Labor Advocate Online

Discussion Article

A Proposal for a 21st Century Trade Union Education League
An attempt to solve the current crisis of organizing the unorganized

Judy Atkins, Past President, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), District 2 and David Cohen, International Representative, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE)

As published in WorkingUSA Winter 2003-4

How do we increase the ranks of the labor movement? Countless articles by activists in the labor movement have been posing this question for at least the last decade.   The total number of union members is rapidly shrinking, now down to 13.6% of the total workforce 1 and the political establishment of Republicans is hell bent on destroying organized labor while the Democrats sit silently by, doing absolutely nothing. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under the ideological leadership of the Republicans for the last 20 years has transformed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) into an impediment to organizing, allowing an estimated 4% of all workers who attempt to organize into unions to be fired by their employers. 2

Employer terror and harassment effectively end 50% of all union organization attempts before they ever get to an election.  Employer tactics which are common now, but were illegal when the NLRA was passed, cause unions to lose 49% of union elections that do go to an NLRB supervised election.3

When the NLRA was first passed there were strict limitations placed upon employer conduct during the election period. Since it was assumed that the right to decide on whether or not to have a union was the employees' choice, employers were limited to one letter that could be given to employees stating the employer objections to a union. Of course in real life there was much more that went on behind the scenes, but much of the anti-union propaganda was done by pro-employer workers. What tactics can employers now use? First and foremost are "captive audience meetings", that is, employer run meetings that are mandatory for employees where workers are subjected to anti-union movies, slide shows, lectures etc. The NLRB reasons that if the employer is paying employees they can make employees sit through these meetings.

Their rational is also based upon Supreme Court rulings, dating back to the 1880's that declared corporations to be "persons" in the eyes of the law, and therefore the government, in the form of the NLRB, cannot deny corporations (people) their right to free speech. Employers can declare that no employees may speak their opinions and ideas and under threat of discipline silence pro-union employees. What about the employees' rights to free speech? As many anti-union consultants point out, the Constitution only applies to the government abridging the right of free speech, not corporations. They also can keep out pro-union employees from these meetings if they so desire. Although the NLRB says employers cannot interrogate employees about their union position, once an employee begins talking about the subject, then anything goes. Foremen are trained to get employees into conversations, one on one, and then make threats and innuendos.4

The NLRB has also ruled that employer lies are to be expected, as long as there is enough time for the union to answer. The NLRB says an employer may not threaten to shut down their facility if the workers vote for a union, but they may say if a union makes outrageous demands on them they will be forced to close their facility. For workers the
effect is the same, if they vote for the union the employer threatens to close the business. Place this threat in the context of massive job loss to Mexico with the advent of NAFTA, and there is a credible threat, which is perfectly legal under current NLRB rules.

Since the NLRA does not mandate that employers bargain with a union to the end result of a union contract, only 50% of union elections that are won by unions ever result in a union contract. Employers make good use of this fact and frequently tell workers during the election process that they will bargain fairly but since they are not required to give anything, the union will have to go on strike to get anything and that the employer will replace all strikers with scabs. This too is an effective deterrent to workers who wish to exercise their democratic rights to have a union.

Employers and their political allies have succeeded in turning the NLRB from a mechanism whereby workers could decide amongst themselves on whether or not they would form a union into an impediment to that process. As a result, many in the labor movement have begun to investigate and experiment in ways to form unions without going through the NLRB process.

We expect that the readers of this article are well aware of the plight that the labor movement finds itself in these days, so we will not spend time on the recitation of familiar facts.

The purpose of this article is to address two parts of the problems we face.

1)    How do we begin to organize in a broader "more massive" manner and so that, while organizers may use the NLRB, they are not bound to it.

2)     How do we ensure that this form of organizing will result in workers forming unions that are democratic member run organizations?

We also realize that many in the labor movement will agree on point one but do not agree with the necessity of point two.  We however see them as inseparable.

