FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

3 Ways to Reinvigorate the Labor Movement

As distressed and downright feeble as organized labor appears at the moment (and no one is going to pretend that 11% density across the board isn’t alarming), there are some things that can be done to re-energize and revitalize the Movement. We shall list them in order of ascending difficulty, beginning with the easiest.

But before we start, let’s be clear that our discussion will be non-ideological, which is to say, it won’t include Marx’s thoughts on a proletarian revolution. Indeed, it won’t touch upon anything remotely resembling the wonderful phantasm that more or less set everything in motion. Unfortunately, Marxian ideology has become more a revered relic than a template for future action.

Consider: Marx’s seminal “Das Kapital” was first published in 1867, two years after the end of the American Civil War. That was well before the incandescent light bulb was invented. That makes it ancient. Who knows? If Marx had lived to see the phenomenon of Henry Ford’s Model T (where workers could own the products they produced), he might have written an entirely different book.

As Thorstein Veblen noted, while Marx was ingenious at socio-economic analysis, when it came to Big Picture predictions, he was not only unreliable, he was often dead wrong. For one thing, he predicted the proletarian revolution would occur in a teeming industrial region, most likely London. Never did he dream it would occur in agrarian Russia, populated by peasant farmers.

And for another, Marx envisioned the working class eventually rising up against the ruling class. Which brings us back to Thorstein Veblen. Although he admired Marx, what most prevented Veblen from becoming a hardcore disciple was his belief that instead of attacking the ruling class—of overthrowing the ruling class—the proletariat would ultimately seek to emulate it. Arguably, Veblen turned out to be right.

Every man and woman I’ve ever known who toiled in a factory setting (and I’ve known hundreds) wanted their sons and daughters to rise above the so-called “working class,” and become management people. They wanted them to become bosses. To put it in ideological terms Marxists appreciate, they wanted their kids to break free of the “oppressed” and join the “oppressors.”

So our brief discussion will be practical, not ideological. It will center solely on the notion of union representation as resistance. Organized labor providing the resistance necessary to sustain a middle-class job. Resistance is everything. Without resistance, management has all the power. Without resistance, this whole thing regresses into an economic turkey-shoot.

Here are three things that could make a difference.

1. Provide Scholarships. This one is easy. As part of a national public relations campaign, the AFL-CIO should begin offering $1,000 college scholarships to five-thousand students a year. That amounts to $5 million a year, which should be no problem for the cash-rich House of Labor. Because everyone agrees that the future of organized labor resides with the young, it’s incumbent upon unions to begin a massive Youth Movement.

2. Enact the EFCA. Put everything we have into passing the EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act), a law which would allow workers to join a union simply by signing a card saying they wish to do so (a practice known as “card-check”). Libertarians and progressive Democrats should love this idea, as it moves us out of the confines of cumbersome and management-slanted certification elections into the liberating arena of “free choice.”

Management loves NLRB certification votes (which they can manipulate through stalling techniques and mandatory anti-union propaganda sessions), and hates the very idea of card-check. Passing the EFCA will be tough, but by emphasizing the libertarian “free choice” angle, it’s doable.

3. Revoke Taft-Hartley. By passing the Taft-Hartley Act (1947) business interests, which, in post-war America, were scared shitless by the stunning power and vitality unions had attained, effectively removed the fangs from organized labor. Even though Truman vetoed this clearly anti-union act, his veto was overridden by Congress. Understandably, revoking all (or even some) of Taft-Hartley won’t be easy.

In one stroke of the pen, Taft-Hartley deprived unions of their most valuable weapon: solidarity. Under T-H, secondary strikes and boycotts were now outlawed, strikers could be permanently replaced, strikes could be rendered illegal by order of the president if he felt they interfered with or threatened “national interests,” and so-called “right-to-work” states were made legal. It was the worst anti-labor law ever passed.

Clearly, organized labor faces a daunting task. But it’s far from hopeless. And to those who claim that unions are now so weak and ineffective that management no longer “fears” them, they need to be reminded that American businesses spend tens of millions of dollars a year trying to keep the unions out. Why? Because they dread resistance.

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

June 20, 2018
Henry Giroux
Trump’s War on Children is an act of State Terrorism
Bill Hackwell
Unprecedented Cruelty Against Immigrants and Their Children
Paul Atwood
“What? You Think We’re So Innocent?”
Nicola Perugini
The Palestinian Tipping Point
K.J. Noh
Destiny and Daring: South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s Impossible Journey Towards Peace
Gary Leupp
Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands
M. G. Piety
On Speaking Small Truths to Power
Dave Lindorff
Some Straight Talk for Younger People on Social Security (and Medicare too)
George Wuerthner
The Public Value of Forests as Carbon Reserves
CJ Hopkins
Confession of a Putin-Nazi Denialist
David Schultz
Less Than Fundamental:  the Myth of Voting Rights in America
Rohullah Naderi
The West’s Over-Publicized Development Achievements in Afghanistan 
Dan Bacher
California Lacks Real Marine Protection as Offshore Drilling Expands in State Waters
Lori Hanson – Miguel Gomez
The Students of Nicaragua’s April Uprising
Russell Mokhiber
Are Corporations Behind Frivolous Lawsuits Against Corporations?
Michael Welton
Infusing Civil Society With Hope for a Better World
June 19, 2018
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
We Can Thank Top Union Officials for Trump
Lawrence Davidson
The Republican Party Falls Apart, the Democrats Get Stuck
Sheldon Richman
Trump, North Korea, and Iran
Richard Rubenstein
Trump the (Shakespearean) Fool: a New Look at the Dynamics of Trumpism
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Protect Immigrant Rights; End the Crises That Drive Migration
Gary Leupp
Norway: Just Withdraw From NATO
Kristine Mattis
Nerd Culture, Adultolescence, and the Abdication of Social Priorities
Mike Garrity
The Forest Service Should Not be Above the Law
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Activism And Smears Masquerade As Journalism: From Seralini To Jairam Ramesh, Aruna Rodrigues Puts The Record Straight
Doug Rawlings
Does the Burns/Novick Vietnam Documentary Deserve an Emmy?
Kenneth Surin
2018 Electioneering in Appalachian Virginia
Nino Pagliccia
Chrystia Freeland Fails to See the Emerging Multipolar World
John Forte
Stuart Hall and Us
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail