracy in one way or another. He “finished his career with CWA in 2007” his bio says.  It was a “career” for him as it is for so many of those like him. And in this present climate, one cannot get in to these positions in the labor hierarchy without being “safe”, without letting it be known one will not orient to the ranks, will not help organize a rank and file movement from below against concessions and for rank and file power. How can you organize a rank and file movement when you don’t have a base in the rank and file?

Bill Fletcher, also somebody who poses as a left is a former advisor to former AFL-CIO head John Sweeney. He is similar to Early, raises mostly organizational issues in relation to the trade unions. But what did he do when he was in the movement? His role and Early's role allows them to be considered labor leaders in liberal circles.

In meetings like these such as the one to be held in Chicago we must not miss the chance to discuss the role of the trade union leadership in bowing to the bosses through the Team Concept and bowing to them politically by supporting Clinton and the Democrats. And now the building trades leadership meeting with and glad-handing with the Predator in Chief, Trump. Any discussion about the present situation which omits the role of the union leadership and of self styled lefts like Steve Early who are, or were, part of the union leadership and who have and still do support the union leadership, will be a waste of time. It’s one thing if they admit their mistakes. But that’s not likely as they don’t think they made any. They think the reason for the decline in the trade union movement and trade union struggles is what they consider the low consciousness of the working class rather than the real reason which is the role of the trade union bureaucracy and their collaboration with the bosses and their support of the bosses system - capitalism. 

At Steve Early’s meeting in Chicago and others like them, it is imperative that we  raise and discuss the abysmal role of the union leadership. Think about this in relation to the recent women's marches. 250,000 were on the one in Chicago. If the trade unions, and in Chicago there are some 320 locals in the Chicagoland area and around half a million workers affiliated to the Chicago Federation of Labor, if this movement with its banners and its heads held high had marched as a great labor contingent in the women's march it would have tremendously increased the size of the march and also changed its class content. Not only that, but the 250,000 marchers would have seen this great labor contingent with them and would have been drawn towards the trade unions and activity in the trade union movement. Many of the marchers were already union members. You would think it was obvious that the trade union leaders should have taken such action. But they did not. And they did not for the following reasons. 

Such action by the trade union membership was the last thing the trade union leaders wanted. This would have activated their existing membership and drawn in new members and this would have resulted in a transformation of the trade unions and with this a questioning of the policies of the trade union leaders which have been and are presently to capitulate to the bosses’ offensive. And another thing, an increased membership and an activated membership would have resulted in a questioning of the obscenely high wages and the perks and privileges of the union leadership. The union leadership would not have wanted that either. Better to have an inactive membership. 

I was at a rally at Cook County hospital today organized by the SEIU. The crowd was addressed by a man in a fancy suit. I assume he was an SEIU official as he looked like a lawyer. None of the listeners had fancy suits. What was the slogan of the SEIU leadership? It was - "Congress: What is your policy for health care?" This is staggering. 

Here was a union leadership that claims to be one of the more militant of them and their main slogan was directed at the extreme right wing Republican dominated congress asking this body what is its policy for health care.That is SEIU’s "rallying cry?" Not free health care for all. But "Congress what is your policy for health care?” We all know what its policy is, the dogs in the streets know what its policy is. Wreck it. We need to know how to stop it, how to mobilize against it. This approach is staggering in its willful undermining of the willingness of workers to struggle.  

How could you mobilize the membership of the unions and unorganized workers on this slogan. You cannot even really call it a slogan. It is more like the bleat of a sheep. As I say if Early’s meeting does not take up the role and capitulating policies of the leadership of the unions it will be a waste of time - except of course he might sell some books. My past experience of Steve Early is he defends the role of the union leadership in capitulating to the bosses and their parties and in suppressing any rank and file members and movements who want to fight the bosses. This is what he did when he was a full time member of the union leadership/bureaucracy. A new rank and file fighting movement has to be built in the ranks of the trade unions and in the workplaces.

The authors of this Blog have repeatedly stated that when workers consider moving into struggle they see that they face a fight on two fronts. One is against the bosses and their system. Another is against their own leadership who collaborate with the bosses and support the bosses system. A new fighting working class movement has to be built. 

There is also of course the self styled revolutionary left grouplets who either do not participate in the trade unions or if they do also capitulate to the union bureaucracy. They are just about of no significance. But that is another story for another day. 

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