A rebel alliance?
by Cal Zero
And now, your highness, we will discuss the location of your hidden rebel base...
Most people who follow labor news already know about the loud denunciations of Andy Stern at last month's UNITE-HERE convention.
"Piracy on the Seas of Labor!" proclaimed AFSME head Gerald McEntee;“Deplorable!” lamented Laborers President Terrence O’Sullivan; and, most colorfully, Vince Giblin of the Operating Engineers' repeatedly referred to Stern as "the Darth Vader of the labor movement."
Many would-be labor leftists are applauding the news, some of them cheered by what they regard as a lifting of the indifference with which labor watched Stern's quashing of UHW President Sal Rosselli and the busting of the Puerto Rican teachers' union; some have even wondered if this might not presage a "reunification of the labor movement".
What a pipe dream!
For leftists to believe, however cautiously, that this new "solidarity" of labor can put us on the road to "build fighting, democratic unions" is a feel-good delusion of the highest order.
It's just too easy to put a black hat on Stern, too easy to beat up on SEIU as "the bosses' lackey union," too flattering to bask in the press attention that any attack on labor's most powerful leader will inevitably garner. Just ask Jimmy Hoffa.
There's so much lazy thinking going on - and an understandable reluctance to dig into this stinking pile - that it's easy to lose sight of the basic facts:
1) The "sanctity of jurisdiction" is never, but never, really about organizing strong unions. It is about not having your union's cozy deal with the employers disrupted.
2) "Democracy" is fine as a value, and occasionally important as a rallying cry, but it is a very easy claim to manipulate, and down-right pathetic as a cover for weakness and demoralization.
3) Raising an outcry against SEIU's "organizing at any price" is a handy distraction if you're not doing any organizing at all.
4) Strong unions are built, not in an rarified atmosphere of political peace, but on hard-won common ground. Some rivalry between unions is not only unavoidable, it can be a good air-clearer.
5) This fragile anti-SEIU "unity" will amount to nothing.
Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
My question: is a policy of all-out war against the SEIU is a real option, or just an ideological red herring? What, other than union busting, would "all-out war" even mean? Should we bust the SEUI "just to see it die"? It's important to be clear that this is what Wilhelm and his supporters advocate.
I don't see how this can be a viable strategy for unionists. As I see it, the only consistent policy is one of constructive engagement and mediation at the top, and cooperation and organizing under both flags at the grass roots. To counter Stern's opportunism with demagogic covictioneering won't make strong unions - it will only create political space for a new opportunism.
This, then, is what is being revealed: that the UNITE HERE merger - and the Change to Win coalition - were never based on sound principles. The cash-strapped HERE wanted to sieze UNITE's assets; Bruce Raynor saw HERE's jurisdiction as a road to political prominence; and the CtW unions most of all just wanted out of the AFL-CIOs per capitas and legacy costs.
And to think, these "leftist" dunderheads - surveying the havoc caused by these ill-concieved maneuvers - see a "new hope" in more opportunism!
Perhaps a real wave of labor militancy is rising, but this is still just chop; we ain't surfin' USA yet. Until then, keep your head, and don't miss the comic side of this political theater.
Bruce Raynor: the Bib Fortuna of the labor movement