Posts Tagged ‘aflcio’
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class
The effect of the 1947 Taft Hartley Act on union membership was almost immediate. In 1946 the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) had 6.3 million members. By 1954, when it merged with the AFL, this number was 4.6 million. This steady drop continued. In 1954 34.7% of American workers belonged to a union. By 2010, this had dropped to 11.9% (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm).
There are obviously multiple factors leading to the decline of unions in the US: the wholesale export of union manufacturing jobs, the expulsion of militant unionists (thanks to Taft Hartley’s red baiting clause), enabling union bureaucrats to identify more strongly with management than the rank and file; CIA infiltration of the AFL-CIO; Mafia involvement in the Teamsters and other unions with large pension funds; and the systematic Wall Street public relations campaign to demonize unions and the working class.
1. The export of American manufacturing jobs – the wholesale shutdown of US factories to relocate overseas was clearly a disaster for both the US economy and the trade union movement. Yet many on the Left argue, as I do, that a strong union movement would have stopped Ronald Reagan from repealing the tariff, quota and tax laws that, prior to 1980, would have prevented this massive dislocation. To make matters worse, as hundreds of thousands of workers left their good paying union jobs to take minimum wage jobs at MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart, the restrictions imposed by the Taft Hartley Act made it extremely difficult for unions to organize them in this new sector.
2. The expulsion of militant trade unionists – generous wages and benefits gave US workers a false sense of security during the economic boom of the fifties and sixties. Especially after the expulsion of more militant unionists, this allowed the conservative union leaders to identify more with corporate executives than with rank and file workers. Instead of lobbying to repeal Taft Hartley and relying on a well-organized rank and file and industrial action, union bosses became more focused on “sweetheart deals,” in which they got special perks from management for guaranteeing labor discipline among the workers they were supposed to represent. Rank and file unionists fought back in the 1970s with the formation of Teamsters for a Democratic Union and similar reform groups who fought hard for the right to elect their union leadership. In 2005 the union reform movement led the Teamsters and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to form the Change to Win Federation.
3. CIA infiltration of the AFL-CIO leadership – during the fifties and sixties, CIA infiltration clearly played a role in the AFL-CIO’s abandonment of rank and file workers. Former CIA officer Tom Braden bragged in a 1967 Saturday Evening Post article about the number of AFL-CIO officers he placed on the CIA payroll. See http://revitalisinglabour.blogspot.com/2009/04/lenny-brenner-on-tom-braden.html, http://www.laboreducator.org/darkpast2.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Braden
4. Mafia and organized crime involvement – participation by Mafia figures such as Jimmy Hoffa in the Teamsters and other major unions (the millions of dollars the unions held in their pension funds were irresistible to organized crime) was a major factor in turning public opinion against unionism and organized labor. The refusal of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to recognize or fight organized crime clearly enabled the takeover of the Teamsters by the Mafia. Both the FBI and CIA have a history of collaborating with organized crime in drug trafficking, strike breaking and in “anti-Communist” campaigns targeting trade unions and leftist groups in the US and Europe (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucky_Luciano, http://www.converge.org.nz/pirm/cia.htm and http://tinyurl.com/6f6vms5 – an excerpt from Opium: Uncovering the Politics of the Poppy by Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy). The FBI and military intelligence also collaborated with senior organized crime figures in the JFK assassination (see the 1970 Torbitt Document, based on New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison’s grand jury investigation of the JFK Assassination http://www.newsmakingnews.com/torbitt.htm)
5. Wall Street’s public relations campaign to demonize unions – I have written at length (see “Thinking Like Egyptians” http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/03/01/thinking-like-egyptians/) about a systematic, seven decade corporate campaign to bombard the American public with anti-union, anti-worker and anti-working class messages. The late Australian psychologist Alex Carey was the first to document the extent of this campaign in his 1995 Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class
While the massive protests in state capitals last week are a great start, Americans still have a long way to go to achieve an Egyptian-style revolution that will restore working democracy in the US. To begin with, American workers need to be better organized. There’s no question that Mubarak’s departure was hastened by the threat of a general strike by Egypt’s independent trade union association. The US media neglected to mention the general strike, as well as the years of sustained organizing by Egyptian workers that made the mass mobilization in Cairo and other cities possible. While the contagious effect of mass movements overseas will greatly speed up the process, real change in the US will require major commitment to organizing and movement building.
Personally, I don’t believe it makes a bit of difference which organization people join. Millions of Americans are already active in a broad range of antiwar, social justice and environmental groups fighting battles that are just as critical as the issue of jobs and union rights. However I also think that it makes sense for low income and unemployed Americans to either join a union or the Union of the Unemployed, as jobs, decent wages, and looking after their families is obviously their highest priority.
The Unemployed Union
Ur Union of the Unemployed, nicknamed UCubed, is a community service project started last January by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers. Its goal is to unite the unemployed and underemployed with union workers, building a coalition similar to the one the pressured Roosevelt to enact far-reaching New Deal legislation in the 1930s.
Membership is free, with UCube organizing members by zip codes. The idea is for each new member form a “cube” in their local area, thus multiplying their political and economic power by 6, by 36 and eventually by 29 million. Members receive action alerts on federal and state legislation affecting workers, as well as general tips on surviving as an unemployed person. UCubed members also receive generous discounts at the Machinists Mall, a kind of on-line shopping center: http://shop.machinists.mallnetworks.com/
Who Can Join Ucubed?
The website mentions no restrictions whatsoever on membership. It specifically mentions “underemployed” workers, which seems to cover a lot of territory. In addition people working 1-3 part time jobs because they can’t find full time employment, this would also cover struggling students, people forced into early retirement or unable to get off welfare or disability because no one will hire them, as well as self-employed contractors and business people whose earnings are inadequate to provide for their basic needs. I would also encourage working people unable to form a union in their work place (either for logistical reasons or because it’s forbidden under the Taft Hartley Act) to join.
Obviously for people in full time jobs, joining and becoming active in your own local union will be much more helpful in addressing problems in your own workplace. The National Labor Relations Act guarantees every American worker the legal right to form a union, even domestics, office cleaners and temporary clerical workers who work in separate homes and offices. The AFL-CIO operates a web page http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/how/howto.cfm with instructions how to go about forming a union.
As you well see from the AFL-CIO website, creating new unions has become extremely complicated and cumbersome owing to Taft Hartley restrictions forbid supervisors and independent contractors from joining unions and allow employers the right to intimidate and harass employees who are trying to unionize. Thus I would recommend that full timers also join UCubed until they have their own union to represent them.