FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Finally, Some Good News for Organized Labor

by DAVID MACARAY

A couple of good things happened on the labor front recently.  Granted, thirty-five years ago, neither of these events would have merited more than a casual footnote, let alone be considered “good.”  But that was back in 1978, when there was still hope.  Considering how toxic and treacherous the labor climate has become in the ensuing thirty-five years—and how rare anything remotely resembling “good news” is—both are worth mentioning.

The Senate finally approved all five NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) nominees.  As modest as it seems, this was no small feat.  Given all the game-playing, stone-walling and obstructionism that animate the confirmation process, it’s been years since the NLRB has had its full, statutory complement of five Senate-approved members.

Moreover, if the Senate hadn’t confirmed at least one of these nominees before Congress adjourned for summer vacation (incumbent Mark Pearce’s five-year term was set to expire in late August), the Board would’ve been left with only two members, one short of a quorum, meaning it wouldn’t have the authority to function as intended (i.e. to conduct union elections and investigate Unfair Labor Practices, among other things).

Of course, an NLRB that’s unable to function as intended is exactly what the Republican Party prays for.  Labor aficionados will never forget what happened in November, 2011, when one of the sorriest individuals ever to sit on the NLRB—Republican shill Brian E. Hayes—threatened to resign from what was then a three-member Board (again, the result of congressional gridlock), rather than let the two Democrats form a majority bloc.

Hayes announced that he would resign his prestigious appointment and deprive the Board of its necessary quorum rather than allow the two, Senate-approved Democrats to have their way.  (Well done, Mr. Hayes.  Spoken like a true “team player.”)  Fortunately, the blowback in response to these asinine remarks (even congressional Republicans cringed in embarrassment) forced him to run away and hide.  But the “Hayes gambit” (as it came to be known) is emblematic of the extreme polarization that still exists.

In any event, the five-person Board (originally three members, but expanded to five in 1947, under the Taft-Hartley Act) now consists of three Democrats (Nancy Shiffer, Kent Hirozawa, and Chairman Mark Pearce) and two Republicans (Philip Miscimarra and Harry I. Johnson III).

The respected Ms. Shiffer had previously served as general counsel for both the AFL-CIO and the UAW.  She’s a graduate of Michigan State Law School, coincidentally the alma mater of Jimmy Hoffa’s son, James P. Hoffa, president of the IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters) since 1999.  Fun fact:  Jimmy’s other kid, a daughter, Barbara, was a judge.

The other bit of “good news” concerns reconciliation.  After having broken away from the AFL-CIO eight years ago (along with six other unions, including the Teamsters, Farm Workers and SEIU) to form a labor federation of their own (named “Change to Win,” which, unhappily, sounds like the title of a self-help book), the 1.3 million-member UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) announced that it would be rejoining the House of Labor.  All’s well that ends well.

Clearly, there those who see this reconciliation with the AFL-CIO as failure.  That’s because there are two schools of thought on break-aways:  those who embrace any union that has the courage to set out on its own; and those who place a premium on solidarity, who view break-aways as the kind of self-indulgent showmanship that plays directly into the hands of management.  I more or less fall into the latter school.

As frustrating as belonging to a large, bureaucratic union can be, “splintering” rarely works.  Corny as it sounds, there is strength in numbers.  Splintering didn’t help the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), one of the noblest unions ever conceived.  The “Wobblies” were formed in 1905 and, for ideological reasons, split apart in 1908.  The split didn’t ruin them.  But it didn’t do them any good either.

As a wise man once said, you win a track meet by finding one guy who can jump 7-feet, not seven guys who can jump one-foot.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail