FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Looking Forward for Labor

by DAVID MACARAY

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

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
Russell Mokhiber
Save the Patients, Cut Off the Dick!
Steven M. Druker
The Deceptions of the GE Food Venture
Elliot Sperber
Clean, Green, Class War: Bill McKibben’s Shortsighted ‘War on Climate Change’
Binoy Kampmark
Claims of Exoneration: The Case of Slobodan Milošević
Walter Brasch
The Contradictions of Donald Trump
Michael Donnelly
Body Shaming Trump: Statue of Limitations
Weekend Edition
August 19, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Hillary and the War Party
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Prime Time Green
Andrew Levine
Hillary Goes With the Flow
Dave Lindorff
New York Times Shames Itself by Attacking Wikileaks’ Assange
Gary Leupp
Could a Russian-Led Coalition Defeat Hillary’s War Plans?
Conn Hallinan
Dangerous Seas: China and the USA
Joshua Frank
Richard Holbrooke and the Obama Doctrine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail