Afscme Local 444, retired
The crisis in organized labor is not brought about by the membership as if they didn't care about what their union does. It is rooted in the policies of the present leadership at the highest levels. The union officialdom has the same worldview as the bosses and is wedded to the Team Concept, the idea that bosses' and workers have the same interests. This philosophy is at the root of their class collaboration and betrayals.
It is the role played by the union hierarchy that has led to decades of defeats despite heroic struggles from labor’s rank and file and has delayed the inevitable conflict between the employers and organized labor as the political, economic and military crisis of capitalism matures further. The working class as a whole has suffered as well.
A generalized movement against this capitalist offensive would have occurred earlier were it not for this.
The rise of Trump, another consequence of the labor hierarchy’s refusal to fight, represents the "whip of the counterrevolution" that will strengthen the resistance that is beginning to emerge especially among women. This can build on the numerous, though somewhat isolated resistance movements that arose earlier in opposition to police brutality (Black Lives Matter), environmental degradation pollution, and other issues consequences of the so-called free market.
Given the stifling role that the heads of organized labor play, holding back their membership and suppressing any movement from below that threatens their present policies and their relationship with the bosses based on cooperation and labor peace, the growing resistance to this offensive of capitalism will, and is taking place first outside of the traditional organizations.
But as the resistance intensifies, the ranks of organized labor will also be convulsed by these events. Union members will be involved in these other issues in our communities and society as a whole and start to introduce them in to the labor movement. Youth will have relatives, friends and family in unions. The percentage of black workers in unions is higher than whites and this will also affect the internal life of the labor movement.
Young people and many unionized workers have no knowledge of the militant rich history of the US working class. Racism, sexism and other divisive issues have played a negative role in the history of the US working class and labor movement but in our explosive history we have seen periods of tremendous unity and sacrifice. New young activists inside and outside of organized labor must study recent labor history, the strikes of the 1980's that were an attempt to overcome the obstacle of our own leadership in the aftermath of the PATCO strike as well as our earlier history. The great battles that built the unions. The rise of the CIO in the 1930's and the three great general Strikes that occurred in 1934 and the factory occupations and the heroic 44-day Flint occupation. The history of the black workers, women and other communities should be familiar to all of us. The great revolutions like the Spanish, the Russian and other attempts of workers to control our own lives should be studied. I can guarantee that the history of the working class internationally as well as here in the US is far more exciting than any TV reality show and it is also important for us to know if we are to change course.
History is full of heroic individuals who's sacrifices gave us what we have today. We wouldn’t have come this far without them.