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  • authored by remote viewer
  • published Thu, Mar 18, 2004

Dissing democracy: SEIU leader blogs on

Dissing Democracy: SEIU Boss Blogs On

More and more these days I am troubled by the lack of understanding, within the mainstream labour community, of the concept of democracy. It's disturbing to hear mainstream unionists - leaders and members - vilifying democracy, presenting it as an obstacle to unity and progress and advocating the need for strong leaders and docile followers without providing any explanation as to how that will improve the quality of life of working people.

My concern recently ballooned into alarm when I visited the web log of Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU launched Stern's "blog" - called Fight for the Future a couple of months ago. The move was taken by some as an indicator of a shift in Stern's orientation: From autocratic biz unionist pooh bah to a more engaging and people-friendly union leader.

The blog consists of a series of posts where Stern ruminates on a variety of topics and then engages others in limited discussion. A particular interesting entry was made on on March 15th under the heading "Democracy in Unions 2". In response to some questions about earlier musings on the subject, Stern dropped da bomb - some insights into democracy in unions that are really quite chilling:

Just read your comments, and, yes, structure matters.

The labor movement divides workers into local unions, which made sense years ago. Now, we are in an era of corporate mergers and that local union structure does more to handicap workers than it does to help. We've got a situation where when Disney bought ABC, which now may be bought by Comcast, workers from Disneyland and cable companies end up working for the same boss. In this environment, workers being divided in different unions is a lesson in structural failure. And workers will pay the price in bargaining. The effects of this antiquated structure can be seen in the recent Safeway strike. Dividing Safeway workers into seven local unions in LA alone is a recipe for disaster. Structure matters.

And while we are at it -- failure matters, as well. While the intellectuals debate democracy from an abstract point of view, many of the most democratic unions cited by the "progressives" as democratic models are losing members, losing strength, and are not the most effective.

Workers want their lives to be changed. They want strength and a voice, not some purist, intellectual, historical, mythical democracy. Workers can win when they are united, and leaders who stand in the way of change screaming "democracy" are failing to understand how workers exercise the limited power they have in a country where only 8.2% of the private sector are in unions. They just don't get it!

So, am I on a roll or off the deep end?

Both. Stern appears to be advocating that:

  • Democracy is for weaklings and intellectuals.
  • Workers do not need or want democractic organizations. Democracy is an abstraction that doesn't address their needs or priorities.
  • Workers' power can be engaged through strong autocratic leaders.
  • Strong autocratic leaders can change workers' lives (presumably their economic lives).
  • The strong leaders should be able act without interference from.people who oppose them.

If this is the case, Stern is on a roll right off of the deep end and into an ideological swamp inhabited by pretty much every tyrant of the industrial era. Here are a couple of the more famous. All of them, by the way, claimed that they were going to change the lives of workers for the better, through suppression of democracy and strong leadership.

"There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons, and the word 'council' must be restored to its original meaning. Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man." - Adolf Hitler

"The truth is that men are tired of liberty." - Benito Mussolini

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." - Joseph Stalin

"The young [Nazi] movement is in its nature and inner organization anti-parliamentarian; that is, it rejects a principle of majority rule in which the leader is degraded to the level of mere executant of other people's wills and opinion." - Hitler again

Earlier today, I posted my concerns on Andy Stern's blog and - because I somehow doubt that I will survive its stringent content policy, have invited him to MfD forum to elaborate on his views and debate them with our community.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 12:22pm

For the record, here is the text of my post in Stern's blog:

Mr. Stern,
I am from the web site Members for Democracy http://www.ufcw.net. We are a broadly based community of working people who advocate democratic unionism. I am deeply troubled by your statements:

"And while we are at it -- failure matters, as well. While the intellectuals debate democracy from an abstract point of view, many of the most democratic unions cited by the "progressives" as democratic models are losing members, losing strength, and are not the most effective.
Workers want their lives to be changed. They want strength and a voice, not some purist, intellectual, historical, mythical democracy. Workers can win when they are united, and leaders who stand in the way of change screaming "democracy" are failing to understand how workers exercise the limited power they have in a country where only 8.2% of the private sector are in unions. They just don't get it!"

It appears to me that you are advocating that: -

- Democracy is for weaklings and intellectuals.
- Working people do not need or want democratic institutions. Democracy is an abstraction that doesn't address their needs or priorities.
- Strong autocratic leaders who can change workers' lives (presumably their economic lives).
- The strong autocratic leaders should be able act decisively and without interference from.people who oppose them.

These beliefs are the bedrock of fascism and have been advanced by pretty much every tyrant of the industrial age, including 20th century biggies Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joey Stalin.

If you don't believe me, here are a couple of quotes that might help draw the parallel a little more clearly:

"The young [Nazi] movement is in its nature and inner organization anti-parliamentarian; that is, it rejects. a principle of majority rule in which the leader is degraded to the level of mere executant of other people's wills and opinion."
-- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, p. 344

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." - Joseph Stalin

"The truth is that men are tired of liberty." - Benito Mussolini

I would appreciate your comments on my suggestion that you advocating fascistic unionism. If I am wrong, then please elaborate on what it is that you are advocating.

As I am not certain that my post will survive your censors, I am inviting you to MfD's Open Forum where you will find a brief commentary about your statements and an invitation to join us in our forum, where the democratic principle of free speech is alive and well, to elaborate on your views and to debate our community about them.

If this sounds intellectual or abstract to you - take my word for it, it isn't.

Looking forward to seeing you at MfD.

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 1:11pm

Democracy is not as important as a union that listens to it's membership but in the end does what is best for it's members.

A good point is made in that the fact we are divided by locals which bargin at different times it gives companies a chance go after union members a little bit at a time while maintaining almost normal business operations.

At a time when companies are consolodating power and resources should unions not be doing the same?

It is a shame that labour organizations such as the caw have used the smoke screen of democracy to weaken other labours unions such as the seiu clac and are attempting to do to the ufcw 1000a.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 1:20pm

Sometimes you guys crack me up. The ability to have the discussion is more important than what the other guy says or thinks. Shit, we haven't had the luxury of engagement on any issue from the leadership because they just ignore us.

If the strength of our arguments are so sound, then why are we afraid to have this discussion? What other leader has recognized the value of interactive communication? I absolutely believe Stern is on a course that makes sense...asking US what we think.

Gotta run to a meeting, but we need to air this. Not from what he says, but the fact he is willing to say it.

I'll leave you with one question; if there was true reform and workers did better and it was under one union...would that be a good thing?

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 1:36pm

One large union in which all workers were in would be a bad idea for a few reasons.

1 Who would control the union for instance if it was the caw would the tail wag the dog, the smallest amount of membership being in the autofield while the largest amount resources poured into their interest.
2 Unions that are too large will totally lose contact with the indivual members.
3 Unions need to know the field or market they are in so they can bargin accordingly also different industries require different stratigies for dealing with labour strife.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 1:40pm

Well, let me give my perspective on the value of big unionism. For several decades now, unions have been getting bigger and bigger and more centrally controlled and less democratic. What's this accomplished for the members?

They're worse off now than they've ever been in the past. The pooled resources that were supposed to make the unions stronger and better able to take on employers are being squandered. The autocratic leaders are disconnected from their members. Far from having more leverage with employers or politicians, they have less. They're laughing stocks who are manipulated left and right by employers who know which buttons to press when they want a break.

Look at the UFCW. They're a good example of a bad example. Their leaders had incredible leverage in the SoCal strike and they blew it about as badly as they could blow it. Why? They were disconnected from their members and manipulated by the management guys. Their resources, while still sizeable, had been pissed away over two and a half decades. Finding themselves in a position where they had all the advantages of big unionism, they choked.

So, this being the case, what makes anyone think that if unions get even bigger - maybe even form one big union - that things are going to get better?

And as if that's not bad enough, let me toss this one out:

What makes all of you proponents of big unionism so certain that people want to play follow the leader? Maybe democracy doesn't matter to you and you could care less about things like free speech, the right to make choices - but I think that there are a hell of a lot of people out there that do care and that want democratic organizations. I think that this is one of the major reasons that people are not joining unions.

So if big unionism means autocratic unionism (which I think that it does according to mainstream thinking), then you can advocate big unionism all you want. If people don't want to join because they want democratic organizations, what the hell good is it going to do anyone even if you create one huge union?

  • posted by robbie_dee
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 2:15pm

I'm with BP.

I think "fascistic unionism" is a little over-the-top, RV.

I'd basically describe the SEIU/NUP model as "competent bureaucracy."

I do agree with the general point that bigger isn't necessarily better. I'm quite a fan of a community-based union model like the Downtown Workers Union the UE is organizing in Montpelier, Vt.

But I think it may be a job for the "big unions" Andy is pushing for, when faced with the daunting task of taking on large, multinational corporations like Sodexho, Safeway or Walmart, rather than the mostly small and independent businesses of a mostly small and tight-knit community like Montpelier. And I do think the Safeway strike would have turned out differently with a union like SEIU than it did with UFCW in charge.

OTOH, there is that curious tendency for SEIU Intl to trustee locals, only to have the new trustees move in and take up long-term residence. Generally those trustees come in after a history of corruption and mismanagement by the "old guard" incumbents. So trusteeship can mark a big step forward. But at some point the members have to take the union back for themselves again, right? Recently in Philadelphia, the union members took back their local a little earlier than the Intl leadership had planned!

To their credit, it appears the International has respected the result, despite protestations to the contrary from the outgoing Trustee's slate. On March 16, the new rank-and-file executive was sworn in.

In my eyes, this is also progress.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 4:02pm

The funny thing is RV, i'm not arguing for or against it at this point. Sterns point was small unions could be as corrupt (not his words) as big ones. I haven't seen bigger being better, but then i haven't seen smaller being better either.

Workers are getting there teeth kicked in and the question you ignored was " if there was true reform and workers did better and it was under one union...would that be a good thing?" I know it's simplistic, but there was a reason for it.

Pragmatically are we interested in workers doing better, or in seeing to it, the biz model is gone forever? I always get uncomfortable when it appears the agenda is to make sure the bad guys get got...and oh by the way, if the workers are destroyed too, so be it.

I know, i'm baiting you, but you ignored completely the fact he even has the balls to get out there and ask. You admitted you were convinced you would get tossed because you were certain you didn't follow the rules.

Mind you, it was my understanding some of you would log on and wade into the discussion. I was excited because i know you all can articulate your points quite well, and expected you would do so in a manner that kept the discussion alive.

Is it just that he is a biz union leader? Is it because he has taken the medium we think of as ours? Honestly, i am at a loss, so help me understand what is inherently evil about someone trying to find out what is wrong with the shitpot we are stuck in.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 4:29pm

His blog is nothing short of a miracle. Its about time one of these leaders reached out to us.

Lets use it to try to build something different. We all know what is going on now is not working.

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 4:43pm

Just a question for R.V. have you ever worked in a union shop and had to do so for your survival?
The reason I ask is I have trained and worked with quite a few students of universities whose views on the world were slanted by professors of ethics and philosphy.
All of which are nice but they did not work in the real world.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 5:01pm

Excuse me fellas (RD/BP), but when I see musing like this:

quote:


They want strength and a voice, not some purist, intellectual, historical, mythical democracy.


I'd like an explanation of what Mr. Stern is thinking about. Since when is democracy mythical - among other things? What does he mean by that? Let's start with that.

I have a pretty big problem with a guy who is being touted by mainstream labour as "enlightened" and forward thinking, a guy with good ideas but who expresses views that are profoundly anti-democratic.

If you disagree with my assessment of those views, please tell me what you think he means.

The problem that I have with labour mainstreamers is that they consistently duck the most fundamental of questions about the relationship of the union's leaders to its members and of the role of members in the union.

My own view is that only power of the union rests in its members and until that is understood, there will be no progress. Call it competent bureaucracy or fascistic unionism. Making the trains run on time is a nice thing to do, but I'm not sure that administrative efficiency is in any way connected to workers' empowerment.

And as for you Fed Up: I understand what it's like to work for a living. I've been doing that for about the last 25 years. I have also seen a lot of things that are not taught by university professors and that you'll never see for yourself either. For instance, I've been to the backrooms where union leaders suck up to corporate bosses and trade members like away like so many bags of beans. I've seen the "real world" like you'll never see it. If you read any of my stuff, you'd know that.

Hey guys, if you think that big unionism may be the answer, tell me this:

1. Who's going to lead the big union?

2. How will that be decided?

3. Will democracy be respected or will we have a small circle of "responsible men" running the show?

4. What will happen if members are not happy with the way things are being run?

5. What will happen if another 50 years go by and workers are no further ahead?

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 5:39pm

Actually RV I owe you an apology I made a mistake and mixed you up with someone else sorry.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 5:45pm

Maybe it's just me, but I can't get my head around a blog being open and interactive. Isn't it more of a journal as compared to a forum?

I don't see this blog as being as close to a miracle as YAWM was when it was first introduced. To me, that's more a picture of an enlightened union which preaches interaction of the members. Now that is a miracle.

And I become very cautious when someone tries to tell me democracy is a myth. If it is a myth, then what the hell does anything within this discussion matter and why even have it at all? Sorry, but a red light comes on and I tend to scrutinize the subject even closer.

  • posted by siggy
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 6:12pm

Thanks Lic, I thought I was alone. Me too all around, blogs remind me of when I write letters to Mr. Brooke, never sure if he's going to read, respond or rip. We'll see, RV invited Mr. Stern over to have an real interactive, we'll see.

BP said "true reform". For me that would be nothing less than equity on every level, equal opportunity on every level?

I'm also hesitant to accept "if workers did better". That is the premise from which we operate now, according to who(m), measured by what?

We need to dig deep'r or we're back to square one in no time at all, it's happen'd time and time again, the system is marred/rotted/past it's best before date.

quote:


"competent bureaucracy."


Sorry R_D, it is still bureaucracy and won't the majority be dependant once again? Will that correct anything or will it delay worse?

Me too again, I want to throw out the word *subordinate* and Andy wants to throw out "democracy".

  • posted by Valubia Szeznetovich
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 6:45pm

Yes!

  • posted by unionnow
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 6:46pm

RV,

I like you was quite shocked by his comments on that Blog and like you I ripped him for his thoughts. It was no surprise, he has been floating these ideas for a while.

These guys live in the differnet world of the labor hierarcy. They are insulated, political and stuck working within a system built on a foundation of corrupt fiefdomes.

None the less, this is an opportunity for us to give him our views and vision of what's wrong and that is something completely missing at his level.

He seems to be reaching out to us, why not take the opportuntiy to reach out and refect our opinions and thoughts onto him?

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 7:03pm

quote:


I'd like an explanation of what Mr. Stern is thinking about. Since when is democracy mythical - among other things? What does he mean by that? Let's start with that.


Why didn't you ask him? Honestly RV, how many times have folks come here and right away you slapped them for an opinion? My recollection is you have tried to engage them before you start slamming them. Why is it different when you go to another site and piss on their rules?

As far as whether i support bigger or smaller unions, here's the answer...yes. The point is, i don't give a shit if they are bigger or smaller, i care if they work.

If you read the blog, you know what i said about the biz union model...it's dead. How often can you go online and proclaim to them the thing they cling to is DOA. And yes, i did compliment him for the courage to ask, i didn't agree and i didn't get dumped for flaming.

That's my point in responding. We are getting the shit kicked out of us. There isn't one good thing happening other than all the fringe crap we are playing around with. What is interesting is, the net does have potential, and we have opened lines of communication. Will it matter? Hell who knows but it's worth trying.

And to lics point, the blog isn't as interactive as i'd like, but it's better than anything else going on. I do believe we can win every argument, debate or discussion we get into, but only if we can get into them.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 7:14pm

Sorry RV, i thought you said he bounced you. When i checked, i didn't see your post and thought he had. Now i see you posted on a different thread, blog, whatever. Maybe this will get interesting, seeing if he has the whozits to answer you.

I think this is an interesting chance to test the system for whether they give a rats ass about what we say or not.

  • posted by CUPE_Reformer
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 10:29pm

Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union.

quote:


And while we are at it -- failure matters, as well. While the intellectuals debate democracy from an abstract point of view, many of the most democratic unions cited by the "progressives" as democratic models are losing members, losing strength, and are not the most effective.


"The one thing I have learned these last few years is to never ever think that I know what is best for our membership. Once we start doing business thinking, that we know what is really best, and just humour the membership, then we are in really deep trouble".

Phil Davies, President
Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, Local 2

Where do we go from here?
Apr/May 2003 PPWC Leaflet

http://www.ppwc.bc.ca/aprmay03r.pdf

  • posted by Marc Brazeau
  • Thu, Mar 18, 2004 10:38pm

Did anyone pay any attention to the process that SEIU went through in coming to the decision to endorse a presidential candidate in the primary? It was democratic in the best sense. They held meetings and showed videos in locals all over the country, they met with the candidates all over the country. Delegates from all over the country assembled to meet with the candidates over a 4 day period, included in that was time candidates spent with worker delegates and no paid staff to mediate, not just to see where they stood on the issues, but also to see how comfortable they were around working people. The delegates had input there, the union polled their membership repeatedly.

At one point Stern was ready to endorse, but the membership wasn't - so they didn't. In the end, the elected executive board voted to endorse Howard Dean when they knew that that was where the membership was at. Compare that with AFSCME where McEntee endorsed and pulled the endorsement on his own. Did SEIU have a direct plebiscite to endorse? No. They did something far more difficult and valuable. They engaged their membership in process of education, interaction and deliberation.

When I worked for SEIU Local 250 as a field rep a few years ago, we voted everything that we bargained with the company. Even if it was an issue where the contract was silent that effected 5 workers. Most business reps would tear out there hair to have to go through all that rigamorole over simple stuff like that. Local 250 is central to Sterns view of how SEIU should function at its best. At that time, 1998 or so we were already working on lining up expiration dates on the hospital contracts. Meanwhile 250 organized a majority of the industry in Sacramento and SEIU (is it) 399 organized a majority of the industry in Los Angeles. As I understand, now contracts in both No. Cal and So. Cal are lined up.

That's power. And that strategy came from paid staff. The union went through a wrenching transition that was a democratic ratification of top down proposals to take resources out of internal organizing or representation ( whatever you want to call it ) and put it into new organizing. That's tough. It means that field reps will have bigger routes. They will miss returning more phone calls. Stewards will have to become stewards, instead of the being the only person on their shift who can remember their field reps phone number. Thats uncomfortable. Most stewards resisted that.

It happened through a combination of democratic deliberative process and top down leadership. The SEIU conundrum is that "pure" democracy gets in the way of militant, effective, engaged unionism, when the staff/leadership is in favor of worker activist, militant unionism and the membership is in favor of the comfortable business unionism that they are A) used to and B) coddled by.

In my experience, most rank and file leaders want to have some say in ratifying the direction of their union, but at the end of the day they want smart effective leadership from their leaders and staff.

Under Stern's leadership, SEIU has grown by nearly a Half A Million members at a time when nearly every other union is shrinking. SEIU mostly continues to do tough, non concessionary bargaining. You can't say that for too many unions either. There are problems. SEIU is not a perfect union. The push to put resources in new organizing has left many dissatisified workers around the country.

Nevertheless, they have been one of the few bright spots in a field of incompetent dinosaurs. That's why I'm always surprised when people are so quick to criticize Stern.

Union democracy is important. Essential. Lord knows that the UFCW is a good example of why. The UFCW needs a TDU style organization. With the failure in So. Cal and Dority's exit, now is an excellent time.

However, I believe that militancy and competence are of greater value,(and I think that is where Stern is coming from) than an obsession with union democracy. The UE is an exemplary union. In many regards. Most especially, in it's commitment to rank and file democracy. Currently the UE represents 35,000 workers. If memory serves, ten years ago, they represented 40,000 workers. They have had a commitment to A) new organizing B) non concessionary bargaining and C) an unparalleled commitment to democracy - and yet they are shrinking just like the Steelworkers, just like the UAW.

So bigger isn't better. Smaller isn't better. Better is better. But as we turn to face , Target, Costco and all the rest. Better better be bigger.

  • posted by Marc Brazeau
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 12:54am

I would add that, the outcry by the leftier than thou chorus, best exemplified by JoAnn Wypijewski's hysterical Counterpunch essay: A Manifest Destiny for Labor". has robbed the voices that prioritize democracy over effectiveness ( rather than searching for a balance ) of credibility. Rants like hers make it hard to engage the credible demands of union democracy without getting a little dismissive.

She spews all sorts of personal vitriol all over the place. She dismisses concepts like market density out of hand. She makes sentimental gestures towards valiant but failed efforts. She never makes one counter proposal about how Labor can be more effective. She only offers Union Democracy as a vague panacea and criticizes effective strategies as not being couched in sufficiently pastoral social movement rhetoric.

A few years ago, a friend of mine had dinner with some UFW organizers. They were saying that the UFW was going to become THE union for Latino workers. Whenever there was a hot shop that was majority Latino, they were going to organize it. That is a noble sentiment. And given the UFW's history, they are uniquely qualified to carry out just such a mission.

The problem is that, that kind of random hot shop organizing makes the union weaker with every group of workers it organizes. The union's resources are stretched without building bargaining power. Staff has a new set of shop floor issues and lingo to master with each new organizing campaign. Workers in one worksite have precious little strength that they can offer through solidarity to their brothers and sisters in another.

I'm dead serious. That kind of hot shop organizing make unions weaker. The UAW does it. The UFCW does it. And it's wrong. But in this case, the UFW was couching it in the kind of Social Justice Movement rhetoric that Wypijewski writes so approvingly of - in counterpoint to NUP's "bureaucratic or corporatist" language of market density.

Well, market density gives workers power and chasing hot shops wastes their dues.

I'll grant you that this doesn't go specifically to the question of union democracy, but these are the arguments (such as they are) being marshalled against the New Unity Partnerships plan for reviving the Labor Movement. And I think that is in part why someone like Stern, who has been more successful in leading a union that is both growing and engaging it's membership like only a handful of others gets a little impatient with questions about democracy.

I don't think that he's against union democracy, in fact I think that for a 1.6 million member organization that is fighting for its life everyday, its a remarkably open instituition. But being attacked for trying to make unions effective again gets pretty tiresome.

PS: Nothing that I've seen since I started the Joe Hilldispatch suggests that the UFW is pursuing a foolish hot shop strategy. My affection and respect for the UFW runs deep and goes way back to when I hosted a UFW organizer in Atlanta. Stewart Acuff who was the Atlanta Labor Council President at the time asked me if I'd put up an organizer for a few days. He stayed, in my room for three months, on a $10 a week stipend, eating rice and beans. He got to use my bed four out of seven days a week while I was out of town working for SEIU Local 1985 organizing correction officers. When I was back in town he slept on the floor instead of the couch in the living room so that he wouldn't bother my roommates.

Not long after he left, I was out of town on a campaign for the Teamsters when I got a call asking if Dolores Huerta could sleep in my room since I was out of town. I said, "Of course." and then immediately dropped what I was doing and rushed home to put on fresh sheets and clean my room.

I didn't get to meet her, but I can tell you what she read off my bookshelf before going to sleep. Jorge Borges' "Ficciones" and a book on early twentieth century Mexican Anarcho-Syndicalism.

  • posted by Duffbeer
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 1:40am

I would like to offer a late-nite/early morning welcome to you Marc.

That's a nice website you have there, I have added it to my favorites.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 3:45am

Welcome Marc, delighted to see you join us for the discussion. Read some of your stuff and it is exceptional. This ability to start connecting the dots around the country is like our only hope to force the labor leaders to wake up and get it moving or get the hell out of the way.

I won't link them, but i did a three part (soon to be four) series on slaveway called The Future of Organized Labor. It's posted in the Von's section and it deals with the failures and potential to succeed. In the coming article, my intentions are to focus on websites that are interactive and feature strong worker/member education components.

That is one of the reasons i see the SEIU blog as being such a bold step. They know they will get some of the more "radical" folks posting, and don't appear to be afraid of it. I think it's up to us to keep the discussion alive, because Lord knows, there aren't many leaders to have the balls to post and ask on a website like his.

Again welcome.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 5:51am

Is the Stern blog a bold step towards engaging the community or another billboard for a union leader who is feeling the ground give away underneath his empire? I'm going to reserve judgement on that until I see whether Mr. Stern responds to my inquiry or, better yet, takes us up on our offer to join us here and debate the issues of union democracy.

Like Siggy and Lic, I did not find the blog a particularly engaging communications medium. It's awkward to use and does not encourage two way communication - that said however, I'll acknowledge it's more than Stern's counterparts in other unions are doing these days.

Is the SEIU a particularly democratic union? I'm not sure that I would agree that it is. The behaviour or its US and Canadian leaders during the SEIU-CAW "matter" of 2000/2001 did not exemplify, in any way a leadership that was respectful of workers' democratic or statutory rights. What has been done to resolve the issues that flowed out of the high profile Justice for Janitors situation? I understand that after becoming SEIU members, many of the workers who were the target of this organizing campaign were quite disappointed with the absence of democracy in the humungous local into which they were plunged?

No I'm not picking nits. I get very suspicious when I hear a mainstream union leader reaching out to the community of workers with one hand and slamming democracy with the other. So I look at the behaviour of the union to get a sense of where things really stand.

And let me say this: Whatever Mr. Stern's good intentions may be, when I hear someone say that democracy is a myth - on his very popular blog, to the whole wide world - I have to ask myself why he's saying that. Either it was just a slip of the tongue (and that's hard to do on the Internet) or it's a statement that speaks volumes about Mr. Sterns respect for working people. In my view, if you don't think democracy is important, you don't respect people.

As for those of you who are just sort of at a loss for what to do and looking at the big union model as something that has potential or the undemocratic union model as something that also has potential because, well, there just don't seem to be any other alternatives: What about the small, decentralized, networked model that we have discussed on this site at various points in time in the past. Your tendency has been to dismiss this although I have never quite understood why. The big hurdle in making this model work, IMHO, is that involves spinning off power and resources to the nodes in the network and that, within this model, there is no use or role for big shot leaders. How about this as an alternative?

  • posted by CUPE_Reformer
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 6:20am

posted by Marc Brazeau

quote:


And I think that is in part why someone like Stern, who has been more successful in leading a union that is both growing and engaging it's membership like only a handful of others gets a little impatient with questions about democracy.


According to Buzz Hargrove, CAW President, 11,000 of the SEIU members voted to disaffilate in workplace balloting, and 95% of the votes supported the CAW in a government collective bargaining election.

The SEIU members, he charged, were motivated by "dictatorial leadership from Washington, poor service, and a fundamental lack of control over their Canadian affairs".

From the February/March 2001 issue of UDR
In Canada: Auto Workers and Carpenters defy U.S. internationals.

http://www.uniondemocracy.org/UDR/11-Canadians%20leave%20US%20unions.htm

"What the 800 nurses at Boston Medical wanted when they began looking for an alternative to the SEIU six months ago is what many other unhappy SEIU locals have wanted: A union that puts their every day needs, boring stuff like grievances and returning phone calls, ahead of the top-down management and grand social agenda of SEIU boss Andy Stern".

March 10, 2004
SEIU's Agressive Organizing Begins to Take Toll
http://www.joehilldispatch.org/archives/001494.php

Sounds exactly like CUPE.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 6:24am

Welcome to MfD Marc and thanks for such a rich and informative site at Joe Hill Dispatch.

quote:


In my experience, most rank and file leaders want to have some say in ratifying the direction of their union, but at the end of the day they want smart effective leadership from their leaders and staff.


I agree this is the norm in most locals here in the states, and we certainly all want smart effective leadership, but I see a rapidly growing number who are using the web as a means of connecting and becoming more active in the future of the working people. Most of these activists don't merely want "some" say in ratifying the direction of their union, but rather, want a completely member oriented, member driven organization with democratically elected, term limited leaders and the demise of appointed officials.

quote:


However, I believe that militancy and competence are of greater value,(and I think that is where Stern is coming from) than an obsession with union democracy.


The majority of the members of organized labor over the last forty years haven't taken an active role in their organizations and were satisfied to live their comfortable daily lives while their leadership watched out for their livelihood. Somewhere between the deterioration of wages, misappropriation of pension funds, increased cost of healthcare, links to organized crime, and the stifling of democratic practices within their locals and internationals, the workers found a need to become active within their respective organizations. For years their officials preached the need for them to become active and how important it was for the future of the labor movement that they do so.

Well, the members found something that gave them that desire to become active and the link that pulled them all together across all boundaries was democracy. Now that the rank and file are finding their unified voices, it seems they are placed on opposite sides of the hierarchy of organized labor when it comes to what is more important for labor's future. Activists find themselves fighting injustices on two fronts now it seems and just as Stern gets impatient with questions about democracy, these active members of organized labor also get impatient when democracy is dismissed as a secondary aspect of our organizations behind the authoritarian straightjacket proposed by the likes of McCarron with his sprawling regional councils of appointed officials. This places the members in a "damned if you do, and damned if you don't" situation IMHO.

The viewpoint of a large majority of member activists I interact with, see the relationships of Stern, McCarron, Wilhelm, O'Sullivan, and Raynor, as being bound by the fact they would rather be free of any restraints of democracy and have all power placed at their disposal so they can save the labor movement from the lack of market density and the members themselves.

quote:


I won't link them, but i did a three part (soon to be four) series on slaveway called The Future of Organized Labor.


First I've heard of this BP! Has this been secret or am I just out of the loop?

  • posted by CUPE_Reformer
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 9:00am

posted by remote viewer:

quote:


As for those of you who are just sort of at a loss for what to do and looking at the big union model as something that has potential or the undemocratic union model as something that also has potential because, well, there just don't seem to be any other alternatives: What about the small, decentralized, networked model that we have discussed on this site at various points in time in the past. Your tendency has been to dismiss this although I have never quite understood why. The big hurdle in making this model work, IMHO, is that involves spinning off power and resources to the nodes in the network and that, within this model, there is no use or role for big shot leaders. How about this as an alternative?


remote viewer:

Where has the small, decentralized, networked model been discussed on the MfD site?

I believe that the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees use the small, decentralized, networked model.

  • posted by robbie_dee
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 12:05pm

quote:


Where has the small, decentralized, networked model been discussed on the MfD site?

I believe that the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees use the small, decentralized, networked model.


Like the CAW, I've always considered AUPE to be more of a "cult of personality" union built around the "renegade" leader, be it Buzz Hargrove or Dan "Buff" MacLennan. Both CAW and AUPE beat the union democracy drum when they're liberating bargaining units from other unions. The two of them even talked about affiliating together in a brand new labor federation outside of the CLC, back when the CAW/SEIU dispute was at it's height.

In the end, though, I just can't believe they'd tolerate the same level of internal dissent against the "Leader." When was the last time either of them faced a contested election for their positions, and what result?

On the other hand, PPWC, from what I've read of them, seem to me to be the real deal. They remind me a bit of the UE down here in the US. Unlike AUPE, both PPWC and UE are genuine "leftist" unions, and I think their current positions seem to largely be the end result of Cold War-era political struggles with the more conservative mainstreamers in the AFL-CIO/CLC.

I linked this on the previous page, but in case you missed it I'll put it up again. IMO, the UE's Downtown Workers Union campaign in Montpelier, Vermont is a good example of a decentralized, networked, community-based union organizing model.

BTW - I also thought Bill Pearson's Future of Organized Labor series was excellent. If he won't link them, I will.

The Future of Organized Labor: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3.

You should re-publish those here on this site.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 1:08pm

MfD on networks and other concepts that really make proponents of conventional unionism (OK, I'm trying to be diplomatic about it) antsy:

Networks rising

Networks (another discussion)

A World Without Wires is a World Without Strings

The Biz Union Blues - The Future's Uncertain and the End is Almost Here

Taking Back Our Unions and Engaging the Future

Biz Unionism vs. Revolutionary Unionism

Open Source Unionism

The Leaderless Organization: Snake Without a Head or Freedom at Last?

The End of an Era for Control Freaks (Some thoughts on why it's good to expose the existing order and its elites.)

There's lots more too. Just use the search feature in the forum and you'll find lots of discussion threads where networks are discussed.

  • posted by Valubia Szeznetovich
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 5:13pm

quote:


I didn't get to meet her, but I can tell you what she read off my bookshelf before going to sleep. Jorge Borges' "Ficciones" and a book on early twentieth century Mexican Anarcho-Syndicalism.


Good choice. "The Library of Babel" is a prescient metaphor for the internet if there ever was one.

  • posted by Marc Brazeau
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 6:43pm

I'd like to thank everyone for the warm welcome, post some thoughts and then extend an invitation.

A) Thanks. The level of discussion over here is impressive. Daunting in fact, as I've been disconnected from the Labor Movement for a few years and just started getting reconnected last summer.

B) I think that it is important to see Stern's or anyone else's priorities in terms of their history. SEIU and ACTWU were both unions where activists from the 60's civil rights and student movements and then the community organizing movement of the 70's went in order to do organizing that was class based and self institutionalizing.

In that context, it was staff that drove organizing, militancy and rank and file participation - and elected leaders that stood in the way of those three things. They had to spend years of ugly behind the scenes organizing to revitalize local and regional districts and then organize the membership to vote corrupt or more often incompetent leadership out. When they got their, there wasn't a dissident rank and file movement. Paid staff had to create one and manipulate it to produce progressive outcomes.

That is the organic history behind the current practice of putting broken locals in trusteeship and then pushing for the appointed trustee to be voted into the presidency when the local emerges from trusteeship. Often the results are unequivocally positive. SEIU has a lot of talented organizers they can move around to head locals. Sometimes the results are poor. I know of a recent case where the trustee made some serious missteps and was voted down. He most likely should have been. The local has emerged from trusteeship and now they have leadership that came out of the local.

Often however, the resistance to SEIU's so-called staff driven approach isn't because members are upset about a lack of democracy. They are upset because the new leadership is pushing stewards to handle grievances and organize petitions and job actions. They are pushing the local to put more money into new organizing. And the rank and file don't want to give up the cozy business union model. Stewards want to be the person who can remember the business agents phone number off the top of their head. Members don't want their grievance handled by co-workers.

In a union like SEIU or UNITE the experience is of staff being more militant than the membership and their experience of union democracy is of try to get the membership to get off their ass or Union democracy meant procedural roadblocks to removing corrupt or incompetent officials.

In the case of the UAW or the Carpenters or the Laborers or the Teamsters or the UFCW, the experience is reversed. You have pockets of rank and file members who are more militant than the leadership and union democracy is the only route to militancy. So in those unions we see a high value placed on democracy by militants.

In unions like SEIU, UNITE and HERE you just don't find the same kind of well developed union democracy dissident groups. As SEIU continues to grow, it is likely that we will see them.

It just seems to me that with everything that is wrong with the Labor Movement, Andy Stern seems like an odd target for criticism. Obviously SEIU has it's problems. I need to learn more about what happened with CAW before I comment on that. But they are one of the handful of unions that have made any visible and measurable progress in reversing Labor's decline.

They taken on projects that no one else would touch: like the Justice for Janitors campaign where they had to compel someone to recognize that they were in fact the de facto employer before they could even begin bargaining. Did they make mistakes? Sure. They got crushed in Atlanta. But they were developing a knowledge base that didn't exist. Labor was learning to organize all over again. Someone up thread referenced how elsewhere the janitors were disappointed with SEIU because the organizing drive had heightened their expectations. Well, at the time no other union would have even bothered to drive up their expectations. Because no one would have bothered with them. Organizing janitors was considered to difficult. But SEIU's organizing director at the time was Andy Stern and he didn't accept that.

"These are five guys sitting around and talking. They don't represent the labor movement," said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union.

Gerard's union, which the AFL-CIO says has lost 140,000 members in five years.

In the same period of time, SEIU has grown by nearly half a million members. Unfortunately, Gerard is right. More unfortunately still, his Steelworkers are more representative of the Labor Movement than Stern's SEIU.

C) If anyone is interested in helping out at the Dispatch, please let me know. We have Local Desks in Atlanta, Fort Worth and East Texas and I want to open as many as possible. If you'd like to get one going in your neck of the woods, let me know. I'd like to get a union democracy blog going as well. I'm open to ideas. If you've got something you'd like to work on that might fit into what we're doing at the Dispatch, drop me a line.

The worse thing that could happen is that I'll say "Yes".


p.s. Try googling "SEIU" and "Concessions". You don't see much about "accepting". It's almost all about "fighting".



At least semi relavant:
Sorting Through the Wreckage of the Grocery Strike Part I
Part II
Thoughts on the UNITE/HERE Merger

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 6:53pm

Hey V how are ya? Good to see you've maintained that acerbic wit and undaunted skepticism.

By the way R_D, thanks for posting that series. Hate it when ya gotta hump yourself...i mean push your own material.

Thanks for all those links too RV. I knew we beat a lot of this stuff to death. The one real shortcoming has been most of it has been intellectual rather than practical. Doesn't mean it can't work, but it hasn't been tested. That was the one advantge to the Vermont piece R_D posted, there was an action attached to it.

This discussion does pose a question that i would like to hear picked at: Should we care more about the structure or more about the outcome?

  • posted by blasdell
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 7:50pm

As a rankandfiler, I think the structure is more important.

The outcome is always important but the structure will sustain itself and produce more positive results more often.

With the leaders always leading, we are too reliant on a small handful of people.

Lets create leaders by the thousands????

It may sound a little "pie in the sky" but with the power source mobilized anything is possible.

Think back to the days of student protests and the empowerment of the people, why doesnt that happen anymore? Would all those radicals from the sixties be pleased to see their children and grandchildren doing the same as they did?

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 8:28pm

quote:


Should we care more about the structure or more about the outcome?


Aren't they one in the same? Isn't either the structure or the outcome dependent on the other? With the wrong structure it would seem you would get the wrong outcome.

If you have a broken leg, you can temporarily place a splint on it. If you have a bleeder, you can temporarily apply a tourniquet. But although both examples will patch you up for a short while, and keep you from possibly dying; the fact remains it is imperative to permanently repair the problems, less complications set in, and somebody is throwing dirt in on you.

quote:


Would all those radicals from the sixties be pleased to see their children and grandchildren doing the same as they did?


bb, if you're talking about advocating power to the people, I would be proud to see my children concerned enough in social justice to take an active role. But if you're talking about some of the other things we did back in the sixties, for my own peace of mind, I think I would rather they skipped those parts!

  • posted by siggy
  • Fri, Mar 19, 2004 9:13pm

A true worker advocate's hackles should have raised up as soon as they heard that five powerful union leaders devised a better way to be union. Least of all we should all be very concern'd about moving the concept of one big union forward, devoid of recognizable democracy and with very visible market principals at it's core.

Isn't that what biz unionism is/was? Isn't labour in the current mess because at the biz-u point of no return, some overpower'd white guys decided to abandon democratic principals for a piece of the market pie?

Dismissal of democracy or, at best, democratic principles heaped in a pile to take a look see after, as a founding force to rebuild sets off quite a few alarms for me. (It may just be ufcw member reflex, but there is lots to be said for knee jerk, it has it's roots).

Hey, am I in the wrong place? Are we talking about building a union, or are we talking about building an army? And if it is an army, to defend what and for whom?

Choosing the "better of two evils", is that what labour has been chiseled down to? It's an interesting pitch which addresses none of the fundamental ills and it will no doubt sell like hotcakes to on the fence reformers (weakening the *other movement*), gawd help us.

Someone please explain how leaving democratic union principles behind again, will be better for members than the last time those principles were left behind?

quote:


It just seems to me that with everything that is wrong with the Labor Movement, Andy Stern seems like an odd target for criticism.


Globalizing workers is one thing, "globalizing" an institution is quite another. Using position and opportunity and attempting to further deepen the de-democratization at a critical cross roads in labour, makes Stern a fairly obvious target.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 4:08am

quote:


Aren't they one in the same? Isn't either the structure or the outcome dependent on the other? With the wrong structure it would seem you would get the wrong outcome.


Sorry lic, but i don't see it that way. You could conceivably have the most democratic structure in the world but empower no one. Lets say a union allowed for elections every year, or better yet, you could only serve for a year, it would be entirely possible to never achieve anything due the constant turn in leaders. Or even if the same slug was elected every year, but never empowered anyone, the outcomes could be abysmal...kinda like now.

quote:


A true worker advocate's hackles should have raised up as soon as they heard that five powerful union leaders devised a better way to be union.


Like no one here has ever thrown out a topic to see how much button pushing they could trigger.

quote:


Hey, am I in the wrong place? Are we talking about building a union, or are we talking about building an army? And if it is an army, to defend what and for whom?


Nope, i'm not talking about building a union, or an army for that matter. What we need to do is create a movement. We are so far removed from being able to organize one worker at a time to recover that to think in any other terms, leads us to failure.

The classic example of where we need to go is equivilent to the civil rights movement of the 60's. It has to be about social and economic justice and frankly i could care less if it is led by a king a general or a thousand workers carrying pitchforks.

Let's look at their leader. Martin Luther King was the single most prominent figure. Was he elected? Did it matter? When you come down to it, it is about creating a vision and an energy that people will fiight to achieve. When he was murdered, did it stop? No, because he trained millions to take his place.

There-in lies the future of organized labor. Untill we can inspire and mobilize workers to become willing and able to pick up the tools to force change, little will change.

Honestly, i could care less about who is in charge if they are willing to engage and enlighten workers. Once that happens, the workers (the power source if you will) can make that decision. After all, by then, they will know best, not father.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 6:10am

quote:


You could conceivably have the most democratic structure in the world but empower no one.


Okay, and on the other side of the spectrum, we have seen that the most autocratic structure in the world empowers no one. We already know that model doesn't work. Although I didn't really mention what type of model (structure), I think that irregardless which model (structure) one chooses, it will still be relevant to and have an affect on the outcome.

For an example let's look at the civil rights movement you mention. Although MLK was the figurehead of the movement and he had a hierarchy of top leaders who were kept in the eye of the media and inspired and rallyed supporters, the majority of the movement was made up of many volunteer cells in the background, and they were usually coordinated through local churches and meeting places. Once the cells became large enough, and the people within the cells were trained, they went through a mitoses of sorts and other smaller cells were created and were spread around new local areas which were in need of support. This was their cellular structure and it would appear this is relevant to the outcome. This decentralized form with volunteers empowered through education, mobility, and training was one of the primary reason for the success of the movement. Therefore the structure would seem to be directly related to the outcome IMHO.

  • posted by blasdell
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 6:44am

Exactly, Split, the structure is the key. The structure must be self-sustaining.

Mobilization of the power source. People care when it involves them, who feels involved in their union?

Those workers in California were involved and cared but lacked leadership. If they were recieving a little more strike pay and more support from other organizations would the outcome have been different?

The onslaught against wages and benefits is North American wide at the "worker" level. It has been going on too long and requires a new approach.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 7:00am

I want to raise something about structure that I'm sure will be controversial but that I think needs to be explored in any discussion about the relative merits of structure in what is at its heart an organization of workers (a union).

First of all, let me just say that I am not a proponent of "structure". For one thing, I do not see that it has been at all helpful in making unions effective in advancing the interests of workers. Within the mainstream labour movement, there is a lot of structure. There is very little effectiveness. I would go so far as to suggest to you that there is a causal relationship between the diminishing effectiveness of unions and the evolution of structure within unions. So I do not see how structure is the answer to the effectiveness problem. Nor do I understand how bigger highly structured unions are likely to be any more effective than the big highly structured unions we have today.

But there's another and more difficult problem related to structure - this is the controversial part - and that is: Have you (those of you who favour a more structured vs. less structured organizational model for unions) considered that structure in and of itself puts people off of joining unions? I think it does and I think that the people who are most put off are those that the labour movement is trying the hardest to organize: People who have been oppressed, disadvantaged and disempowered by structure - within their workplaces, within their communities, within their countries, within their families.

Those of you that favour the structured union need to do some soul searching about the extent to which your bias in favour of structure in unions is actually the product of your own conditioning and your experiences within structured organizations - experiences which for you have had positive results. Now, I'm not suggesting that your experienced within your unions or your educational institutions or the enterprises for which you work have been all gravy. No doubt, you've had battles to fight and obstacles to overcome. But, all things considered, you've done OK for yourselves by conventional standards. You're not disadvantaged or disempowered the way that a woman or a person of colour or an immigrant worker working in a service industry job is disempowered. The structure that you have grown up in, worked in, been conditioned has not been as good for them as its been for you.

People who have existed in a state of perpetual disempowerment because of the structure of organizations are repelled by structure. This, I am convinced of from my own experiences and those of family members, friends and colleagues. If your experiences with structure are disempowering, you will think twice before throwing your support behind anything (that's a product of disempowerment) and will think twice more before throwing their support behind something that resembles the disempowering environment of their workplace, their home, their place of origin and so on.

I have heard this very loudly over the years from women who work in the service industry. They spend their lives in workplaces where they are dominated by (mostly) male supervisors, managers, executives to whose wisdom they are expected to defer and whose instructions they are expected to carry out without question or complaint. The thought of joining an organization that is ruled by mostly male executives to whose wisdom they are expected to defer yadda yadda, is not especially appealing to them.

The same holds true for immigrants from countries with oppressive regimes. The thought of a small group of guys in suits making decisions in fancy offices far away conjures up certain memories - and their not empowering ones. When you talk to people who have lived under despotic regimes about the "myth of democracy", you're not impressing them. You're reminding them of the place they fled.

So - assuming that there is anything to this at all - what is the point of building a bigger structured union which may indeed have some operational efficiencies if the very nature of the organization is going to repell the people that you are hoping to attract?

The same repellant quality is going to be a problem with the younger generation of workers who are just entering the workforce now and who will be entering it in the years ahead. Every study related to the values of this demographic that I have read in the last few years suggests that they are not "joiners" by nature, that they are suspicious of structure (especially heirarchical structures) and not inclined to defer to the wisdom of their elders. The obstacles in relations to reaching out to this group are magnified by the fact that this generation has no connection to conventional unionism at all. Few of their parents or family members have ever been union members and those that have been are likely to have negative impressions of unions rather than positive ones.

So, where does that leave us? I think any effort to build bigger, more structured unions is doomed. You can build it but you can't make them come. You can talk about its relative merits until hell freezes over but if structured organizations run by small groups of well-intentioned men makes the hair stand up on the backs of the necks of the constituency you're trying to reach, then you're going nowhere.

Oh BTW, welcome to MfD Marc. I was a little surprised by your comment that you find the discussion on this site daunting. Why is that? I have always found it sort of invigorating. Anyway, looking forward to hearing more from you.

  • posted by blasdell
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 7:18am

IMO lack of stucture is included in stucture RV.

If the "new" labour movement was simply a meeting every week in the town square by all workers....then so be it.

It could also be an online movement.

It may never have a constitution or dues, lets say all it consisted of was boycotts and peaceful civil disobedience in order to be heard.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 7:42am

quote:


It could also be an online movement.

It may never have a constitution or dues, lets say all it consisted of was boycotts and peaceful civil disobedience in order to be heard.


It could be whatever the particular group "chooses".

Great point RV. All us do-gooders who have done ok under existing "structure" are way self righteous and way too anxious to impose ours onto them.

It was good for us so we assume everyone will want one and head off to heap our structure (conditioning) onto other poor souls.

We're really not very bright overall, rather narrow of the mind eh, especially those who are in power positions. Oops, looks like I found a loop hole in the structure.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 8:21am

I always have a problem talking about structure because like RV, I am not a proponent of it myself. The very sound of the word conjures up a picture of a corral and when I speak of it, I can see and feel the walls surrounding me. Okay, that may be a little overstated but the point is, in order to build a new empowered community, we must begin thinking differently. Structures are meant to hold something and I've been in plenty of structured enviroments in my lifetime and I cannot for the life of me, remember when I felt empowered within one of them. Actually, in most structured climates I've taken part in, I was subservient to someone or something.

However, it is very difficult to provide a theory or alternative where it is understandable when you go outside the realm of order of which we are all so accustomed. There is freedom outside of structure but with that freedom, there can also be an uncomfortable feeling of unsurity. This is where the community and it's participants are essential in providing support and thought provoking discussions in order for everyone to overcome these uncertainties. Whenever I speak of structure, I always am in want for an alternative word to use and the words cells or community are about the best words I've found that best describe the alternative to the word structure. New empowered communities require new empowered thinking, IMHO.

Did that make any sense at all? I think I may be coming down with a touch of the spring fever!

  • posted by Marc Brazeau
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 8:23am

quote:


posted by remote viewer:
Well, let me give my perspective on the value of big unionism. For several decades now, unions have been getting bigger and bigger and more centrally controlled and less democratic. What's this accomplished for the members?

They're worse off now than they've ever been in the past. The pooled resources that were supposed to make the unions stronger and better able to take on employers are being squandered. The autocratic leaders are disconnected from their members. Far from having more leverage with employers or politicians, they have less. They're laughing stocks who are manipulated left and right by employers who know which buttons to press when they want a break.


In the case of SEIU, UNITE and HERE this just isn't the case. By and large those unions have bargained better contracts and raised the standard of living for their members and at the same time they have organized tens of thousands and in the case of SEIU, hundred of thousands of new members over the last ten years.

On the other hand, in theory, the IWW is a great union. In practice, the last good news that I saw about the IWW was that they organized a bookstore with four employees. Which may be good news for those four workers, but will likely make that union weaker by spreading its precious resources thinner without creating any bargaining power in the labor market.

The question isn't whether union democracy is important, obviously it is. The question is what are your priorities and what works.

From what I've read, the most specific, most principled objection to a specific NUP proposal is to the idea of creating appointed positions to do the work that Central Labor Councils are supposed to be doing.

These guys put significant resources into trying to revitalize State and Metro CLC's. Two of the most dynamic CLC's in the country in the nineties were Atlanta and the South Bay CLC in San Jose. Not coinicdently, they were both headed by SEIU organizers: Stewart Acuff in Atlanta and Amy Dean in South Bay. But by and large, that campaign failed. In Atlanta Stewart re-energized the Building Trades and successfully mobilized them in a campaign of mass demonstration and civil disobedience to have the Olympics built union, mobilized the Atlanta Labor to play a major role in electing a new mayor, creating strike support that that city had never seen and leading key protests against Newt Gingrich. After all that, he ran for head of the State Federation. In that case, the result of democracy was to stick with the incumbent, Herb Mabry. The result of that vote was to stick with atrophy and decay.

In theory State Federations and Central Labor Councils are a beautiful thing. In practice they are a tremendous waste of dues money that could be used for better things. The vaste majority of CLC's are capable of organizing golf tournaments. On a good day they can do a blood drive.

So after fifteen years of (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to change that, the leaders of NUP are asking, "Should we continue to squander our members dues on this nonsense or should we do something that we know will work?"

The proposal to create appointed positions to do the work that CLC and State Feds doesn't come from some power hungry drive to circumvent democratic structures. It comes from thirty years of beating their heads against the wall trying to create an effective trade union movement.

Another NUP proposal that has come under fire is the need to break up some amalgamated locals and realign their members by industry. SEIU has been doing this. They've broken up locals that had grown over time to represent janitors, some county maintenance workers, a few nursing home workers, teachers aides, etc. The janitors were put into building trades locals, the nursing home workers into healthcare locals, etc. This has been a wrenching change for many members. But also clearly a necessary one.

Joann Wypijewski from NUP: A Manifest Destiny for Labor:

The culture, traditions and history of faltering unions that, under this plan, didn't get to keep their names and colors and identifying insignia as part of the chosen twelve or fifteen would be swept away, the clutter of old days. The workers, many of whom rightly or wrongly perceive the union's relevance in just such things, would be no more than the dues units they already too often are, though every once in a while they'd be herded onto buses, dressed in identical T-shirts and "mobilized" for some purpose decreed from the top.

Given the staggering forces that are arrayed against working people, I find it hard to shed a lot of tears over the fact that some people are going to have to retire one satin jacket and get used to another.

That essay just infuriates me. She musters no arguments save her withering tone. And she directs that at the only three major unions that aren't going to hell in a handbasket.

I think that Bill's point about MLK is a good one. I don't believe that Andy Stern is saying that union democracy is not important or that it should be impossible to challenge union leaders. The point is that the claims of meritocracy and democracy often compete. And when they do, a balance must be struck.

We've already spoken about the SEIU local that ( I think in Pennsylvania) went through a trusteeship and then voted out the trustee, handpicked by the International to run the local and voted in their own candidate. The point is not that the International handpicked a candidate. The point is that at the end of the day, the local voted in their own candidate. And that's who's running that local. Democracy carried the day. But that local wouldn't be in the fairly healthy state that it is in without going through trusteeship. The competing demands of democracy and meritocracy found a balance.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 9:07am

quote:


So after fifteen years of (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to change that, the leaders of NUP are asking, "Should we continue to squander our members dues on this nonsense or should we do something that we know will work?"


Excuse me Marc but how is it that the NUP leaders know their grand plan will work? That sounds a little presumptuous don't you think? As to the suggestion that union democracy may be a deterrent to effective unions, I suggest to you that we have had 5 decades of mostly undemocratic unionism in North America and look at what it's got us?

I am also really quite taken aback by your reaction to JoAnn Wypijewski's article. If you disagree with her views, it's fair that you say so but to say that you are infuriated by her article?! What is at the root of your intensely emotional reaction.

At the risk of infuriating you further Marc, I suggest that the reason that you find some of the discussion on the web site so daunting is that the range of discourse that is considered permissable among mainstream unionist has been narrowed to the point where anything that pushes out across its boundaries and cannot be immediately dismissed as the work of the devil is headache-inducing.

I would be quite happy to hear your views on my earlier post about "structure" and I'll add a little something to what I've already said: Angry men who justify domination of others because they think they know what's best for the rest of us (especially us women) put us right off.

You can deny the validity of these views all you like. It won't help you organize a piss up at a brewery.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 9:29am

quote:


Given the staggering forces that are arrayed against working people, I find it hard to shed a lot of tears over the fact that some people are going to have to retire one satin jacket and get used to another.


I'm a little taken aback at your reaction as well, clearly Joann was defending membership choices. She is right, vaccuming up locals is the same as vaccuming up members.

quote:


The proposal to create appointed positions to do the work that CLC and State Feds doesn't come from some power hungry drive to circumvent democratic structures. It comes from thirty years of beating their heads against the wall trying to create an effective trade union movement.


That is just not how it happen'd Marc.

The last 30 years they were banging golfballs at the clc organized tourneys you mentioned (and afl cio)). It is interesting because just when the bars on the union cage start shaking, some machineheads, deeply rooted in the union past, comes up with a new plan. Well I'll bet they have and I'll bet it's more of the same, only the bars will no doubt be stronger.

  • posted by CUPE_Reformer
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 9:31am

posted by Marc Brazeau:

quote:


In the case of SEIU, UNITE and HERE this just isn't the case. By and large those unions have bargained better contracts and raised the standard of living for their members and at the same time they have organized tens of thousands and in the case of SEIU, hundred of thousands of new members over the last ten years.


Monitor Airs Hotel Union's Dirty Linen
http://www.heretics.net/linen.html

"11,000 of the SEIU members voted to disaffiliate in workplace balloting, and 95% of the votes supported the CAW in a government collective bargaining election".

http://www.uniondemocracy.org/UDR/11-Canadians%20leave%20US%20unions.htm

Marc Brazeau:

Why do you not respond to the last article?

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 10:07am

Well, welcome to the lion's....er...I mean reformer's den Marc! Must be the fresh blood...er..I mean plan you apparently believe has merit

quote:


So after fifteen years of (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to change that, the leaders of NUP are asking, "Should we continue to squander our members dues on this nonsense or should we do something that we know will work?"


So who is the "we" of which they are referring. Is it the rank and file members they are referring to? Or is it merely the concerted song of the quintet who in all their wisdom and experience know what's best for the rest of us? Irregardless of how many coats of paint are applied, it just fails to cover up the fact it's more biz union philosophy.

Whether these sages realize it or not, the union activists today ,who these five are supposed to be spokespersons for, have become disillusioned with this model of corporate partnership unionism and have become extremely aware of their rights as dues paying members, and as we've seen in many cases, are willing to go to the wall to make certain their rights are not treaded upon. There is a new article on MfD entitled Reformers Rewrite Ironworkers Constitution which deals with this very thing.

The infringement of member's rights and the abuse which seemingly spawn from undemocratic practices will no longer be tolerated and with this new awareness must come a new model of unionism., IMHO. The activists of today are human beings who are capable of rational thought and they refuse to be led down paths they already know are strewn with brambles and unstable slopes. I'm sorry but the premise of the NUP, no matter how sincere and how much they believe they are right, seems like a recipe for disaster when it comes to the rights of the membership.

  • posted by charlie
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 3:44pm

Mr. Brazeau,
I've worked in SEIU's organizing model during the Boston janitor's strike in 2000. This was where the international's appointed trustees hired college students (like me) who treated immigrant workers like children. A strike vote included about 300 workers out of 10,000 members. The ratification vote of the contract was about 100 for to 50 against. The trustees then forcibly merged all of the locals in Eastern Massachussetts. After the first two votes to merge failed, they forced a third vote on the merger which won, finally. In UAW concessionary contracts, this is called "voting until you get it right." It's undemocratic, ugly, and disgusting. The janitors who are members of the Boston union are mostly from Central America. They have experience as union organizers, union leaders and armed guerillas fighting against imperialism. But since they don't speak good enough English, Andy Stern and company set up a situation where none of them could run for union office, and only his hand-picked trustee could. After the members of Local 254 in Boston saw all this finagling, they got totally disgusted with the union and stopped being activists.
I was very involved in the efforts of janitors in Philadelphia to take back their union from trustees last month. You can read more about that process in this article.
http://www.labornotes.org/archives/2004/02/articles/c.html
These workers had already taken over their union from corruption before the International forced a trusteeship. The international's appointed trustee then bought himself an SUV and house with union money and forced a horrible, concessionary contract. He refused to leave office even after he was trounced in an election. If not for articles like this one in Labor Notes, that made Andy Stern look like the dictator he is, I guarantee you that the trusteeship would not have ended.
This NUP clique would force these tactics on the rest of the labor movement. They think workers are stupid. They think union elections are unnecessary because workers are stupid and don't understand their own interests. They hate democracy and think anything besides their own power is a myth. They want to run unions like Citizen Action and other lobbying groups: professional staff doing all the work, paid by loyal, passive dues-paying members. I've seen their way of functioning close up, and it's not the future for any successful movement for anything.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Sat, Mar 20, 2004 7:31pm

quote:


The viewpoint of a large majority of member activists I interact with, see the relationships of Stern, McCarron, Wilhelm, O'Sullivan, and Raynor, as being bound by the fact they would rather be free of any restraints of democracy and have all power placed at their disposal so they can save the labor movement from the lack of market density and the members themselves.


Sounds like Oliver Cromwell.

Members don't care, they make it easy for the leadership to take them for granted. Just came off a project with my union and left more disgusted than ever.

I walked away with the feeling that our members are going to get what they deserve, no democracy, consessionary contracts, arrogant leadership and ever increasing dues.

Taking a month off thinking, why do I want to go back to this mess? Dumped on by managers and members and used by xenophobic union leaders who must have a closed society.

Damm, we are in big trouble.

  • posted by Marc Brazeau
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 5:40am

Taking points one at a time.

Why did I react so strongly against the Wypijewski essay?

Bensinger, meanwhile, is now with NUP, also included in the document as potential staff.

Bensinger was always particularly good at massaging the press--Bernstein is one of his boys--and particularly good at trying to steer progressive journalists toward writing love letters about "my guys", the "organizing unions", and heaping sewage upon the heads of union dinosaurs. It wasn't surprising, then, that Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect wrote a fawning piece on the NUP, much circulated over the Internet, titled "Organize or Die".

Because of statements like that. I can't even tell what her beef is there. She's just tearing down people who have spent their lives trying to revitalzie the Labor Movement. Secondly and more importantly she offers no thoughts on how to reverse labor's decline. Warts and all, UNITE, HERE and SEIU are not in decline. They are thriving. So when the leaders of those three unions propose solutions, I think it is incumbent on their critics to go the extra mile to show that they are wrong.

SEIU is a large uneven union. I haven't looked at enough material to really have a sense of what went wrong with CAW. CUPE Reformer, the article you reference doesn't give enough information to evaluate the situation. However:

"What the 800 nurses at Boston Medical wanted when they began looking for an alternative to the SEIU six months ago is what many other unhappy SEIU locals have wanted: A union that puts their every day needs, boring stuff like grievances and returning phone calls, ahead of the top-down management and grand social agenda of SEIU boss Andy Stern".

March 10, 2004
SEIU's Agressive Organizing Begins to Take Toll
http://www.joehilldispatch.org/archives/001494.php

I'm not on the ground there, but this sounds to me more like the nurses found SEIU to be not sufficiently Business Uniony enough.

My point is not that SEIU is a perfect union. I'm not going to defend Wyatt Closs, but at the end of the day, Closs didn't end up president of that local. I know that there was an overemphasis on college educated go getters as organizers in the mid nineties and the union has grown so fast that it hasn't always integrated new members as well as it should.

There are many cases where the International has been heavy handed.

But I don't judge SEIU or any union against the sepia toned memories of the IWW circa 1913 or the United Farm Workers circa 1968. I judge them against their peers.

Right now, Ron Gettelfinger's UAW is in secret negotiations with Caterpillar. For the past year the UAW has been in concessionary bargaining to get card check and neutrality agreements. That would be a defensible (not necessarily correct, but defensible) strategy except for the fact that the UAW doesn't have the infrastructure to engage in that level of new organizing.

I find that troubling.

I don't find Andy Stern saying in an interactive public forum that he initiated, that there are more important things than chasing a mythical "Pure" democracy.

And yes, there are more important thing than "Pure" democracy. Countless people's organizations have collapsed under the weight of pure democracy. Students for a Democratic Society went through a few years of startling energy and activity and then degenerated into one long debate about how to make their decision making process sufficently inclusive and consensus based. They stopped making decisions and then they stopped existing.

No one in this forum has addressed this point of Stern's:

And while we are at it -- failure matters, as well. While the intellectuals debate democracy from an abstract point of view, many of the most democratic unions cited by the "progressives" as democratic models are losing members, losing strength, and are not the most effective.

Excuse me Marc but how is it that the NUP leaders know their grand plan will work? That sounds a little presumptuous don't you think? As to the suggestion that union democracy may be a deterrent to effective unions, I suggest to you that we have had 5 decades of mostly undemocratic unionism in North America and look at what it's got us?

Where did I say that union democracy is a deterrent to effective unionism? I don't see things in black and white and I don't think that it's a matter of being for or against union democracy. I'm for it. But I don't think that its the only aspect of robust unionism.

The point that I've been trying to make is that sometimes, democracy and meritocracy make competing claims and that those claims need to be evaluted and weighed.

No where is that more obvious than in the case of CLC's. Between elected CLC presidents organizing golf tournaments and appointed staff organizing strike support or community support for new organizing, I'll take appointed staff.

I would vastly prefer vital democratic CLC's, but that just is not happening. And in the meantime members dues are being wasted on irrelevant CLC's.

How do the NUPster know their ideas will work? They don't. Nobody knows anything. What they know is that those are the things that have been working for those unions. Market density gives workers power. hen SEIU set out to do new hospital organizing, they didn't chase hot shops are the country or even pick an employer. They picked three cities, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Sacramento. Then they ran campaigns that were directed at bargaining industry wide contracts in those cities. And that's what they did.

Compare that to the UFCW. In the wake of Grocery Strike, the obvious lesson of which was: bargain the industry, I see in last weeks Works In Progress the UFCW has organized 40 workers in two Kentucky Fried Chickens. How the heck are they going to bargain with KFC representing 40 employees? That's irresponsible. It puts those workers at unnecessary risk and wastes UFCW members dues. So now the Union has taken on what would likely be a multi-million dollar campaign, if they were follow through on their moral obligation, on behalf of 40 workers. That is the kind of nonsense that NUP is trying to prevent.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Given the staggering forces that are arrayed against working people, I find it hard to shed a lot of tears over the fact that some people are going to have to retire one satin jacket and get used to another.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm a little taken aback at your reaction as well, clearly Joann was defending membership choices. She is right, vaccuming up locals is the same as vaccuming up members.
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The proposal to create appointed positions to do the work that CLC and State Feds doesn't come from some power hungry drive to circumvent democratic structures. It comes from thirty years of beating their heads against the wall trying to create an effective trade union movement.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That is just not how it happen'd Marc.

The last 30 years they were banging golfballs at the clc organized tourneys

The issue isn't vacuuming up locals. The issue is that it is irresponsible to have members organized into amalgamated locals that through their structure dilute those members bargaining power rather than multiplying it.

Maybe McCarron and O'Sullivan were hitting golfballs, John Wilhelm was transforming Las Vegas and Nevada by organizing the hotel industry wall to wall turning it into the only place in the country where home owership for blue collar workers is on the rise. Andy Stern was organizing director before he was president, that's long hours living in motel rooms. I know Bruce Raynor. In the seventies, he was a Jewish kid from New York who went into the Deep South as Education Director for the Textile Workers Union. He used that position to create an organizing program where none existed. He did organizing where he was taking his life in his hands. The organizer in Norma Rae is partly based on him. I used to work for him. His organizing staff works on average 12 a day 6-7 days a week. He works more. He sleeps 4-5 hours a night. When he's not sleeping, he's working. He know his members and he know their issues. He has an uncanny ability to remember the details of a given plant. The membership, their issues, the details of their contract.

At time when organized labor was winning less than 30% of NLRB elections and first contracts were taking on average 5 years, we won 12 out of 13 elections and had first contracts at 11 within a year. There wasn't any time for any golfing.

Structure. Well, it depends. RV, your comments on structure are so vague or theoretical that I'm not sure what you're talking about. In say retail, I think that it's very tough to say, because it seems to me that organzing is going to call for a very decentralized structure while bargaining is going to call for a very centralized structure. The grocery strike was a case in point. The UFCW's decentralized bargaining strategy was a disaster.

In IT, Labor is pursuing a decentralized strategy through WashTech, Alliance@IBM, Teamsters Local 4 and the efforts of the South Bay CLC. This seems to be about right.

On the other hand, globalization may call for consolidation far beyond what NUP is calling for. We may get to the point where unions find it necessary to merge beyond borders into truly international internationals.

As far as finding the discussion daunting, I simply meant I'd been out of the loop for a few years and don't necessarily know a ton of recent history and it's clear that if I say something along the lines of: I think that SEIU, UNITE and HERE are successful, innovative, aggressive unions and I like that. -- I'd better be ready for Troublemaker and CUPE Reformer coming back with examples of where they've been authoritarian and/or corrupt and backing it up with articles.

But I'm not daunted by the range of debate. If anything, it's not broad enough.

My first organizing job was for SEIU Local 1985 Georgia State Employees Union. We were not recognized by the state. We didn't have collective bargaining or even meet and confer rights. We collect dues directly from the members. We didn't have worksite access. We didn't have majorities at any worksites. Our strongest chapters were between 10% and 30% of their workforce. We mostly used mass protest and civil disobedience to get things done. Our model was the civil rights movement because business unionism a) wasn't why we got into it and b) it had nothing to offer us. I worked by myself on two seperate campaigns where people were killed over the issue at stake.

Maybe if I stick around long enough, I'll get past my mainstream union views.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 6:09am

That is the kind of thinking that is contributing to the "trouble". Blame the victims, they deserve it, they've brought it on themselves. If only they would ... what?

What do you honestly expect the members (I'm assuming you're talking about the SoCal members) to be doing right now? Rallying at Joe Hansen's feet? Maybe sending a big thank you note to Doug Dority?

Here is the nub of the "trouble" - the relationship between union leaders and union members is wrong. As long as the relationship continues to be one where members are subordinate to leaders, the problem will continue as will the alienation of members for their union. The problem with the members is not apathy, it's alienation. Alienation is a pretty common phenonemon in any relationship where a gulf evolves between the ruling layer and the subject layer.

The model of organization of unions is wrong. As long as the top-down, bureaucratic, highly structured pyramid with a remote holier-than-the-rest honcho at the top and a layer of equally remote holy men between him and the members continues, nothing is going to change for the better.

The power of the people must come from the people. It cannot be channelled up a heirarchy that demands their submission nor can it trickle down from the remote holy man at the top. The mainstream leaders and their followers will never accept this or acknowledge that there may be some validity to it. This is for two reasons:

1. They can't conceive of a labour movement that is truly a movement of the people because they are motivated by disrespect for the people (they can't imagine that the people could possibly do it better than they've done it) and because they really do feel superior to the people.

2. If the labour movement really did belong to the people, there would no further need for high paid, high status leaders.

I am amazed by the referenced in this thread and in other venues where union democracy and rank and file movements are discussed, at the constant references by the proponents of big bureaucratic unionism to the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of grassroots-driven social movements. The black civil rights movement and the women's movement are two extremely good examples of the effectiveness of relatively structureless organic social movements that were highly successful. Indeed, both achieved more for their constituencies in a decade than the top-down highly structured mainstream labour movement has achieved in 5 decades.

The earlier comments in this thread about MLK are, IMHO, indicative of the inability of the mainstreamers to fathom a broad based popular movement that is driven by and for its constituents. MLK was not a figurehead nor was he an unelected leader who had some grand plan that he just knew was going to work. This characterization of him is, I think, an effort on the part of people who cannot conceive of an alternative to the top-down model of organization to explain a phenomenon that puts the efforts of mainstream labour leaders to improve the circumstances of their constituency to shame. MLK was not a guy with a grand plan and a small circle of butt-kissers who were going to lead the constituency to a better life. He was a guy who articulated the a vision for his community, articulated their views, experiences and desires and inspired them to go off into their communities and make things happen. And they did - big time. Why? Because they were empowered.

The same elements can be seen within the women's movement. Although it did not have a leader like MLK, it's evolution (and remarkable effectiveness) was the result of the efforts of many feminist thinkers, writers, artists, educators and community activists who - empowered by a newly discovered sense of self-worth - went out and made things happen. One of the biggest factors contributing to the success of the women's movement was freedom of expression - not by some small cadre of honchos at the top of a pyramid but by the people in the community.

Both of these two highly effective social movements ought to be the subject of study by mainstream labour leaders who could - if they entered into the exercise with open minds and a true sense of concern for their constituency - learn a lot from them about empowerment and effectiveness. But they won't, because they're not interested in a social movement that doesn't have as place for pooh bahs. It's a lot more enticing to wrap the old failed model in New Union Packaging and float it as the answer. It's more arousing to extoll the virtues of mainstream labour's latest heart-throb (or messiah?) and to blame the lack of any real progress on the community who just - dammit! - won't get on the bandwagon.

I have never heard that MLK ever suggested that the problems of the African American community in the 1950's were the product of their own apathy or that they deserved their lot because they didn't believe in their leaders fervently enough.

Activists with the women's movement did not chastize women for their unequal status in society. They encouraged them to talk about their experiences and to "make the personal political". They did not suggest that what women needed was a great big structured organization with a gang of five at the top who had a plan that they just knew was going to work.

It may in fact have been better that neither the African American community nor the 50% of so of the population that was female had any "official" well-established highly structured organization that purported to be its mouthpiece. I sometimes wonder about this. These communities came to life and engaged their power more readily maybe because there was no rag in the drain or layer of officious mud to contend with.

Of course the leaders of the great floundering mainstream labour movement will never, ever consider that there might be something to all of this. When you're into being the ruler, you're just not oriented to this stuff. My prediction is that they will continue along their lumbering path towards oblivion. A new and quite different movement will evolve - maybe one that considers itself a "community of workers" rather than a "labour movement". The best thing that anyone who is truly concerned about the empowerment of working people can do right now is to help that evolution.

If you're not into that then the least you can do is keep yourself from crapping on the people who gave their all only to be sadly let down by the great pooh bahs. If you want a sense of what's behind the "trouble" that the labour movement is in, I think troublemaker's post speaks volumes (the post actually reflects many of the sentiments that have been expressed by disaffected SEIU members in Andy Stern's union - based on what I have read in recent years. It is also consistent with the SEIU's reaction to the 30,000 or so members who tried to flee from its ranks in Canada in 2000). As long as leaders are elevated above the members, they will engage in behaviour that disempowers the members and alienates them. Don't blame the members. Blame the leaders.

  • posted by CUPE_Reformer
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 7:50am

posted by Marc Brazeau:

quote:


Warts and all, UNITE, HERE and SEIU are not in decline. They are thriving. So when the leaders of those three unions propose solutions, I think it is incumbent on their critics to go the extra mile to show that they are wrong.

I think that SEIU, UNITE and HERE are successful, innovative, aggressive unions and I like that.


Marc Brazeau:

From the 1972 Edition of the World Book Encyclopedia:

Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union membership 459,100

What is the total membership of HERE today?

Do you think that the unions in the United States (usually larger) have been more successful than the unions in Canada (usually smaller)?

What % of American and Canadian workers are members of unions?

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 7:57am

Hey here's a suggestion why don't you guys have all unions decertified and start over again?
Could it be the same thing will happen no matter how often you do it , because people are corruptable.
Someone has given you their thought and opinions and you have dissed him for it why not admit you'll never be happy no matter what happens and move on with life?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 8:04am

Why can't we accept the way things are and move on (whatever "move on" means)? That's simple: Because some of us refuse to live like bugs or to accept that we should subordinate ourselves to others whose interests are opposed to our own. It seems to me that what you are doing is encouraging us to not think and not talk. If you do not like it when people think about these kinds of issues and do not like to hear people talk about these kinds of issues, what are you doing here?

People who have power over others are corruptible. If power is dispersed among people, then the potential for corruption diminished considerably. This is the central principle behind democracy. If you have real democracy, corruption is unlikely to take root and can be rooted out much more readily.

  • posted by CUPE_Reformer
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 8:22am

posted by remote viewer:

quote:


Why can't we accept the way things are and move on (whatever "move on" means)? That's simple: Because some of us refuse to live like bugs or to accept that we should subordinate ourselves to others whose interests are opposed to our own.

People who have power over others are corruptible. If power is dispersed among people, then the potential for corruption diminished considerably. This is the central principle behind democracy. If you have real democracy, corruption is unlikely to take root and can be rooted out much more readily.


Exactly

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 8:33am

I am not saying don't think, what I am saying is corrupt leaders are like death and taxes they are just a fact of life.Everyone has their own agenda in life and sometimes democracy is the tool used to push it forward hey if people want to vote in their dictators fine but in the end for me as long as the social order is maintained I really do not give a rat's rear end.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 5:04pm

Then what is your purpose in coming here?

  • posted by blasdell
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 6:25pm

Fed Up's purpose in being here is quite obvious.

He has come to defend the UFCW and meet every statement made that can possibly be turned against the CAW.

As an example he states that CAW supporters became stewards in order to do a poor job so that they could make the UFCW look bad.

The manner in which Fed Up twists ideas makes me wonder if he is a pretzelmaker.

I have yet to read something tht FU posted that really was in any way objective.

He has defended the lack of democracy in unions, the backroom dealing, the day-one deal, accepted corruption, questioned other posters motives and denigrated the CAW at every opportunity. All this in a disorganized an amateurish manner.

Keep up the good work Fed Up, I am not yet FED Up

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Sun, Mar 21, 2004 10:44pm

So what bb you'd be happy to see the caw take over maple grove are pushing to see them same in your store.
I defended the day one?
I said is not the point of a union too secure the best pay and jobs for it's members, yes it is and the ufcw did that here so good for them.Was there a better way they could have done things sure but hey if it had been you you;d be screaming bloody murder if you lost any senority to someone from another union and don't tell me you won't as you have no problems with layoffs as longs as you get good pay and your job.
As far what I post about what stewards did others have backed me up and in the warehouse other guys told me they went through what I went through.
As far as back room deals and corruption to me they are just apart of life I expect nothing better and I am rarely disappointed.
As far as my post regarding the caw goes inside the warehouse all we have heard is how great the caw how it never does anything without membership say how life will be so cherry and everyone is happy in caw, well guess what i found articles to the contrary.
This website was advertised at my place of employment so i came here and it was advertised in hopes of stirring up more discontent well after reading some posts and a few articles i decided to have my say, but guess what nothing surprised me i wasn't shocked, what i saw was no different then what was going on in my warehouse a few people were going to benefit from a union change and they tried to influence others to go with them their behavior has been no different then the ufcw leaders.
As far as what I have said to RV I have to quams about what I said and if she is offended nothing I can do about, the way I see it you say what you mean and mean what you say and you do it then and there or at least shortly thereafter that way you hope someone sees the error in their ways espicially if it affects others.
As far as what I may have said to you, don't take your frustrations out on me your the one who filed a DFR without a legal leg to stand on and no actual facts to show discrimination like I said if you had been one of many who had put pressure on the union to try and fix the situation it may have resulted in something better.
My only feeling was on this thread was everyone want s to be heard this guy at the seiu has given his comments and welcomed anyone elses and I can not figure out why people are upset isn't that what you all wanted?
And as far as you and anyone else questioning me and what I am made of go for it and see what you get.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 5:57am

quote:


posted by Fed Up:
I am not saying don't think, what I am saying is corrupt leaders are like death and taxes they are just a fact of life.Everyone has their own agenda in life and sometimes democracy is the tool used to push it forward hey if people want to vote in their dictators fine but in the end for me as long as the social order is maintained I really do not give a rat's rear end.


What is the social order that you refer to in this statement?

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 9:28am

The social order I refer to are things such as a justice system,hospitals, utilities the basic needs that have to be in place for society to function.
I am not alone in my feelings why do you think you see low voter turnout in elections now.
The funny thing is when a government is effective people are not happy, look at alberta they are looking to pay off their entire debt this year the only province in Canada and people are upset, just think about this all the money they had to put out in debt payment will now be available for social programs.Oh well who cares you never can make everyone happy.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 10:55am

If that is the social order, then there is a lot to suggest that the social order is crumbling.

The justice system is overburdened and there are many questions as to whether it treats people fairly, hospitals are barely able to provide an adequate level of health care, our utilities are strained to the breaking point (I'm assuming that you are aware of these issues - they are the subject of extensive reporting in the mainstream and alternative media), "basic needs" (food, shelter, clothing) are becoming luxuries for a growing number of people in our society.

So, if you do not give a "rat's rear end" - as you put it - as long as the social order is intact, at what point are you going to start to give a rat's ass?

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 11:34am

I am not ever going to give a rat's rear end about who is in place as far as leaders go I have seen and studied just about every form of government that man has put forth.All the problem you have mentioned are easily solved by personal accountability, do not commit crime take personal care of ourselves through diet exercise avoiding excesses in sugars and alcohol do not use drugs or smoke the health care system would start to see less and less burden.If you see someone in need of help espicially with the basics help them and quit relying on others to solve the problems that you can do something about, and I do not mean by just trying to get someone else elected I mean rolling up your own sleeves and doing the job yourself.

  • posted by blasdell
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 12:47pm

posted by Fed Up:
I am not ever going to give a rat's rear end about who is in place as far as leaders go I have seen and studied just about every form of government that man has put forth.

If you do not care about "who is in place as far as leaders go", why do you care about which Union leads you in MG?

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 1:54pm

It is not an issue about which union leads it is about which repersents. As far as how they get their leaders i could care less.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 5:19pm

Fed Up, What is the UFCW's position about democracy in unions or, if you don't know for sure because none of your leaders have ever told you, what do you percieve it to be? You are a very devout supporter of the UFCW, so I'm assuming that you have a pretty sound understanding of your union's leaders views about the merits of democracy. Would you say that they share your views? Please enlighten us.

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 5:32pm

Are you seeking enlightenment?
Then try here
http://www.enlightenment.com/
If your hoping to lighten up
Then try here
http://www.jennycraig.com/

  • posted by Valubia Szeznetovich
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 5:47pm

quote:


I have never heard that MLK ever suggested that the problems of the African American community in the 1950's were the product of their own apathy


"Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world."

A Time to Break Silence: By Rev. Martin Luther King

quote:


"In the past apathy was a moral failure. Today it is a form of moral and political suicide."

---Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stride Toward Freedom, 1958

Dr. King wrote these words during the heart of the Montgomery bus boycott. Many activists had grown weary during the protest and were uncertain of whether their efforts were effective.


quote:


we come here tonight to be saved, to be saved from patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom & justice . .


quote:


The Nobel Peace Prize 1964

Presentation Speech by Gunnar Jahn*, Chairman of the Nobel Committee

"Here he lived in a society where a sharp barrier existed between Negroes and whites. Worse still, the black community in Montgomery was itself divided, its leaders at loggerheads and the rank and file paralyzed by the passivity of its educated members. As a result of their apathy, few of them were engaged in the work of improving the status of the Negro."


quote:


"Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action."

MLK - Stride Toward Freedom - The Montgomery Story


  • posted by Fed Up
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 6:53pm

MLK fought the fight the way corporate america understood best.The boycott was beautiful, coupled with teachings of peace and personal accountability.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 6:58pm

If you are suggesting that those statements are indicative of a victim-blaming orientation on MLK's part, I think that you have missed the mark Valubia. In my view, MLK was discussing the push and pull of the forces that compel and repell activism within an oppressed community. I don't hear him saying, "Oh shit, the f**king members aren't believing in the great mainstream messiah anymore and it's pissing me off."

Fed Up - you need to lose some fat in your head. Please respond to my question about your perception of the UFCW's view of union democracy.

Oh where, oh where is Andy Stern? This whole thread is about him and look what it's devolved into. A showcase of mainstream attitudes towards dissent.

  • posted by Fed Up
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 7:24pm

Wow Rv you and Demon are staring to sound more and more alike, I know what he has to lose as a caw organizer what is it that you have to lose that drives you?

  • posted by Valubia Szeznetovich
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 7:53pm

quote:


In my view, MLK was discussing the push and pull of the forces that compel and repell activism within an oppressed community.


As usual, you can believe whatever the hell you want - even when the facts contradict you, but "the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom" most assuredly does not refer to the "community", while the "sorrounding world" certainly does.

quote:


I don't hear him saying, "Oh shit, the f**king members aren't believing in the great mainstream messiah anymore and it's pissing me off."


Indeed, I don't hear Andy Stern saying that, either. I only hear someone saying that he is saying that, without any basis in fact, without any concern for truth.

quote:


Oh where, oh where is Andy Stern? This whole thread is about him and look what it's devolved into. A showcase of mainstream attitudes towards dissent.


He hasn't posted here, but he did end his last blog entry with the phrase "What is to be done?"

That is a reference to the title of a book by a guy named Lenin. If that is indicative of someone with a "mainstream" attitude, I guess we need more mainstreamers.

  • posted by siggy
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 9:36pm

quote:


"Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world."


It's hard enough to move against one's own conditioning, let alone to move against it when the entire community is infected as well. Which part didn't you understand VS?

What you might want to remember is, if you twist words here, readers can easily scroll back, which makes twisting others words rather futile.

The following is a summary of Stern's probing blog questions for which he has responded to ZIP!...

quote:


So, am I on a roll or off the deep end?


quote:


See ya


quote:


Shouldn't workers of the world unite? Or should we let unions and union leaders divide them? How about that for democracy?


quote:


Sorry, been missing for a few days. Just lazy and mulling over some issues at SEIU.


quote:


What is to be done?


x two.

Really where is the debate? In fact, where is Andy?

  • posted by Valubia Szeznetovich
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 10:02pm

quote:


Which part didn't you understand VS?


Obviously, I understood both parts, while the other poster chose to emphasize only one. You've forgotten or chosen to ignore what the point of the post was. RV, in an attempt to discredit the idea that members of the "power source" might have motivational quandries within themselves, asserted that MLK never mentioned the apathy of the people he was leading - and (i add) his own apathy- while the truth is quite different. What's so hard to understand about that?

Andrew Stern is not obligated to respond to you on your web site, especially since the welcome mat you rolled out bore the names of hitler and stalin. Do you call that courtesy? Or fairness? Are you just plain nuts? What did you expect?

  • posted by unionnow
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 11:25pm

quote:


That is the kind of thinking that is contributing to the "trouble". Blame the victims, they deserve it, they've brought it on themselves. If only they would ... what?


RV,

Maybe two of them could show up for a union meeting. Maybe a couple to take the time to get informed, or register to vote and actually vote in an election. Maybe they could work on a campaign of a canidate that has been helping us?

How about going out and talking to a few members after figuring out what is going on, or phone banking members once a month at the union hall? We have tried to turn them out for a multitude of projects and they never come forward.

We reformed our union years ago and have reached out to members and they NEVER come through with anything.

My kind of thinking is fact because I have talked to thousands of our union members and seen their pathetic attitudes firsthand. So Cal happened because the members did nothing. Time will tell if they have the smarts to do something now. I doubt it.

At least we had a coalition up here before So Cal and could agitate for them like no others in the UFCW. That was accomplished by a handful of people who cared to get involved.

Victims in this case, are victims because they choose to be victims. Your comparison of our situation to MLK and the womens movement has nothing to do with our situation. They had no power and were downtrodden.

We are well off, well paid, middle class people who choose not to use our power. Poor union members, can't drive to a meeting in their new car. Poor union members, can't take the time to read or think.

Too busy watching TV, going to ball games and bitching about the union while making ten times more than any other worker in their sector.

Dumb asses one and all.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Mon, Mar 22, 2004 11:53pm

quote:


Here is the nub of the "trouble" - the relationship between union leaders and union members is wrong. As long as the relationship continues to be one where members are subordinate to leaders, the problem will continue


The relationship is wrong because they did nothing to affect change. Everyone can't be a leader but everyone can be part of choosing their leaders.

I bet less than 100 people voted in local 770's last election. Not caring about your current state of affairs is not going to lead to a leaderless revolt. It will lead to a civil society of rich and poor with nothing in the middle.

Alienation and fear are just excuses. Its not a pleasant business but it does need to be done. Leaders will accept the needs of those who are educated involved and informed.

Being lazy and stupid doesn't count. You cannot make lazy stupid people do anything except lose.

The womens movement and the civil rights movement lead to a bunch of top down organizations just like the union movement did. We ended up with locals and internationals, they ended up with pressure groups lead with the same types of people and organizational politics that run our union.

We are going down for the count in California and there is nothing that is going to change that fact.

That is my perspective. I live here, I am involved, I know the players and am dealing with these issues on the front line.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 5:12am

How many people voted for Doug Dority? How many voted for Joe Hansen? How many were involved in negotiations? How many were in the hotel where the final deal was done?

Giving people little slices of democracy isn't good enough. If the biggest decisions that affect their lives are made by a small cabal of guys who are selected by a slightly larger cabal of guys, that's not empowerment.

What do you expect of these members with now anyway? You seem quite down on what you perceive to be their apathy, but I am not clear at all about what you expect them to do? What does the small cabal of leaders expect of them? What would the leaders do if the members suddenly became very militant?

  • posted by siggy
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 5:53am

quote:


RV, in an attempt to discredit the idea that members of the "power source" might have motivational quandries within themselves, asserted that MLK never mentioned the apathy of the people he was leading - and (i add) his own apathy- while the truth is quite different. What's so hard to understand about that?


I love to argue semantics, tho some say it's a go 'round. Read back, you'll see where you skipped over the stuff which put your argument on ice.

RV said:

quote:


MLK was discussing the push and pull of the forces that compel and repell activism within an oppressed community.


Neva'mind I did it for you. Break it down into a subject, a verb, however, use circles or slashes.

quote:


Andrew Stern is not obligated to respond to you on your web site, especially since the welcome mat you rolled out bore the names of hitler and stalin. Do you call that courtesy? Or fairness? Are you just plain nuts? What did you expect?


Who said anything about Stern responding here?

Obviously, Andrew Stern is not "obligated" to anyone it seems, which seems rather odd don't ya' think, considering his position. Oh and how's the big debate going over at the blog?

There was no welcome mat laid out so your questions 1 & 2 are moot.

#3) is easy. I must be I'm union.

AND the best for last:

#4) "What did you expect?... Exactly!

  • posted by robbie_dee
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 7:28am

quote:


Who said anything about Stern responding here?
***
There was no welcome mat laid out so your questions 1 & 2 are moot.


I think maybe it's time you read back through the other comments on this thread.

Remote Viewer posted (in starting this thread):

quote:


As I am not certain that my post will survive your censors, I am inviting you to MfD's Open Forum where you will find a brief commentary about your statements and an invitation to join us in our forum, where the democratic principle of free speech is alive and well, to elaborate on your views and to debate our community about them.

If this sounds intellectual or abstract to you - take my word for it, it isn't.

Looking forward to seeing you at MfD.


That looks like an invitation to me, albeit a completely back-handed one.

quote:


Obviously, Andrew Stern is not "obligated" to anyone it seems, which seems rather odd don't ya' think, considering his position. Oh and how's the big debate going over at the blog?


Well it looks like there's been about 24 more posts since RV visited. Some of them quite biting, none of such have been deleted.

Look, SEIU is far from perfect. I don't find the comparisons to Lenin encouraging at all, the trouble with vanguards is getting them to step out of the way when the rest of the troops show up and are ready to fight.

But it's also wrong to conflate the current SEIU leadership with the group of people in charge of UFCW right now. Unlike UFCW, which has been bargaining backwards for the better part of two decades now, SEIU has been making real gains for a number of its workers. When you suggest there's no difference between these outcomes, you're being disingenuous at best, and contributing to the very sense of helplessness, hopelessness and apathy that you purport to decry.

Unionnow wrote:

quote:


I bet less than 100 people voted in local 770's last election. Not caring about your current state of affairs is not going to lead to a leaderless revolt. It will lead to a civil society of rich and poor with nothing in the middle.

Alienation and fear are just excuses. Its not a pleasant business but it does need to be done. Leaders will accept the needs of those who are educated involved and informed.

Being lazy and stupid doesn't count. You cannot make lazy stupid people do anything except lose.


I don't know if I agree with this completely, either. There certainly is plenty of laziness and stupidity to go around, both among union leaders, and also unfortunately union members. But there is also fear, confusion, competing work and family demands that often hit the poorest workers hardest as they struggle to keep their heads above water, and a century of social conditioning designed by the elites to keep the masses in their place. The question for me is when I realize something is wrong, what should I do about it.

What I admire about Stern and the cadre of bright, enthusiastic college graduates who have followed him into union staff jobs, is that these people are at least thinking and trying to change things; rather than just taking what they can for themselves out of a dying system, and hopefully retiring before the shit really hits the fan.

These people won't always be right. Sometimes they may even need a smack upside the head. Maybe that's what some people are trying to do on this thread - I can't really tell. What I can say is that comparisons to Hitler and Stalin, or even much more mild equation of the SEIU "model" with that of the UFCW's, isn't valid criticism it's just wrongheaded and silly.

  • posted by siggy
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 8:04am

quote:


I think maybe it's time you read back through the other comments on this thread.

Remote Viewer posted (in starting this thread):


Good point R_D, I was hoping that VS would recognize his own mispoint... it WASN"T me! thanks!

quote:


Well it looks like there's been about 24 more posts since RV visited. Some of them quite biting, none of such have been deleted.


Just as none have been addressed by the prober. Correct me if I'm wrong but if there is sincerity in the question then certainly there should be some follow-up.

Or is the blog just another avenue to sound off without the pressure of responsibility?

Sorry R_D, actually no I'm not, and it's not aimed at you nor anyone who is trying... labour cannot withstand any more bloated pompous asses spewing pretty words and questions.

The answers are fairly evident in my book and in my book the only stall is that those who could are figuring out how to get around the obvious without upsetting the flow of control.

While they are busy playing political footsies, workers are burning, simple... workers are burning!

  • posted by Valubia Szeznetovich
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 9:19am

quote:


Read back, you'll see where you skipped over the stuff which put your argument on ice.


Nope. Still warm. Didn't skip anything. You not only misunderstood what I posted, but now you've also misunderstood your misunderstanding. That is the type of persistence which, according to the old saying, leads to one becoming wise. Congrats!

  • posted by robbie_dee
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 9:39am

quote:


Just as none have been addressed by the prober. Correct me if I'm wrong but if there is sincerity in the question then certainly there should be some follow-up.


The way I read it, Stern ran a three-part series outlining his controversial, but not indefensible position on union democracy. He invited people to respond, and they did. I don't think any of the responses are going to change his mind (and that's unfortunate IMO because I also think he's wrong), but I still think it is important that they are posted on the union website along side the Prez's musings.

What you've done on this site is call him a "fascist" and a "bloated pompous ass." I don't really see how that is terribly helpful or illuminating. If you don't want to debate Stern, what do you hope to accomplish with this thread? Just to tear down another "machine-head," all of whom are indistinguishable from each other, in your view?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 10:13am

Oh gosh V - I had the unmitigated gall to criticize and question a mainstream labour leader!!! Oh dammit, shame on me! How dare I? Don't I realize that mainstream labour leaders are above criticism? Haven't I noticed that they are genteel, sensitive men who must be approached with deference and maybe even reverence. I guess I really don't give a shit about the manstream labour gods. I'll criticize them if I want to. If it bugs you to hear me criticize them, maybe you should just get used to it.

To set the record straight: I took issue with what I perceived to be some very anti-democratic statements which Andy Stern made on a web blog that purportedly exists to encourage open discussion about subjects that Mr. Stern himself has raised.

My references to notable fascists of the 20th century should be taken in the context of the chilling resemblance of Mr. Stern's anti-democratic statements to statements made by notable fascists.

I was not accusing Mr. Stern of being a fascist and I'm assuming that this is clear, but simply asking him to elaborate on what he made by his statements, particularly this one:

quote:


Workers want their lives to be changed. They want strength and a voice, not some purist, intellectual, historical, mythical democracy. Workers can win when they are united, and leaders who stand in the way of change screaming "democracy" are failing to understand how workers exercise the limited power they have in a country where only 8.2% of the private sector are in unions. They just don't get it!


My questions are rooted in a genuine concern for working people, many of whom I believe want democratic unions and have a strong interest in democratic institutions. In addition, there is a cultural basis for my dismay: Many members of my immediate and extended family met their deaths in Nazi-occupied Europe and in Mussolini's Italy (where such sentiments were quite popular) and hence, I find Mr. Stern's statement extremely troubling - even offensive. I thought that I would ask Mr. Stern to elaborate on it further so that I could better understand his thinking. Sorry if I offended you (not).

But hey, if Andy doesn't want to come here to talk to us, that's his call. I'm sure he won't BTW. A man of his stature would consider that slumming it.

As for the SEIU, please elaborate on just what they have achieved for workers (I'm serious, I'd like to know) and why they continue to carry on as if they own their members. Their behaviour towards their Canadian members is quite proprietary and - whatever may be happening in the US - in Canada the SEIU and UFCW are like frick and frack IMHO.

Hey here's an idea for you to mull on: How about asking the workers what kind of unions they want and what kind of labour movement they would want to be a part of? I'm serious - why not ask them? Without any conditions or expectations of allegiance to existing mainstream messiahs and without chastizing them for whatever it is that they might say. Why not?

Hey V and crew, here's a little tune I wrote for you:

(W)Rapping the Mainstream Messiah

Hey dogs,
discuss the issues
and lose the tissues
it may seem odd
there ain't no labor god
no mainstream messiah
is gonna take me hy'a
if you're no fool
u know the people rule.

Repeat as often as required to open mind.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 11:25am

quote:


What does the small cabal of leaders expect of them? What would the leaders do if the members suddenly became very militant?


You answered your own question. I would accept them being slightly more militant. The mechanism is in place, go to meetings, learn the process, use the process to overthrow the leadership. Create a new leadership then threaten the cabal at the top through your abilty to move delegates at a convention.

Little slices of democracy go into the pie as the pieces get bigger the union could become more user friendly.

Then rewrite the constitution and make the union more accessable and responsible to the members.
Some structural changes are in order.

The world needs an MLK type but those types come around only once in a lifetime. When they do they die young with plenty of unfinished business. Who kills them? I lean towards the three letter government types.

I pour out my frustration of the members pathetic behaviour looking for a way to change it. No movement can exist without them.

Sure there are those who cannot be involved and I understand that. There are plenty others I see every day that have no excuse. They are well off and educated but their lives are way out of focus.

It does not take much to educate oneself in this world. Seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

RV

What we have in place is what we have to deal with. You cannot create something out of nothing when no one cares. Matter cannot be destoyed, it only changes form. Energy is released in the process. My question is how?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 1:22pm

The mechanism that is in place within unions like the UFCW is intended to protect the rulers at the top of the heap from any collective efforts at replacing them. There is no point in using the mechanism to dislodge the rulers because it doesn't allow for that sort of outcome.

Describe for me how the members - even if they democratized the majority of UFCW locals which would be a feat in itself - could displace the International President and the Executive Board? And what about the Canadian UFCW? How on earth is that outfit ever going to be democratized when there is no legal requirement for it to be democratized?

As far as having to work within "what we've got" - what we've got is designed to sap workers' energy or at least contain it. Have you considered that it might be necessary to change the current system by whatever means might be effective? I think that this is what it will take.

Maybe opening a dialogue with working people about that might give them a sense of hope. I think that many of them sense that the legal framework governing labour relations is a cage for them and that nothing they can do within that cage will empower them. If anything accounts for their apparent apathy, it's that.

The other issue that you need to consider is: Assuming that with a great deal of effort and probably many years of hard work, the UFCW can be democratized, what if members don't want to devote a lifetime and maybe their childrens' lifetimes trying to make this happen? What if they'd rather start something new or join some other union? Why shouldn't they be able to do that? Talk of devoting your life to any organization in the blind hope that you will be saved, sounds a little too much like religion to me.

Here's the bottom line (and take this in the spirit in which it's intended): If mainstream unionists want to build rapport with working people, get their confidence and earn their trust, they are going to have to stop coming off like a bunch of intolerant, mocking, superior, preachy, pompous, dismissive-of-anyone-who-doesn't-agree-with-them, know-it-alls.

I continue to be completely baffled by the fact that while the mainstream unions are so eager to organize workers, nobody is asking them what kind of unions they would want to join.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 2:00pm

quote:


Talk of devoting your life to any organization in the blind hope that you will be saved, sounds a little too much like religion to me.


Damm, don't you get it. It hasn't happened because they haven't tried because they don't care.

How can they start something new if they can't handle what they have. The tools to change the UFCW are written in the bylaws. Who said that would be easy?

Some of us are devoting part of our lives, where are the others? My children do help with projects. They attended some of the functions at the convention.

We were at the last two conventions and might have elected people if a few more locals got involved. I was at the last convention and witnessed what happened.

A good 30 percent voted against the leadership on the dues increase, their is some discontent.

You can't start something new when they don't give a shit about what they have now. Damm, we are stuck with the pompous because they are there by default because no one did anything to change it.

The leadership is broken because the membership is broken. What is blind is that you can bring something new out of the carcass of the UFCW when the main part of it, the members, are like lost sheep walking off a cliff.

Outreach upon outreach brings forth nothing but a few empty shells. Is their somewhere we can go to find some new methods of shaking the cobwebs out of the members minds and spirits?

If the foundation (the members) is built on sand then the building will collapse when the storm hits. Well, the storm is here and it will be long and relentless.

  • posted by yankeebythewater
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 2:37pm

quote:


posted by remote viewer:

Here's the bottom line (and take this in the spirit in which it's intended): If mainstream unionists want to build rapport with working people, get their confidence and earn their trust, they are going to have to stop coming off like a bunch of intolerant, mocking, superior, preachy, pompous, dismissive-of-anyone-who-doesn't-agree-with-them, know-it-alls.

I continue to be completely baffled by the fact that while the mainstream unions are so eager to organize workers, nobody is asking them what kind of unions they would want to join.


Education is the key factor. Mainstream union executives do not want education, do you see any union wanting to assistant young people? This could be a door opening opportunity for unions, I don't see it happening. There is no incentive to join a union...why should there be. The elected board of executives, KEEPS GETTING ELECTED!

Hello, rank and file - educate yourself! It is your right. If you opt not to, three cheers - you have taken your dues and have lined the pockets of your executive - they LOVE you - your service to the company, at large, is welcome.

Oh, by the way - when you turn near 45/50 - are you tossed?

And, please do not go to management with the sick sounding song, I have four kids - one works at the mill, one has university potential, one at home, and one has a baby on the way.

Teach your children to vote. It is your right...

for now...

  • posted by unionnow
  • Tue, Mar 23, 2004 7:22pm

I apologize if I sound a bit frustrated. its only because I am. Members sometimes come into the hall to help out with hopes of higher positions. When they find out its not that easy to get a job you never see them again.

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Mar 24, 2004 9:35pm

Ana'one seen Andy?

quote:


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