We propose as part of the solution the task of building committees of workers who will establish local unions that are committed to engaging the boss in struggles to improve the workers wages, hours and conditions of employment. These committees will not wait until there is an NLRB certified majority but will begin the struggle when they can. The very nature of such a struggle builds a basis for democratic unionism because it is the workers themselves who will make the decisions of when and how to engage the employer. While this does not guarantee democratic unionism it lays a good foundation. The goal of these committees will be to win, through practice, a majority of workers to be a part of a democratic fighting union. The next goal will be to win recognition and a contract from the employer. This can be done outside the NLRB or using the NLRB procedures from a position of strength. We see this form laying the organizational basis for mass organizing in the future, just as the TUEL in the 1920's laid a basis for the mass organizing in the 1930's.

What Was The Tuel And Why Does It Matter?
The Trade Union Educational League was an organization of militant left wing workers that was formed in the early 1920's and led by William Z. Foster, the organizer of the 1919 Steel Strike and the 1917 packinghouse workers strike.  The purpose of the TUEL was to fight within the AFL for more progressive politics, labor unity (transforming craft unions in the same industry into single industrial unions) and to build union organization in industries where there were none or the AFL unions were hopelessly corrupt.

The history of the TUEL led directly to the mass organizing of the CIO in the 1930's.  In most industries it was workers who were schooled in organizing throughout the 1920's by the TUEL that became the core for organizing the CIO unions. Local unions started by the TUEL in major industries such as electrical, radio, machining, farm equipment, auto, the needle trades & rubber became the founding local unions of the United Electrical Radio & Machine Workers of America, UE; the United Auto Workers, UAW, the Farm Equipment Workers, the United Rubber Workers among others.   These workers were schooled in the TUEL philosophy of organizing all workers into industrial unions, which meant black and white workers in the same locals, skilled and unskilled in the same local, men and woman, English speaking and non-english speaking all fighting together.5

Writing in 1925 William Z Foster said;

"The organization of the unorganized millions of workers is primarily the task of the left wing. There is no other section of the labor movement possessing the necessary courage, energy, and understanding to carry through this basic work.  This is a prime lesson that TUEL militants must understand. The left wing alone has a realization of the organization of the unorganized. It speaks primarily in the name of the unskilled and semi-skilled who make up the mass on the outside of the unions, and it habitually leads a militant struggle to unionize them. It is the champion of industrial unionism and the labor party, the fate of both of which is bound up in the general question of organizing the unorganized.  It realizes that only when the great masses are mobilized in the unions can effective assaults be made
against capitalism. Hence, it is the life of every organizing campaign, and it must be such, whether these campaigns are carried on through the new medium of the existing trade unions, or by the launching of new organizations."6

Many current writers have raised the historical example of the TUEL because we appear to be in a similar period as the 1920's, i.e. a declining number of union members, and severe corporate and governmental opposition to unions. There are of course many differences which are fundamental, such as the greater global reach of capitalism and the existence of the NLRA. These changes in the nature of capitalism create some problems for a 21st century TUEL. Capital is more mobile, factories open and close. It is rare today to find workers who spend 30 years in the same workplace.

The establishment of TUEL affiliated local unions was very much an ebb and flow situation.  When there were important workplace issues the membership would swell and battles for higher wages or better working conditions would erupt. In other times the membership would be reduced to the hard core of committed activists, usually those with working class political views, socialists, communists or anarchists. They provided the grounding and core that kept the unions alive.

How would a modern TUEL act in workplaces?
In making these proposals and/or observations we are not creating them out of thin air. There has been experimentation in this kind of organizing going on for the last decade or more by various unions. The Communication Workers of America has been building committees of workers within IBM Corporation during this period.  Our experience comes from the UE and its efforts to organize plastic workers in the early 1990's, and in building a union of public employees in North Carolina where unions for public employees are illegal.

The UE experiences in plastics
After the recessions of the 1980's and the massive industrial restructuring that went along with it, the UE leadership began to look intensively at new organizing targets and methods.  The UE method of organizing had always been grounded in trying to first build a union that fought on issues and then proceed with an NLRB election. Even with this tradition it was apparent that something more was needed in the face of an NLRB that allowed corporations to use any means possible to defeat unions, and labor law that grants to corporations the right of free speech and association during organizing campaigns, while denying these rights to workers.  This coupled with the massive job loss in traditional UE industries, such as machine tools, cutting tools, machining, and electrical appliances forced this re-examination.

One of the industries that Ed Bruno, UE Director of Organization, targeted was the plastics industry. Plastic components were replacing many parts that were previously made out of metal and machined in UE represented shops. It was a growing industry and was situated in many areas that had a UE presence.  A key part of the plan was to build Plastic Worker Organizing Committees (PWOC's) in as many plastic shops in key concentrations as possible. These PWOC's would fight on issues, be membership based (it cost $1.00 to join the PWOC)and lead the fight for union recognition. They would not only be factory based but would meet on a regional or city wide basis to plan common struggles amongst workers in different factories and to provide a larger support base for the workers. One aspect of the plastic industry was that there were no 5000 worker factories. A large plastic shop had 500 workers, with most around 100.

From 1989 to 1993 the PWOC's recruited several thousand members. There were 12-15 regional PWOC committees formed. There were 3 national PWOC meetings held at the UE office in Pittsburgh. There were elected delegates from the regional PWOC's and from established UE Locals in the plastics industry.

Campaigns were launched around the fight for single-payer health insurance, a dollar an hour wage increase, and on health and safety issues. During the $1.00 per hour campaign we were able to identify close to 100 factories that gave workers pay raises in direct response to this campaign.

During this period UE developed the tactic of holding community elections to prove the unions had majority status and to try to force employer recognition.  When a PWOC in a given factory had achieved majority status, through actual membership or other open displays of support, the PWOC committee would demand recognition. This was always refused by the employers. Next the committee would ask the employer to take part in a "community run election".  This simply meant that some outside neutral party would conduct a secret ballot election to see if there was a union majority. The advantage to the union was that a quickly held election eliminated the 4-6 months of legal maneuvering via the NLRB that usually went on while the workers were threatened and terrorized. Most employers refused to take part, though not all.

When an employer refused to take part the UE would arrange for the election to happen anyhow. A local figure would run the election. In some elections we had well known religious figures run the election, elected officials and even a police chief in one small town. A table would be set up outside the factory with a voting booth and the official presiding would have a list of all eligible voters. In all aspects these election were run as tightly as an NLRB election.  The results were similar in most cases, when union elections were run free from pressure and terror, the union won overwhelmingly. It was UE policy to encourage the NO votes to take part in the election as a unanimous vote seemed to most people to be unrealistic. We also want those workers who were opposed to the union to be a part of the democratic union process.

In some cases based upon the community election the workers would then strike for recognition. This ran into problems as the employers would then petition the NLRB for an election.

In most cases after the community election the union would petition for an NLRB election. The effect of the community election was to change the parameters of the NLRB election. We were no longer taking part to see if we had a majority, but taking part of the NLRB process to defend the union which the majority had already been proven.  A small edge when faced with the anti-union campaigns that employers would then put on, but it often times proved to be the winning component.

At OEM, a plastic factory in Erie the community election provided the edge the union needed to get through the NLRB election.  This was a shop of about 150 workers, who came to the UE after the factory was leafleted. A broad committee was formed with every department and shift being represented. After several months of working with the committee we felt that time was right, so a delegation of workers went to the boss and demanded recognition of the union. This of course was refused and then an offer was made to hold a community election. The management also refused to take part in this. A local priest agreed to conduct the election. Early one morning, before workers went into work a table and voting booth was set up at the factory gates. The priest was supplied with a list of all eligible voters, which was all production and maintenance workers. The voting then started. The workers, including those opposed to the union knew that the election would take place that day. The priest returned before each shift and at the end of the day he counted the ballots, which showed the union had won with 85% yes votes.

Management continued to refuse to recognize the Union and started a campaign along the lines of, "If the UE really won that election they shouldn't be afraid of an NLRB election." Management also put out the word that they would agree to a quick election. The union committee soon felt that we should agree to take part in the NLRB election, or the union would appear to some people as stalling. Of course the quickest the NLRB would set up an election was 45 days, so the workers were then subjected to the usual company anti-union campaign.  In the end the UE again prevailed but by a smaller margin. The staff who were involved and the committee all felt that it helped to be in a position of DEFENDING the union that workers already voted yes for, as opposed to voting for the union under adverse conditions. This is a very brief overview of the history of the PWOC's.  What was learned from this?

*    Workers could be set into motion inside factories to fight for
their rights and for improvements in wages, hours and working
conditions and victories could be won.  As many people would suspect,
employers often times gave in on issues to kill the union movement.
This was successful many times but it did not outweigh the benefits
from waging struggle.

*    There was a benefit from bringing workers together from different
unorganized workplaces, there was strength in unity.

*    While in the manufacturing setting we could not free ourselves
entirely from the NLRB, the community election approach had great
merit. 7

*    This would not be a quick fix, a long term vision was needed,
especially to provide staff support.

*    Some of the problem were: some workers committees became cliquish
and they excluded workers form joining and thus were not able to see
when changes were taking place among the other workers.

*    Union staff were not always flexible enough in implementing the
strategy and often times missed chances for agitation or for going for
an NLRB election.

*    The use of Section 7 of the NLRB was important for exerting what
little legal rights workers do have for organizing. (See below for a
more detailed discussion of Section 7).

*    It was important to try to establish democratic procedures as
soon as possible, i.e. electing PWOC leaders, voting on departmental
stewards, selecting delegates to meeting, voting on what issues to
fight on. All this made the organization belong to the workers.  Was
there ever any tension between elected PWOC leaders and the UE staff?
Of Course!  That is life. In only one case did the UE have to
intervene. In one factory it became apparent that some of the PWOC
leadership, (who were the first workers involved) were excluding women
and Black workers from participating. When they would not correct
their ways, they were removed from office for violating the UE
constitution.8 There should be built into the 21st century TUEL a set
of principals that stands against racism, sexism and any anti-
immigrant prejudice. In addition some basic principles of democratic
structure need to be adopted, such as yearly elections and no
financial gain accruing to elected officers.

*    Through the PWOC effort and efforts at other individual factories
it also appears that it is hard to sustain this effort for longer then
several years without either steady union staff presence (which is
expensive) or there must be workers with a political consciousness
that allows them to see their effort as part of the effort to change
the exploitative nature of society itself, and thus they are motivated
for the long haul.  What is needed is a core of TUEL type workers.

Use Of Concerted Activity And Section 7 Of The NLRB
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act states;

"Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, to join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8 (a) (3)"

Thus Section 7 is the legal basis for workers taking concerted action against their employer. "Concerted action" means action taken by more then one worker on behalf of themselves or other workers. It is the basis for workers wearing stickers, signing grievances, petitions, striking or walking off the job (under certain conditions), in short, for workers doing things to make the boss know they are upset and want changes.

The important concept for us is that Section 7 does not mandate that a union have majority status, or that there even be an official union. Workers coming together for "mutual aid or protection" is sufficient enough to place workers under the protection of Section 7. The one kicker is that the employer must know about the action and the reason behind the action for workers to come under Section 7 protection. The courts and the NLRB have through the years put many restrictions on the use of Section 7, but it remains a vehicle for struggle.

So we envision that a modern TUEL could take advantage of Section 7 and engage in struggle with an employer. Will people be fired illegally? YES, but if workers receive proper training in how to use Section 7, the danger is less. It will mean that some union or group will have to be ready to help workers pursue NLRB charges against employers who violate Section 7, and to raise hell with the employer on behalf of any fired workers. Most unions that don't cut out when an organizing drive gets in trouble, are familiar with using the NLRB in these cases. The problem is, of course, the agonizingly slow process and the fear that spreads in a workplace as a result of the firing. Community publicity and support on behalf of the continuing struggle is necessary. Jobs with Justice in Boston provides some good examples of this kind of defensive work. Workers' Centers, such as the one in Barre, Vt., provide an example of effective and imaginative defense of worker's rights.

In one factory where there was an active UE committee for several years they had to use Section 7 in this manner. The employer had a phony grievance procedure in place. Workers could sign a grievance and then it would proceed through several steps, with the plant manager having the final say. The UE committee began have large groups of workers sign grievances. The company finally reacted by changing the grievance procedure so that only individuals could sign and the foreman had to "approve" any grievance before it could be filed. The workers among other things filed charges with the NLRB that this change was done in order to limit their ability to use concerted activity and it was done to hamper the union effort.  Although it took many months, the NLRB finally ordered the company to re-institute the previous grievance procedure and allow for mass grievances. To the workers this was a good victory.

Although Section 7 provides a current legal basis for these struggles there is an absolute need to begin these struggles with an expanded view of workers' rights. Workers need to assert that they have basic, fundamental constitutional rights to organize to improve their lives. In Erie, Pennsylvania during the PWOC campaigns an effort was made to organize thousands of workers in 25 different plastic shops at once. At one point a temporary agency issued a notice to its employees that they could not join a union. The PWOC organized a march on the agency and staged a reading of the US Constitution. The Agency caved in under this general pressure of workers exerting their rights.

What Else Could Workers Use In Their Fight?
Laws in most states provide some protection for workers. It is surprising how many of these basic laws are violated by employers. TUEL committees can become versed in these rights and fight to have them enacted. The benefit of this type of action is that often times victory is assured. The key is to not have just the TUEL committee involved in taking action, or for them to become jail house lawyers, but to have many workers involved, with the TUEL committee providing some leadership based upon knowledge.

Here are some of the State and Federal laws that can be used;

*    Health and Safety issues either via OSHA or State health and safety boards
*    Workers Compensation
*    Laws regulating holidays,
*    overtime pay,
*    use of surveillance cameras,
*    use of lie detector tests
*    drug testing either under the Department of Transportation or State laws
*    State laws on payroll issues, such as when checks must be issued or garnishing of paychecks
*    EEOC rulings on discrimination based upon race, sex and age
*    Regulations on 401K deposits
*    health insurance coverage
*    minimum wage laws
*    Maternity coverage and leave from work
*    Family Medical Leave Act
*    Laws covering break times, clean bathrooms,
*    The Americans with Disabilities Act
*    The right of employees to access their own personal records

In some states there may be enterprising pro-labor lawyers that put out guides to workers compensation laws, or pro-worker laws in general. If not it will be up to unions or other groups to compile this information in a coherent manner so that TUEL committees can be trained to use these laws in their fights. In addition, existing Worker's Rights Boards, usually affiliated with Jobs with Justice chapters, could be enlisted in these fights.

The other avenue of struggle is in using the employer's own handbook, their own rules and regulations as a basis for struggle. Most of these handbooks contain disclaimers that this is not a contract and can be changed at any time by the employer. Leading fights against some of these rules or for the equal enforcement of the rules often times exposes the unjust character of the handbooks and sets an example as to why a union contract that is binding is necessary.

Engaging Workers in Political Struggles
Most unions realize that many of the problems workers face in the United States cannot be solved contract by contract, workplace by workplace, but must be addressed politically. TUEL committees should seek to involve workers from their workplaces in these political struggles. The fight against NAFTA, for single payer health insurance, for real pension reform, protecting Social Security, against antiimmigrant legislation, for good public education all are issues that should be taken up. The TUEL needs to create opportunities for workers to engage in real political action work, not just manning telephones for Democratic Party candidates who will ignore the labor movement immediately after they are elected. In fact, it would be important to incorporate the CIO's principle of political independence of the working class into this political action work, and Labor Party style "extra-electoral" political work on these issues. (For examples, see various UE resolutions on political independence and the Labor Party)

How the TUEL union could function on a larger scale
There would need to be some sort of national coordinating committee, NOT to issue directives and commands but to synthesize the different experiences and to try to draw some conclusions that would aid other workers in their efforts. What we propose below seems to make sense, but real life may evolve differently, with individual unions experimenting with TUEL type organizations and not linking them with other similar efforts.

We see TUEL committees functioning in their own workplaces but not separated from the rest of the labor movement.

We would hope that in given geographical areas there would be regional meetings, to provide a larger base of support for the workers.

There could be sectoral meetings on a national basis, workers in the same industry getting together to compare notes and plan campaigns. Tied in with this would be corporate meetings, i.e. workers who work for the same boss getting together.

Some sort of newspaper or newsletter could link all these different workers together.

A national legal aid committee could exist to provide some legal support and to work on the key task of planning and setting the stage for challenging the legal restrictions on workers. We would envision a legal strategy that would go on the offensive and be geared towards changing the fundamental basis of labor law in this country.9 There will need to be a strong educational component to the building of a TUEL. Our experience in the UE is that workers crave education that gives them basic facts and analysis. It remains true that there is power in knowledge.

