Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Organized Labor Must Take up Community Issues to Win This War

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

A trade unionist from Britain that reads our blog pointed out this development in the largest trade union in Britain and Ireland. For a very small sum of 50p a week (around 75c) anyone can join Unite, officially called Unite the Union.  It is an attempt to link organized labor with the communities.

What is important about this very small step is that a union is not simply calling for the need for communities and unions to build closer links but is taking organizational measures along that road.

For their 50p the non members get certain benefits.

For those who are regular visitors to this site you will have seen the three videos from a forum put on by the Oakland Education Association that represents teachers in Oakland California. The videos are short clips (excerpts) of presentations by teachers from West Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona about the recent struggles in those states. (see links to videos below) These were rank and file led and all the speakers in this instance were women.

As we have pointed out in previous posts, the strike in West Virginia took place in a state where strikes are illegal. Not only that, the teachers and other education workers, realized that if they were to win they would have to bypass their official leadership which, as is the case throughout organized labor, is conservative and loathe to violate any laws regardless of how harmful they are to workers and our ability to defend our interests. In West Virginia, the workers won a 5% wage increase for themselves and all state workers. All the recent teachers battles took place in this manner, rank and file led and both inside and outside the union structures. We have some commentary with each video.

An important thread that jumps right out at us when we watch these women give their reports is that all teachers and education workers were included in the events whether they were in an AFL-CIO union, the NEA or no union at all. Even non-union Charter School teachers were included and had voting rights on decision making.

These teachers struggles are a great lesson for us here in the US as to how a trade union should function and should be built on. While the Unite example above (the video is a union video) doesn't go as far as our teachers here just did with voting rights and such, it is important in that is an organizational measure to reach out to the community taken by a major union body.

Here are the short clips from Kentucky, West Virginia and Arizona Teachers. They are very inspiring.

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