After Michigan: A Proposed Path Forward For The Labor Movement

Published on Worker’s Action/Labor, December 19, 2012.

… When on December 11, 2012 ─ a day that will certainly live in infamy ─ Michigan became the 24th state in the country to adopt “right-to-work,” it sparked a long overdue and urgently needed debate on the future of the labor movement. Two things we know for sure, especially after this latest defeat: first, corporate America is out for blood in its campaign to weaken, undermine and destroy the labor movement and, second, labor’s fightback strategy to date has been inadequate to stem the tide and beat back the assaults. 

The Emergency Labor Network (ELN) earnestly wishes to be part of this debate and we very much hope that our views will be considered.

We believe that a four-fold approach is needed: mass action on a scale we have not seen before, political action in a way we have not conducted it before, forging relationships with our community allies and partners to a degree we have not sufficiently done before, and unifying the labor movement as an indispensable step if we are to move forward effectively on behalf of the working class.

Let’s explore each of these as a strategy that in combination can not only beat back the attacks against us but enable labor to take the offensive in building a discrimination-free, full-employment society in which all receive good wages, quality health care, retirement security, and a society in which our people can live in peace, not with the endless wars and occupations pursued by the Democrats and Republicans.

Mass Action: … //

… Political Action:

Once again, in the immediate aftermath of the November 6 election, many of those politicians elected with labor support are turning on us with a vengeance. Leading Democrats in the House of Representatives ─  Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn ─ have expressed a willingness to significantly cut earned benefits. In the Dec. 1-2 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Nancy Pelosi is quoted as saying, “Everybody knows that we have to have cuts, we have to have growth, we have to have revenue. So why are we stalling?”

Pelosi is expressing the dominant sentiment of Wall Street, certainly not the sentiments of the great majority of the population, who oppose cuts (according to the December 15, 2012 Gallup Poll, 74% of respondents oppose cuts to Medicare as a way of coping with the deficit/debt problem).

President Obama has several times made clear his readiness to support major cuts in the safety net so long as he gets increased revenue along with it.

Labor has made no headway in winning its top priorities under the Democratic administration. These include a jobs program that would put 25 million workers back to work; card check legislation; labor law reform; Medicare For All; trade agreements that guarantee enforceable workers’ rights, especially the right to collective bargaining and the right for workers to form unions of their choice in all the signatory countries; etc. This again underscores the need for a new kind of labor politics, one based on organizing as a class, not in coalition with the big business forces that control the Democratic Party. A first step is to run independent labor/community candidates for public office, which could help lay the groundwork for forming our own labor party, as the labor movements in other industrial countries have done.

As we go forward and ponder the Michigan experience, let us also keep in mind that it was the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947 that allows states to pass right-to-work laws. And let us never forget that when the struggle to defeat Taft-Hartley was reaching its climax, with the organized labor movement denouncing Taft-Hartley as a “slave labor law,” a majority of Congressional Democrats went right ahead and voted for it anyway!

Community Allies:

It is crystal clear that labor cannot go it alone if it is to defend its interests and the interests of the working class as a whole. For this it needs to coalesce in a new way with communities of color, civil rights organizations, the women’s movement, the immigrant rights movement, unemployed workers councils, environmentalists, faith community, retiree formations, peace groups, the health care for all campaign, student groups, the LGBT movement, and other progressive forces. If, for example, there is to be a march on Washington, wouldn’t the best course be to bring representatives of all these groups together to join in the planning and have joint ownership of the event?

Unity: … //

… Conclusion:

Mass action, political action, community alliances, and labor unity ─ these are the components of a strategy that we believe are needed to turn back the tide of reaction that will continue to sweep the country if we carry on with a “business as usual” approach. After all, we are faced with nothing less than a fight for survival of the labor movement. We can and must make the needed changes, and there is no time to lose in putting them into effect.
(full text).


Political Prisoners in America: Institutionalizing Indefinite Detention, on Global, by Stephen Lendman, December 24, 2012;

It’s Not a Fiscal Cliff … It’s the Descent Into Lawlessness
, on Washington’s Blog, December 22, 2012;

The Lie that prosecuting Bank Fraud will destabilize the Economy is what is REALLY destroying the Economy, on Washington’s Blog, December 22, 2012;

Berlin – A Grim Christmas for Many, Urban Poverty in Germany: Homelessness in the Inner City, on Global, by Ernst Wolff, December 25, 2012.

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