Thursday, July 12, 2018

Honeywell, Teachers, All struggles are "Our" Struggles

An Injury to All Must Become More Than Just a Slogan
We Must Act on it if it is to Have Any Real Meaning

Honeywell Workers locked out in 2016
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Any gains working class people have made over the years including the right to form unions were won through a ferocious struggle and by relying on our own strength, our ability to shut production and hit the bosses where it hurts them most----profits.

The social legislation won in the 1930’s simply codified what had already been taken in the streets through mass strikes, including three General Strikes, occupations and confronting the employers and private strikebreakers and their state security forces. Despite being a huge victory, progressive legislation excluded large sections of the US working class, the poor, agricultural and service workers often women, immigrants and people of color.

The UAW, the industrial union that was formed in this period opened a new era for workers in auto, steel rubber and other industrial behemoths. But in the past decades we have seen the decline of union power as the heads of organized labor have joined the employers openly through the Team Concept philosophy, and have made concession after concession in order to keep US capitalism afloat and competitive.

Honeywell Corp, based in South Bend Indiana is another employer taking advantage of the passive, pro-business national leadership of organized labor, and has proposed healthcare cuts, increasing the cost of health care and is planning on sending jobs to Turkey where labor power is cheaper. Many of the victims of the move have worked for Honeywell for decades.

Honeywell locked out workers at its South Bend and Green Island NY sites back in 2016 and hired strikebreakers even before negotiations started according to reports.
“My grandfather was there when the union first started in 1936. My dad has been there for twenty years,” says 20-year-old Honeywell worker Brandon Bullerman. “Then I get there and the company just eliminated 60 years of my family’s progress.” Payday Report May 2016

The era of winning minor gains from the bosses' through friendly cooperation has long passed. Cooperating with them as so-called equals has never worked. These attacks come after attempts to accommodate the company and offer concessions, as all unionized workers are expected to accept. These policies handed down from those at the top of organized labor and given intellectual legitimacy by their mentors in academia, have led to one catastrophic defeat after another. Attempts to take a more aggressive class struggle approach from individuals or leaders of individual unions have been halted or driven back by the labor hierarchy. Sometimes it’s been the passive approach, leaving locals isolated, cut off, forced to confront global corporations, the state, the police and the media alone. At other times more aggressive by taking over entire locals and even cooperating with the bosses in firing militant local leaders (Freightliner and the Cleveland Five in SC)

We must not be deterred by the accusations of “class war” from the bosses’, their politicians and media, when workers fight back. Class war exists. Denying a worker an income, cutting wages, removing workplace safety protections, denying or increasing costs of health care is class war and are acts of violence against working class people, it is economic terrorism.

In the case of Honeywell, protests were held outside the South Bend plant last month and we can win these battles, but cannot win them with the same approach. Honeywell supplies the defense industry with important needs like tires for fighter jets. The workers in this industry have tremendous potential power. The problem is Honeywell and its investors know they can defeat one local.
Frank Hammer former UAW to Honeywell workers.

At the recent and other protests, political figures and candidates turned out in support of the UAW workers, members of Local 9. They always turn up at these things proclaiming their support.

Experience teaches us that this support amounts to nothing. We cannot rely on capitalist politicians or lawyers and the courts or capitalist parties to halt this assault on workers even individuals that are well intentioned. Politicians were at the recent rally claiming they, “…stood in solidarity with the workers and would take measures to oppose retiree health care cuts and outsourcing.”

Sisters and brothers; what does this “take measures” mean?  We know what it means, standing up in the sate legislature and saying they support the workers and making that statement on TV. And we can’t rely on the courts. The courts have “paved the way” for Honeywell to “scrap” retirement benefits according to local media reports. The capitalist courts will not oppose a corporation’s right to control the workplace; the justice system does not work for workers or the middle class as it does for the rich, any worker knows this. .If the courts were fair, most of the people in jail would be out and most of the people that put them in jail would be in.

