Third Party & Independents Archives

Wisconsin unions have a choice: militancy or death

Wisconsin unions can now either give it all they’ve got, or they’re done for.

Right now, after Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Senate Republicans have pushed through this step in the decades-long corporate assault on labor, the unions really have their backs against a wall.  Membership has declined, manufacturing has gone oversees, the national Democratic Party has abandoned them, and the cancer of the corporation has metastasized over not just government, but society.  If the unions don’t rediscover their past, if they don’t turn around their more recent history of capitulation and infighting, they’ll die soon enough anyway.  It’s their choice:  militancy or death.

At solidarity rallies and on blogs and in Madison itself, people are fond of saying that because of the unions we have weekends and eight hour workdays, and we don't have child labor, and so on.  And they're 100 percent right.  Most of the greatest gains of labor came in the early 20th century, when they knew that it wasn't the Democrats who they must support, but themselves, and when militants like the Wobblies would come out by the hundreds of thousands, and solidarity meant putting your body in the way of the bosses, not just signing an online petition.

Now, I'm no labor historian, and I'm not even a union member, and ultimately the people of Wisconsin must be the ones to decide what to do.  This is a suggestion, friendly and urgent.  But I do believe in that great maxim of Frederick Douglass, "Power concedes nothing without a fight."  And man, has it been great to see labor get back some of its fighting spirit in the past few weeks!  But, to quote another great dissident, Thomas Paine, "These are the times that try men's souls."

Many people in leadership positions in the labor movement - and this has been seen in the environmental movement, civil libertarian groups, and generally in politics, this is not an attack - since its heyday have been too quick to place their own well-being over the well-being of the movement.  That either has to end or these leaders must realize that, in the long term, those two goals are one and the same.

Scott Walker's attack on labor has, for the moment, been successful.  It is just one more nail in the coffin of the movement.  It is one more step to complete domination for the corporate bosses.  And so, given that situation, the unions can either choose to give half-hearted resistance or to go all-out.

What would militant resistance look like?  Perhaps a general strike.  Many people in Wisconsin, including labor leaders, have been talking about it and some have officially endorsed the idea.  Whatever form it comes in, it is sorely needed.  Not just for Wisconsin, but for anyone who is not in the top of the economic pyramid.

The unions could fight and lose.  But if they don't fight, if they don't give it their all, they will surely lose.

Posted by Ross Levin at March 10, 2011 8:18 PM
Comments
Comment #319935

Ross,
The public workers in Wisconsin have one option you have not mentioned. Go nuclear and resign the moment Walker signs the bill into Law. Without public workers no trash gets picked up, no streets are cleaned, no more school, no more fire protection, and most important to Walker and the General Assembly is they has mo more staff, no more food service, and no more heat/air in their buildings. In fact, the State would have no more electricity from the State owned power plants.

And once the public workers quit they than could form their own private sector cororations and demand the State pay for services up front since their budget problems make them a bad risk. Talk about losing the political war the Republicans started. For what business would want to come to Wisconsin under such labor unrest and a forced government shutdown?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 10, 2011 11:45 PM
Comment #319936

That would be a general strike, essentially.

Posted by: Ross Levin at March 10, 2011 11:57 PM
Comment #319937

Spoken like a person of great knowledge of the work force and of unions.

The unions are done; just stick a fork in em. The failure of the unions can be blamed on the union leadership and the Democratic Party. While union bosses live like kings; with mansions, union provided limousines, corporate aircraft, and of course there is always the little get-a-way conventions in Vegas or the Bahamas. They do what they want, they cut deals with the employers of the people they represent, they spend union dues like drunken democrats, and they support politicians who have nothing in common with the members. And one wonders why only 7.5% of private sector workers belong to the unions; when the number was much higher 40 years ago. Of course, Ross understands this, because of his vast knowledge of labor and unions. The only way unions can succeed is through a scam called “Card Check”, which failed to pass the congress and will never pass; placing peer pressure on employees to join the union. I’m sure Ross understands peer pressure. Then we always have the left and the unions fighting to require employees to be union members as a condition of working. And last of all, and best, is that hard working Americans stand by and watch, as unions protect slug workers who drink and do drugs on the job, with no chance of companies getting rid of them. There is something about having a guaranteed and protected job, which ruins employees.

Posted by: 1776 at March 11, 2011 12:00 AM
Comment #319939
If the unions don’t rediscover their past, if they don’t turn around their more recent history of capitulation and infighting, they’ll die soon enough anyway. It’s their choice: militancy or death.

I think that statement sums it up wonderfully. Unions are definitely staring into the abyss. However, I don’t think that they can avoid their continued decline for a number of reasons. (Disclaimer: I have nothing against union members and I believe that workers should be free to join unions, if they choose to do so. When I refer to unions, I’m referring to the organizations and their leadership.)

Death is obviously not an option for them, but neither is militancy. While we know that the actions of a small group of protestors are not necessarily indicative of the entire group of union supporters, the more militant they become, the more public support they will lose.

They also can not rediscover their past. In the early 20th century, unions were needed to protect workers against the widespread abuses in labor practices. The unions were a key driver of getting the necessary reforms enacted to protect those workers and they deserve an enormous amount of credit for doing so. Today, however, unions are effectively obsolete. Yes, they can still exert a large amount of influence on behalf of the workers, but the abuses that they were originally formed to protect against are now prohibited by a bevy of both State and Federal laws.

Since their original purpose is no longer necessary, they have to adapt and find a new purpose in order to maintain the support of their members. This is where the problem comes in. The decline of union membership over the last 40 years or so can be attributed largely to the emergence of “right to work” legislation, which removes the requirement to join the union as a condition of employment. The unions have found that when people are given the choice of whether or not to join, there is far less union support, which would seem to indicate that many workers don’t feel that the unions provide enough value to justify membership. The more that unions have to compete to gain support from workers, the more challenging their existence becomes. If the union is unable to provide value to the workers, then the workers will have no incentive to pay to be a member.

I’m all for workers having the right to join a union. My only issue is when union membership is mandatory. I have a serious problem with that, as nobody should ever have to join a union as a condition of employment. If the unions are so important and provide so much value to the workers, then fine, they will have no problem standing on their own two feet.

Posted by: Kevin Nye at March 11, 2011 12:05 AM
Comment #319940

I would like to go to bed, but I keep reading these stupid comments and I must answer.

Henry said:

“Ross,
The public workers in Wisconsin have one option you have not mentioned. Go nuclear and resign the moment Walker signs the bill into Law. Without public workers no trash gets picked up, no streets are cleaned, no more school, no more fire protection, and most important to Walker and the General Assembly is they has mo more staff, no more food service, and no more heat/air in their buildings. In fact, the State would have no more electricity from the State owned power plants.”

In an economy such as this, and with Obama’s unemployment as it is; just how many applications would be submitted from all over the country, for these WI jobs? Care to guess? My guess is that people would apply for the jobs at half the pay and benefits. I don’t think WI would miss a beat, but that’s JMHO…

Posted by: 1776 at March 11, 2011 12:06 AM
Comment #319941

Let me add one more thought before I retire. I imagine the Democrat Party is starting to get a little nervous about the “Militancy” of the protestors. The WI people will only take so much of a bunch of out-of-state goons messing up their Capital. Especially when you have Sharpton and Jackson fightig for the microphone.

Posted by: 1776 at March 11, 2011 12:13 AM
Comment #319944

Well, 1776 - that’s not very true. Some of the blame lies with union leaders, yes, but they’re not exactly flying on corporate jets. It’s not that they’re living lavishly, it’s that they’ve bungled their jobs and placed their own personal comfort (not necessarily excess) ahead of the movement. If you want to look at others who are to blame, it’s the people who actually are in corporate jets, eating caviar and whatnot - the corporate executives and politicians who’ve never stopped working to break the unions and amass their own wealth, at the expense of the middle class and poor.

Kevin, have you been watching Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan for the past several weeks? They HAVE their purpose now. If they ever were obsolete (which I disagree with, although perhaps they made themselves irrelevant, although there’s a big difference), they are certainly not obsolete now, given that a hundred years of labor law could be overturned.

And I do think the Democrats are getting nervous about the militancy. They’re just as much the establishment as the Republicans are, and they fear it. They fear unions doing anything but supporting them in a cowardly manner.

Posted by: Ross Levin at March 11, 2011 12:37 AM
Comment #319947

Kevin,
“Right to work” laws allow employers to immediately fire anyone who attempts to organize a labor union, or even so much as mention it. Remember, “right to work” means a person can be fired anytime, immediately, without cause. The only exception is age or sex discrimination.

Ross,
Good article. I think a general strike would be a good idea.

Posted by: phx8 at March 11, 2011 12:49 AM
Comment #319951

Ross, this is a good article.

I for one, am glad that both Republicans and plenty of the Democrats (including the president, I hope) are beginning to fear the union labor movement, and will learn to dread the militancy that is now arising before all of our eyes. After all, these wealthy people themselves created the need for it — exactly the same way the wealthy created the very same climate from the turn of the last century and all the way through the 1930’s and 40’s.

It’s popular on the right to continually point the finger at the union bosses — but anyone with a functioning brain in their head knows that at this point, such complaints (even when warranted) are basically beside the point. This is a people’s movement, being lead by those who know they’ve got very little left to lose by stepping up to take on this fight.

These Big Corporatists, along with Wall Street’s Banksters, and all of their paid politcal stooges in sitting in congress stupidly thought they could ignore the working class indefinitely back at the turn of the last century, too. Then as now, they believed they could act like the General Welfare of the vast majority of the “little” people living in America didn’t matter the least bit. And then as now, these wealthy oligarchs thought they could keep squeezing and squeezing until there was nothing We The People could do but submit and let them take all — including our human rights and dignity, and our very democracy.

They were dead wrong back then, and they’re dead wrong now. Once again, they’re about to learn that their callous indifference toward their fellow citizens is going to bite them in the ass — really hard.

The truth is, this militancy and this rising of the people really has been such a long time in coming; and because of that you might think these fatcats would put their finger to the wind and simply be grateful for the long run they’ve had — being able to steal and cheat from so many hard working people for so very many years. But no, their insatiable greed and their lust for complete power makes them believe they just have to keep pushing — and this is why their eventual comeuppance will become as richly deserved in the present as it ever was in our nation’s past.

Posted by: Adrienne at March 11, 2011 1:42 AM
Comment #319954


I believe that the last two or three decades of union support for the Democratic party has made them rather irrelevant.

Rather than support politicians unions should devote the preponderance of their dues to organizing.

General strikes a la the French are not the forte of America Unions. If they were, things would be a lot different than they are in America.

A boycott of Koch Industries products should definitely be considered. The conservatives will be renting storage space to put the stuff. I wonder what the auction price of a storage space filled with toilet paper would be.

Some conservatives seem to think it would be really easy to replace the teachers of Wisconsin with well qualified teachers from other states. Lots of liberal teachers chomping at the bit to run up to Wisconsin to work for Gov. Walker. Or do conservatives think there is an army of conservative scab teachers in America.

What is even more ridiculous is the conservative notion that the parents of Wisconsin children are all for this. The fact is the parents support the teachers not the governor. The kids do to.

The fact is that the governors primary supporters are middle and upper middle class, I used to be a liberal, but I got mine so screw you, baby boomers.

The fact is that the majority of the people are fed up with the corporate agenda and the take over of their governments. All it takes is a spark.

Posted by: jlw at March 11, 2011 3:03 AM
Comment #319959

Ross, let me challenge you to Google the international unions and see if they have corporate jets:

You said: “Well, 1776 - that’s not very true. Some of the blame lies with union leaders, yes, but they’re not exactly flying on corporate jets. It’s not that they’re living lavishly, it’s that they’ve bungled their jobs and placed their own personal comfort (not necessarily excess) ahead of the movement.”

Would you care to retract that statement? I am beginning to miss David Remer; at least he backed his arguments with facts and not fiction. Not only do they jet set, but there is also a blatant double standard by the left. Remember when the auto exects were crucified for flying in corp jets?

“Obama’s Union Buddies Have Their Own Private Jets to Fly to Las Vegas (and Ireland)
Wed, 02/11/2009 - 18:43 — Nick Cote


In all the recent “stimulus” hoopla, President Barack Obama and Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman have found themselves in something of a war of words:

Sin City’s mayor wants President Barack Obama to apologize for saying companies shouldn’t visit Las Vegas on the taxpayer’s dime.

Oscar Goodman spoke after a regular scheduled meeting with tourism officials where he expressed concern that federal lawmakers might be discouraging travel to the city…

“You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime,” Obama said.

President Obama has already begun paying back Big Labor’s big money boys for spending record sums to put him in the White House. As we reported yesterday on Freedom@Work, part of this payback is the Obama Administration’s quiet attempt to delay and ultimately cancel a new rule requiring union bosses to report more specific information about how they are spending their forced dues revenue.

Members and nonmembers forced to pay dues as a condition of employment deserve the right to know where their money is going — for instance, this private LearJet, shown below taking off in Las Vegas. Machinists union bosses spent $1.8 million (from forced dues) for hangars, jet fuel, jet maintenance, mechanics, pilots, and associated loan repayments in 2006 alone.

In November, Machinists union bosses flew the jet from Canada to Ireland on workers’ dime. But the Obama Administration is moving right now to keep the ordinary unionized worker from knowing how much this and other flights by union bosses cost the employees on a per-union-official basis.

Obama claims he wants transparency and accountability — but apparently he makes an exception for union bosses.”

http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog/machinsts-private-jet-02112509

Or perhaps you would want to read this:

http://michellemalkin.com/2008/12/16/money-pit-the-uaws-gold-plated-golf-course/

You do realize the workers know about these union boss bennies, don’t you? And you wonder why union membership is dropping.

“Follow the money”

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

Posted by: 1776 at March 11, 2011 10:16 AM
Comment #319960

Ross,
A general strike leaves you with an union to talk to; however, by the public workers resigning they baisically shutdown the State Gpovernment (hence: the reason Federal Government Workers can’t strike by law). And why 1776 thinks Walker can quickly fill the jobs, he seems to forget a Public Worker must approve the tests needed to fill most jobs. And to make matters worse, Walker can’t force them back to work under the threat of firing them.

So considering that half of the private sector would lose their jobs because they would have to stay home and take care of the hildren, the children would enjoy months of vacation, and Businesses in the state could not get permits, pay taxes, and get assistance I would say the State of Wisconsin would really know what a State of Emergency means.

And why I don’t believe such a move has been done in history. It seems to me if Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, etc. public workers do the same rhing the Federal Government (i.e. Presodent Obama) would have no choice but to walk in and disolve the State Government in order to insure Domestic Tranquality.

So who would win and who would lose considering state politics would never be the same?

Posted by: Henry Scglatman at March 11, 2011 11:02 AM
Comment #319969

Henry, if State workers walk off the job, they WILL be fired and the testing rules can be by-passed in an emergency. There are plenty of qualified teachers, firemen, and police to fill the jobs. And they will apply. Concerning Obama and the Feds stepping in and disolving a State government: how ignorant are you? It would not ensure domestic tranquility; it would ensure civil war. Do you think the WI citizens would stand by and let this socialist yahoo invade their State? You talk like a silly person.

Posted by: 1776 at March 11, 2011 12:50 PM
Comment #319986

Phx8:

“Right to work” laws allow employers to immediately fire anyone who attempts to organize a labor union, or even so much as mention it. Remember, “right to work” means a person can be fired anytime, immediately, without cause. The only exception is age or sex discrimination.

Yes, you are correct. Most right to work legislation includes provisions that prohibit union membership being a condition of employment, which is what I was referring to. I should have chosen my words a little better…

Posted by: Kevin Nye at March 11, 2011 3:08 PM
Comment #319998

1776,
How can you fire me if I resign? And as qualified teachers and firefighters goes, it is just like a Doctor or a Lawyer. How many are certified in Wisconsin and how to you get certified without a public worker giving a test?

Besides, how long will it take before qualified teachers and firefighters up to speed? And more important will the community and syudents accept them?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 11, 2011 4:53 PM
Comment #320048

The situation in Wisconsin is developing into precisely the “torches and pitchforks” revolution that I’ve said for the past decade is exactly what the entire United States needs in order to bring Washington back under citizens’ control and force politicians to go back to representing the people, and not the money pot.

But Americans, as a group, are too fat, lazy and self-interested to ever organize the revolution properly.

As long as the fast food drive-thrus are open, the iPod works and the couch is comfortable, Americans in general will do nothing.

And that’s exactly how and why American politics has devolved into the lobbyist/corporate whore-mongering that it has become.

Posted by: Gary St. Lawrence at March 12, 2011 10:50 AM
Comment #320067

“But Americans, as a group, are too fat, lazy and self-interested to ever organize the revolution properly.”

Were it only that Gary. It seems at least half of them are also kool aid swilling conservatives that have accepted anything the conservative movement leaders tell them to believe. That is more of a problem that lazy if you ask me. If you doubt that go to Townhall or Newsmax for information they make Faux look good yet people use them as reliable news sources.

Posted by: j2t2 at March 12, 2011 4:01 PM
Comment #320074

The WI issue at hand is not a ‘corporation versus a private-sector union’ battle. It is a public-sector employee union that has no competition and gets its funding from the taxpayers.

You are either purposely or erroneously comparing apples to oranges here.

Posted by: Kevin L. Lagola at March 12, 2011 4:52 PM
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