Recently, the state of Michigan became the 24th right to work state. Governor Rick Snyder decided to sign into law a bill passed by the Republican controlled congress and house, despite the fact that he previously stated that “right to work” wasn’t on the agenda. Let labor take note: the crushing of union power is always on the capitalist state’s agenda! The term “right to work” is incredibly deceptive and has nothing to do with the welfare of workers. Rather, it has to do with the growth of private enterprise and the attraction that a state with little worker power has for industry. Set up shop here! You don’t have to worry about paying a living wage or providing necessary health benefits. Just come and make money!
However, we cannot lay all blame at the feet of the Republican party. What has the democratic party done in the last 30 years to truly strengthen the cause of labor? They may have been able to keep the ultra-right, ultra-capitalist powers at bay, but that is the best they have done. They are funded by the same corporate interests as the Republican party. They are avowed supporters of the market system. But, no, we do not lay blame at the feet of the democratic party. We lay the blame at the feet of unions, and of the working class in particular (of which i am a part). What do I mean by this?
Well, unions have tied themselves inextricably to two corrupt systems: capitalism and the political apparatus. Most unions accept capitalism as a viable, and even preferrable, system of production and distribution. Furthermore, many labor unions look to the democratic party as the protector and advocate of labor. This has proven to be a fatal mistake and a huge waste of money. After all these years of devotion to the democratic party Taft-Hartley remains firmly in place, and democrats like Rahm Emanuel have openly been at odds with the union (while the democratic president remains silent). I am saying all this not to indite the democratic party. It’s to rebuff the labor unions that have put more stock in the interests of politics and the corporate sponsored democratic party than in the interests and welfare of the people.
But let me take this a step further. Labor Unions have failed by looking to the Democratic Party to solve the problems of labor. Equally so, the working class has failed by looking to bueracratic labor union heirarchies to solve their problems. Instead of workers truly uniting for power on the job and democratic control and administration of their unions, they have let high paid career union officials do the job. And all too often Union officials are just as preoccupied with their own prestige and salary as they are with the dignity and wages of the workers they are supposed to represenet. Fellow Workers, we must take responsibility for the fatal mistake of allowing ourselves to become entrenched in authoritarian unions that are tied to the interests of industry and capitalist parties instead of to our struggle. We must take control of the union; recover the union; and for many of us, truly discover the union.
There is another form of Unionism out there that you may not know of. It is a unionism built on true worker solidarity and on the job unity and power. It is a unionism organized democratically, controlled by the workers, with the central purpose of creating a system of production and distribution that is just and equitable for all. It is a unionism without paid officials and organizers, but rich in solidarity and revolutionary zeal. A unionism that truly seeks to be a new world in the shell of the old.
Perhaps you are disillusioned with unions. Perhaps you’ve been burned or screwed by your business union. Many, in reaction, have turned to the right-wing and the Republican Party. But your answer is not there. Your answer is not a return to pre-union industrial conditions that starved the mass of working people, enslaved our children, and destroyed our bodies. The answer is an alternative unionism. A true unity among the working class of all trades and industries. In the next article I will speak more of this kind of Unionism and what we can do to bring it about in our workplaces and communities. Solidarity Forever!
Check out Tom Morello’s Union Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_8qrlyZKx4