Revitalizing the union movement

The concentration of wealth at the top and the increasing level of poverty at the bottom are directly related to the weakness of the trade union movement. Any revolutionary or even serious reform movement will not succeed without revitalizing the unions.

It’s true that many of what unions remain are corrupt and tend to support the status quo by in large, or the right wing of the Democratic Party. But that can be changed.

In the 1970s, I was a part of a rank-and-file caucus in the San Francisco teachers’ union. My comrades in the ultraleft were shrill and sectarian – and still managed to win 4 seats on the Executive Board.

It’s a struggle at least as arduous as the electoral struggle, but much more significant. It’s simple, really. The power of the working class is in our labor. If we organize sufficiently so we are in a position to at least threaten to withhold our labor, things will start to change.

While it’s true some of the laws are less favorable to union organizing than they used to be, but hell, originally unions were simply against the law.

There are countless examples of industries that are hungry to be organized: Charter Schools, Whole Foods, Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Starbucks, Peets, McDonalds, et. al. Hundreds of restaurants.

The fact that unemployment is relatively low right now is another auspicious condition. Most of these jobs pay so shitty that the fear of losing one’s job is diminished.

And there’s a whole other area of industries that are unionized, but by corrupted union locals. Like UPS, FedEx, Retail Clerks, that are vulnerable for rank-and-file takeovers. A number of Teamster locals are now run by members of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. Chicago and LA teacher’s unions are in the hands of rank-and-file progressives.

I would like to see people focus on re-organizing the unions rather than who will or won’t be our next president. Without the organized power of the working-class, who the president is doesn’t make all that much difference. The less organized we are, the more screwed we will get, and you can take that to the bank.

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