Posts Tagged ‘red baiting’
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
The US union movement was built during the last serious recession (the Great Depression, which started in 1929). Then, as now, employers took advantage of the economic downturn to cut wages, pile on work and force employees to work under sweatshop conditions. In the 1930s organized labor, largely led by the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations), fought back through sit down and wildcat strikes. A wildcat strike is an unofficial strike, usually called in response to mistreatment of a co-worker. In essence, workers refuse to return until management agrees to their demands.
Because slowdowns and wildcat and sit down strikes are illegal under the Taft Hartley Act, American unions face steep fines for engaging in them. In 2011, if a worker is bullied, harassed or illegally fired by an employer, his only option is to file a grievance through the National Labor Relations Board, a process that can drag out for months or years. Because there are no real sanctions against employers, workplace bullying and harassment are incredibly common in the US. In my Seattle practice, I counseled numerous victims of workplace harassment while they waited for their grievance hearing. The stress of trying to work productively in a hostile environment is so enormous that most are forced to quit or take unpaid leave while waiting for their grievance to be heard.
Other Taft Hartley provisions that restrict labor rights:
- Taft Hartley authorizes states to enact right-to-work laws. These laws outlaw collective bargaining contracts (contracts agreed on between union and management) that make union membership a condition of employment. Such laws are virtually unheard of in other countries, as they permit “free-rider” workers to enjoy the hard won benefits of union membership (wages and benefits are always better in a union company) without joining the union or paying dues. In the 22 states (mostly in the South and Rocky Mountain region) that have them, they have reduced union membership to a level that it has virtually no effect on working conditions.
- Taft Hartley excludes supervisors and independent contractors (which includes most doctors) as employees for purposes of union membership. This has allowed companies to arbitrarily designate thousands of employees as independent contractors and/or supervisors and thus deprive them of union protection. As well greatly reducing potential union membership.
- Taft Hartley makes pass picketing illegal – a common tactic used during the 1930s to discourage scab labor from entering the worksite.
- Taft Hartley allows the President to obtain an 80 day court ordered injunction to halt a strike, allowing the employer sufficient time to recruit scabs to replace striking workers.
- Taft Hartley establishes the right of management to campaign against union membership (often incorporating coercive scare tactics) during a unionizing drive. This is in marked contrast to European countries, where employers (who always have an unfair advantage) are required to maintain a neutral stance towards union organizing.
- Taft Hartley allows the employer to petition for a union certification election and/or decertification election. Similar laws are also unheard of in Europe. Management frequently uses this provision to force a premature certification vote, before workers have had a full discussion of the pros and cons of union membership.
- Taft Hartley prohibits secondary boycotts directed against neutral companies to pressure employers who are refusing to negotiate. Prior to 1947, this was one of organized labor’s most potent tools.
- Taft Hartley allows employers to delay union certification by demanding National Labor Relations Board hearings on key matters of dispute (such as what constitutes a bargaining unit). Management often uses the time to coerce individual workers to vote against the union.
- Taft Hartley establishes heavy penalties against unions who violate the Act and negligible penalties for employer violations. This tends to make employer violations of labor rights (e.g. illegal firing of labor supporters during organizing drives) routine.
- (Prior to 1965) Taft Hartley required all union leaders to sign an anti-communist pledge. Prior to its 1965 repeal, this led to massive red-baiting in the union movement, with the result that the most militant union members were either expelled or forced out.
To be continued.