Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Remember the folks who gave you the weekend

The Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members, along with $20 million, left the AFL-CIO. It's a major schism - and a major risk - for organized labor in the United States. The future well-being of American workers - including non-union workers - depends upon the outcome.

Molly Ivins:

If you work in this country, you owe labor, big time. And I'm talking to you, white-collar worker.

This is not about the old stuff -- 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, health benefits, safety regs, etc. This is about right now, today. The money that controls this administration is out to screw you -- it's your pension on the line, your salary on the line and your job on the line. If your company can replace you cheaper, you are gone, buddy. And this administration is pushing jobs overseas just as fast as it can.

Stephen Pizzo says that "old labor" just got fat, rich, and lazy:
The old AFL-CIO guard wasted millions of dollars in union dues trying to buy political friends, instead of actually organizing. If Democrats know what's good for them, they will side with 'New Labor.' ...

In the old days -- when labor was young — there was no money. Instead, labor used its muscle to get attention and cooperation. Okay, it wasn't always pretty, and it was really hard work. It required union leaders to engage in one-on-one retail organizing. It meant handing out union fliers at factory gates in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes in freezing weather.

Back in those days union leaders, like Samuel Gompers, John L. Lewis, Harry Bridges and Cesar Chavez, put their personal safety, freedom and lives on the line facing down pipe- swinging company thugs on picket lines.

It was hard, uphill work back when Labor was young. But with the winds of righteousness at their backs, it was effective too. American workers organized in record numbers, salaries went up, benefits went up, standards of living went up. ...

[But later], as [the] rape of labor marched on and on Sweeney and his kind at the top of labor had become indistinguishable from corporate CEOs and politicians.

Blaming the AFL-CIO for it's failure to fight the assault on unions, and the Democratic Party for letting it happen, Molly Ivins is putting her faith in "new labor":
SEIU has successfully organized the "unorganizable" -- some of the poorest, most powerless people in our society, the people who push mops, clean toilets and never voted in their lives. Credit is due to a superb new generation of organizers.


At 7/27/2005 07:42:00 PM, Blogger PRB said...

Both of my grandfathers were union activists; my uncle spent months, if not years, on a picket line. With that heritage in mind, I hope that labor can do something to reverse its fortunes.

At 7/28/2005 09:20:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Good for them! People these days don't have any idea how critical it was - how critical it continues to be - to fight for basic worker rights.

There have been abuses of those protections, true, but fundamentally, unions are the core protectors of worker rights, they are essential to democratic capitalism, and they are the most American of institutions.

Because he saw the abuses, my dad wasn't a union man. He got suckerpunched at Harley-Davidson when, after AMF (better known for making cheap tennis rackets) screwed up the production lines in the 1970s, his reward for twenty years of hard work and service to the company was a pink slip.


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