Looking Forward for Labor


Despite the many defeats, false starts, shattered hopes, bitter disappointments, etc., that have dogged organized labor throughout 2010, there are only two New Year’s resolutions that need to be made for 2011.  If both are realized, the labor movement will be considerably stronger as a result.  One is for the membership, one is for the leadership.

Let’s start with the membership. 

In a nutshell, you need to become better union members.  There are two steps in that process.  The first is to start attending regular membership meetings.  While attendance varies from union to union, the average national attendance is estimated at 5-percent.  If you belong to a local with 500 members, that means you’ll average 25 members a month.  Which tells me that the 5-percent estimate (pitiful as it is) is too high.

When I was president of a 700-member local, 5-percent would’ve been 35 people; and I can tell you that we never, ever averaged 35 people, not in any year I was president.  We were closer to 15 or 20 people.  The only time we had any more than that was around contract bargaining time (when we had full houses) or when rumors were flying about lay-offs or some other catastrophe. 

And from what I gathered, most other unions had similar turnouts.  Indeed, a consistent five-percent would’ve been welcomed.  Years ago, one of our AWPPW locals amended its by-laws to require members to attend a minimum of one-third of all monthly meetings in any given year in order to be eligible to run for union office.  Alas, the local had to remove the amendment when they couldn’t field enough candidates.

The second step is to stop second-guessing every decision that comes down the pike.  Stop whining, stop griping, stop nitpicking, stop giving speeches in the breakroom, stop pretending you know more than you know.  The only place where you should challenge a union decision is at the membership meeting; otherwise keep your mouth shut.  Believe me, management fears union solidarity, and rejoices in union dissension.

Now for the leadership.

In a nutshell, many of you are overpaid.  On a national level, you must resolve to make no more in annual salary than the highest paid worker in the bargaining unit; and at the local level, you need to cut back on those sweet little perks and extra cash that come your way.  You know what they are.  Resolve to avoid them.  You’re in a public service job, people.  Behave like it.

One of the great things about Harry Bridges, the legendary past president of the Longshoreman’s union, was that he refused to take any more in compensation than what the highest paid dock worker made.  It was one reason he was so beloved by the rank-and-file.

If I hear one more International officer try to justify his six-figure salary by comparing it to the private sector, I’m going to scream (then I’m going to strangle him).  Some years ago, the president of an International told me that, given his job title and the number of people he was responsible for, if he were in the private sector he’d be “making twice as much money.” 

While I didn’t want to offend him (because, deep-down, he was a solid union man and an effective officer), I also didn’t want him to take me for a chump.  So I offended him. 

I reminded him that (1) given his qualifications, it’s unlikely the private sector would hire him at all, much less pay him double, (2) compared to what the membership does day-in and day-out, the cushy office job he has doesn’t even qualify as “work, and (3) the satisfaction of representing working people should be its own reward; a six-figure salary is not only unnecessary, it’s an insult to the people he represents.

Happy New Year, everyone!

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net    


October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War