Thanks to Frank Hammer (sees his letter of support above) for bringing the Honeywell issue to our attention.

Despite the weakening of organized labor due to the heads of our national organization refusing to unhinge themselves and their policies from the Team Concept on the job and in the political arena through the Democratic Party, the potential power we have is formidable. More importantly, when we add to our power in the workplace, the unorganized workers, the poor and our communities in which we live and work, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. And international solidarity is a crucial part of our struggle against the capitalist offensive at home as capital is international, capital does not respect borders.

We have pointed out many times the potential power we have. There are 14 million members in the unions nationally. California’s Labor Federation has 2 million workers affiliated, Los Angeles Labor Council alone over 800,000. And that’s in the sixth largest economy in the world. The bosses fear us which is why they use all sorts of different divide and rule tactics to ensure we do not unite, racism, sexism, fear of immigrants , blue collar against white, etc. It is why they cultivate relationships with the leaders of organized labor at the highest levels. And to appeal to the sexual predator Trump for help is pointless. He has harmed the US working class in many many ways. The reader can check out: Don't Panic Over Janus: The Supreme Court is Not Ours.

The teachers’ struggles have shown the way. Teachers in West Virginia struck against the wishes of their own leadership and in a state where it is illegal to strike.; in most of the recent cases it was illegal to strike. This terrifies the bosses and the established hierarchy of the labor movement both. There is a raging class war in Puerto Rico as the US had abandoned its exploited island possession. In all these struggles we must recognize the role of women. This is another aspect of the new era, the rise of women and their leading roles in all the struggles against exploitation, sexual oppression and violence. From the US to the factories of Bangladesh, the war against rape in India and the fields and factories of Latin America women are in the forefront. They will not be driven back.

In these teachers’ struggles what stands out is that they drew in and welcomed teachers whether they were union or not. They welcomed Charter School teachers and other workers in education as the teacher from Arizona in the video below points out. In West Virginia their efforts won a 5% increase not only for themselves but every state worker. What better advertisement for joining a union than that? The struggle is not over, and capital will try to pass the cost of the raises on to other sections of the working class blaming “greedy” education workers. This is the next battle; ensuring this does not happen as well as combating the top union officialdom from undermining the movement, weakening rank and file control and using the Democratic Party as a means to temper the movement, render it ineffective.

Another important aspect of the rising battles on the job is that labor issues are community issues. As the reader will see in the video below on the Kentucky events, black teachers there faced some obstacles trying to get the movement around teachers and their conditions to also include in their demand to the legislature that the school district not be taken over and pensions be saved, to also demand the legislature oppose a gang ordinance. One predominantly black district in Louisville is one of the most economically depressed in the country. These gang ordinances are repressive measures against the black youth in particular who can be stopped and frisked and generally harassed by the security forces that amount to an occupation force in these areas.  There is a racist element to this but also in my experience it is common for many workers to consider social issues outside of the realm of trade union activity. We combated this with great success in my local in Oakland CA. What happens in these communities affects all of us. 

Poverty, lack of opportunity, racial barriers to a decent life creates conditions which threaten the material well being of all workers and it is in our interest to use our economic power as workers to join with our communities in their efforts for jobs, housing, health care and against racism and police abuse.
The capitalist mass media, that insidiously demonizes the poor and especially black youth, would not hesitate to appeal to them for help in crushing a labor dispute if they needed to. There is an excellent article here on this issue:  Why The Teachers Revolt Must Confront Racism Head On.

It is inevitable that these struggles that are taking place on different fronts must eventually be drawn together in to one larger movement.  As this process develops, independent political candidates can be put forward, rooted in the movement, our organizations and communities.  In this way an independent workers political party can arise that can provide a political alternative to the parties of capitalism and the corporations.

Here are three short videos of leaders of the West Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona struggles, they are inspiring and worth watching.

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