Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Thursday, 2 June 2011
The Cure for Plutocracy: Strike!
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Now Playing: The Cure for Plutocracy: Strike!by DAVID SWANSON

·                                  BY DAVID SWANSON: The Cure for Plutocracy: Strike!

The Cure for Plutocracy: Strike!by DAVID SWANSON

The central tool that must be revived is the strike that halts production
and imposes a cost on an employer. A strike is not a public relations stunt,
but a tool for shifting power from a few people to a great many. The era of
the death of labor, the era we have been living in, is the era of the scab
or replacement worker. Scabs were uncommon in the 1950s, spotted here and
there in the 1960s and 1970s, and widespread from the 1980s forward.

In the absence of understanding the need to truly strike, the labor movement
has tried everything else for the past 30 years: pretend strikes for
publicity, working to the rule (slowing down in every permitted way),
corporate campaigns pressuring employers from various angles, social
unionism and coalition building outside of the house of labor, living wage
campaigns, and organizing for the sake of organizing. These approaches have
all had some defensive successes, but they all appear powerless to turn the
ship around.

"[T]he idea that the labor movement can resolve its crisis simply by adding
new members -- without a powerful strike in place," writes Burns, "actually
constitutes one of the greatest theoretical impediments to union revival."
From 1995 to 2008, with unions focused on organizing the unorganized, the
U.S. labor movement shrank from 9.4 million to 8.2 million members. The
Service Employee International Union (SEIU)'s famous organizing success is
in large part the takeover of other unions, that is of people already
unionized, and in large part the bribing of politicians (through "campaign
contributions" and other pressure) to allow the organizing of public home
health-care workers. What's left of the labor movement is, in fact, so
concentrated in the public sphere, that unionized workers are being
effectively attacked as living off the hard-earned pay of private

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), so much a part of candidate Obama's
campaign, and now long forgotten, might not fix anything if passed, in
Burns' analysis. To succeed, the labor movement needs the sort of
exponential growth it has had at certain moments in the past. Easier
organizing alone would not persuade enough workers that joining a union is
good for them. But persuading them that joining a union holds immediate
advantages for them would revive labor with or without EFCA. And EFCA might
make things worse. EFCA tries to legislate the right to quickly create new
contracts, to avoid employer stalling. But it does this by subjecting
workers to the decisions of arbitrators. Rather than empowering a class of
arbitrators, the labor movement we had until 30 years ago would have
considered the obvious solution to be empowering workers to compel the
creation of contracts through the power of the production-halting strike.

Striking does not require a union or majority support but is itself a tool
of organizing and radicalizing, with a minority of leaders moving others to
join in what they would not choose to do alone. Solidarity is the process as
well as the product of a labor movement. And it is by building strikes with
the power to halt entire sectors of the economy, not through bribes and
emails and marches, that ordinary people gain power over their so-called
representatives in government. "Imagine telling Samuel Gompers or Mother
Jones or the Reuther brothers or Jimmy Hoffa that trade unions could exist
without a strike. However, in the name of pragmatism," Burns writes, "the
'progressive' trade unionists of today have fit themselves into a decaying
structure. On a deeper level, they have abandoned the goal of creating the
type of labor movement capable of transforming society."

To turn this around, Burns suggests, we will have to change the way we think
about workplaces. According to our courts, a man or woman can work for
decades in a business and nonetheless have no legal interest in it, the
legal interest belonging entirely to the employer. The employer can move the
business to another country without violating a labor contract. The employer
can sell out to another employer and eliminate a labor contract in the
process. The employer can break a strike with scabs. The National Labor
Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 might have looked good on paper, but its
interpretation by courts and restriction by other legislation -- notably the
Taft Hartley Act of 1947 -- have made clear its weaknesses. Labor has no
choice left, Burns argues, but to repeal the NLRA by noncompliance.


Posted by Joe Anybody at 6:29 AM PDT

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