Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Alameda Labor Council Insults Rank and File. West Virgina Showed What Must Be Done.

Alameda Labor Council names disgraced Teamsters leader its Unstoppable Unionist of the Year 

by Steve Tavares

Just months after the banishment for two years of likely the most influential Teamster on the West Coast, the Alameda Labor Council is set to honor him during its annual Unionist of the Year dinner next May in Oakland.

After a years-long investigation, the Teamsters suspended Rome Aloise, the president of the Teamster Joint 7 Council, for two years from all union-related activities. His pay and benefits worth a total of $383,000 is also being withheld by the union.

But this black eye is not stopping the Alameda Labor Council from honoring Aloise next month. In fact, the flyer advertising the fundraising dinner, which has a top-shelf price tag of $25,000, boldly calls Aloise "An Unstoppable Force for Good."

Last fall, a report by an independent review investigator detailed Aloise's improper involvement in local union elections, incidents where he received personal benefits while negotiation labor contracts, including $1,000 tickets to a Playboy Super Bowl party, and seeking as a favor, employment for a relative.

On Dec. 22, the Teamster suspended Aloise, but not before a separate investigations review officer wrote “Aloise stands alone in the number and breadth of serious violations he was found to have engaged in while an International Vice President.”

During the same union dinner next month, the Alameda Labor Council is also honoring State Sen. Nancy Skinner as the "Unstoppable Labor Champion & Warrior of the Year."

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

This piece above by Steve Tavares is from a local paper, the East Bay Citizen.  I was a delegate to this labor council for 12 years or so from my local, Afscme 444 representing the blue collar workers at the local water utility. It is the labor council out of which labor candidates were run after the Oakland General Strike in 1946. I was a delegate during the latter half of the 1980's when there was a move to drive back the capitalist offensive after Reagan had smashed the Air Traffic Controllers (PATCO) strike barring its members from working in their trade for life.  The AFL-CIO leadership nationally did nothing really which gave the bosses the green light and more attacks followed.

During the Hormel strike I tried to have a UFCW Local P9 striker speak but the national union had pulled strike sanction and people who were heroes a few weeks prior were now pariah's as all the delegates fell in line as many of them were hired and depended on one section or another of the bureaucracy for their jobs. It was a baptism of fire for me but I eventually got the guy in to speak although not the night I took him. A delegate from the old ILGWU was the only support I got and he was not a socialist or lefty.

The well know writer and photographer ,David Bacon, was a delegate from the Molder's union during this period and sat through these years never opening his mouth in opposition to a leadership that refused to bring the potential power of organized labor to the table. He was involved in an anti-Apartheid committee or organization with a left Democrat politician and having a labor council credential looks good. My guess is he was appointed to that position by or with support of Ignacio De La Fuente who went on to become a prominent Oakland politician. When one is in a position like that due to the good graces of the hierarchy rather than being rooted in and representing the rank and file members, one keeps one's mouth shut or the position disappears. 

There are regional directors and other officials in the labor movement today that sat through those years when ordinary workers were getting their asses kicked and said nothing. The battles are too many to mention here, but Greyhound, Eastern Airlines, numerous Retail Clerk and Teamster struggles as well as a long strike at the Diamond Walnut factory. These people are called labor leaders in liberal papers like In These Times and other sources but their base was the bureaucracy not the ranks. It's not that they are necessarily "bad" people, they entered the movement with the wrong method. Also, I recognize it is difficult to stand out, to openly challenge the hierarchy especially alone. It's one thing for the genuine rank and file activist, but I don't have much sympathy with those in the workers' movement that claim to be socialists, some of them communists or revolutionaries and anti-capitalists of one sort of another, they have more responsibility to offer an alternative current within the movement and part of that is the struggle for the consciousness of the rank and file against the conservative pro-capitlaist ideology of the officialdom.

There were numerous left wingers and socialists of different shades there particularly the Communist Party delegates. None of them spoke up for this UFCW P9 worker, sitting there like bumps on a log as I made an argument for him to be able to speak. During all the years I was there, delegates who were also members of the self styled left groups refused to openly challenge the fact that this body refused to use its potential power to organize and mobilize the area's AFL-CIO affiliated unions members in defense of any and all workers in our struggle against the bosses. They refused to wage an internal battle to change our unions. The general arguments against this were on the basis of organizational rules that Central Labor Councils were not authorized to do this, do that, it was not their function etc. The labor hierarchy is very good at telling us what we can't do as they defend capitalism, the bosses and the relationship they have built with them on the basis of labor peace and the Team Concept.

The labor council is where Democrats come to get an endorsement and then affiliated locals normally follow suit. I introduced numerous resolutions that my local had passed calling for the the leadership and organized labor to break from the Democrats and run our own candidates. This always fell on deaf ears with the delegates who were socialists and all supported a labor party outside of the movement, in the safety of their small group meetings where they all agree. If they spoke at all it was normally to echo the bureaucracy's position that its not the time and other excuses. But as soon as Anthony Mazzochi of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union started talking about a labor party they got some courage and after I, with support from my local, brought him out here for a meeting another meeting was organized and the key person, a member of a left group who was very much involved with Labor Notes, had some sort of gathering with the leadership and kept me out.

When the Rodney King protests turned violent I tried to get the labor council delegates to introduce a resolution calling on the leadership to organize a rally in a park in Oakland, against police abuse, racism and for jobs. I worked in the streets and a co-worker of mine reading a water meter had been badly beaten by four youth in the aftermath of the cops' beating of Rodney King.  I also took a group of teenagers from my neighborhood in East Oakland, a predominantly black community, to the meeting, but I was told they couldn't come in as they were "not affiliated". I argued that they should be, they were Oakland residents and threatened to make a motion to allow it. That is a terrifying thought for any controlling bureaucracy as if a motion is seconded, a discussion might take place and the leadership will be forced to defend it's incorrect views. I eventually got them in and the liberals made sure nothing came of it.

The council had a community committee of sorts that almost never gave reports and when it reached out to "the community" and from the workers and rank and file union members perspective this meant the black working class in particular, it was the black capitalist that were the target, many of them attending a well known Baptist Church in the area.

Had the delegates that considered themselves socialists or leftists of one type or another acted differently back then, had they united and fought openly to change the wider labor movement and oriented to the rank and file rather than the left bureaucracy which many of them were a part of, we could have transformed the Bay Area labor movement. A combination of sectarianism and opportunism, prevented them from doing so.

During a recent strike of low waged, mostly Latino workers who sort through garbage at the waste plant here, we had the disgraceful situation where Teamster Business Agents and management escorted Teamster drivers across the picket lines, myself and another worker spoke to one of the drivers and some of them afterwards. They hated having to do that, I could see it was against their gut instincts, but feared their own leaders. It is well known that officials will cooperate with management to terminate militant stewards and local leaders that threaten the status quo. In actuality, these low waged workers picket line was broken through a combination of local police, Teamster officials and management. Their own leaders also share the blame for their inaction. The strikers were in ILWU Local 6 which is the warehouse division of the ILWU.  The Teamster BA's boss was Rome Aloise mentioned in Steve Tavares' article above.  Both a Teamster official, and a IAM official were quoted in the media as attacking these workers on strike for demanding too much. They were demanding a living wage. Some of them were earning a $10 an hour in an economy where a closet is $1000 a month; the IAM rep earned over $100,000 a year, not too much for him.

We can see with Steve's article that the leadership of the local labor movement hasn't changed, perhaps gotten worse. I commented on the situation with Rome Aloise here: Hoffa Ally, Rome Aloise Facing Charges. Organized Labor's Rank and File Must Clean House
The UFCW even chose the corporate head as their 2009 person of the Year. https://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com/2011/11/ufcw-rank-and-filers-demand-answer-from.html

Entering a New Phase. West Virginia and Teacher Strikes Have Changed the Game

Facts For Working People has made it very clear that we are in a new phase and it is not the time for pessimism. The teachers strikes, particularly West Virginia which is a state where strikes are illegal, has undermined, which is putting it mildly, the arguments made by the pro-capitalist union hierarchy that we can't win. That we can't break the law, that the bosses' are invincible. In West Virginia they won across the board raises for other workers. We have stressed time after time that we are in a struggle on two fronts, one against bosses, and one against the present union leadership that supports them. If we want to win, we have to to replace the present leadership, we have to act against them and organize against their policies openly---we are in a struggle for the consciousness of the working class and that includes those in our unions. That's what is winning in these teachers battles. It is inconceivable that other union members and the working class in general is not watching these events very closely. It is a small breach in the dam but a very important one.

One last point on this is that some of us connected to this blog have been accused by other members of the self styled revolutionary groups for openly criticizing the union hierarchy.  We have been accused of having a fetish about it and so many of them ignore their role completely acting as a left cover for them and some are indistinguishable from them to the average worker. But in the case of these teachers strikes what would they have said to these rank and file members that have openly challenged and criticized their leadership and acted in opposition to them? Whose side would they be on with their stay silent philosophy?

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