In this age of regional and global trade accords, workers must have an internationalist outlook, one that says workers in other countries are not our enemies but multinational corporations that exploit all workers are the enemy. Sending US workers to meet with their counterparts from other countries will be invaluable in developing this outlook. There is already a lot of good work being done in the labor movement in this area, especially the UE/FAT (Frente Autentico
del Trabajo-Authentic Workers Front) organizing alliance, so the TUEL committees will have good examples to follow.

Unions, the Left and Socialists
We do not see that any blueprint exists for the creation and sustaining of the type of movement we have been talking about. We have tried to draw some conclusions based upon our experiences, but we do not endow these conclusions with gospel authority. There remains much experimentation to be done and if we try, life itself will provide the lessons we need to learn.

We do see that an effort like this will not succeed without many forces trying to initiate, sustain, but not own, the resulting committees. There will be a need for unions with their resources, especially their members to take a leading role. It is workers already organized in unions who can make contacts in local workplaces and provide moral, legal and some financial solidarity to these committees.

We also see the need for the "left" in this country to make this an integral part of their work. As has been stated before, there is a need for a politically conscious element amongst the workers to provide a stable core for the committees. Progressive local organizations that fight for peace, for social justice, against racist discrimination, for fair and affordable housing, for the Labor Party, etc. would take up discussions leading to an agreement to experiment with the implementation of a modern TUEL. These locally based groups could focus on one or more unorganized workplaces in their area with the goal of developing contacts and then introducing these contacts to the idea of a modern TUEL as a tool to fight collectively for grievances in the workplace. We also project that the rebuilding of the left along with the organization of the working class would result in a stronger, healthier left which simultaneously has created a broad base.

Will there be problems of left sectarians trying to seize control of the workplace committees and use them to push their own "line?" Probably, in some cases, but most often we have observed that those people never attract any following for long and neither are they in it for the long haul.

There will also be problems of some unions trying to use this movement for their own narrow self-interest. It will be natural that if unions are providing money, time and staff in this effort that they will lay claim to the committees they initiate. That is ok. Hopefully they will allow other forces to participate and not try to dominate the national effort. Eventually all workplace committees will have to decide what union they wish to affiliate with, and hopefully they will bring to that union some new traditions based upon struggle and democracy. Union participation in this effort should be based upon real work being done, not who is the best at pontificating.  The leadership in this effort will be won by those who can most successfully learn the lessons that the workers and the situations themselves will teach and thus are able to further refine this strategy for union organization.

1 Bary T. Hirsch, David MacPherson, Wayne Vroman, "Estimates of Union
Density by State." Monthly Labor Review, July 2001: 51.

2 Bruno, Ed, Kellman,Peter and James Pope;  "Toward a New Labor Law-A
Labor Party Discussion Paper" footnote  1.

3  In the fiscal year 2000, unions won 51.2% of the elections that
were held by the NLRB. This however only represented 46% of the
workers involved. In 2000, only 77,490 new workers were added to the
labor movement via the NLRB when you deduct the number of workers lost
to decertification elections from the number of workers won. "NLRB
election Report" "6 Month summary April 2000 through September 2000"
pg. 9 "Fiscal year 2000 Summary of Elections"

4 For more details on modern union busting tactics see,  "Confessions
of a Union Buster",Levitt, Martin.  Crown Publisher 1993)

5 For more information on the TUEL see, "American Trade Unionism"
William Z Foster, International Publishers, NY 1978; "History of the
American Labor Movement:T.U.E.L. 1925-1929" Foner, Philip.
International Publishers, New York 1991.

6 Foster, Wm. Z, American Trade Unionism, (International Publishers,
NY, 1978), 157-8

7  In the service sector, where workplaces are more visible, the
community election approach was used to more success and in many cases
employers agreed to abide by the results. This was true not only in UE
but when it was adopted by other unions such as the Hotel Workers
Union (HERE).

8   Organizing under NLRB conditions is never a "democratic
experience". With all the technicalities, legal hurdles and with the
intensity of the employer attacks, necessity means that unions exert
much control over the decision making process, especially regarding
strategy and tactics. This is especially true when unions are trying
to run "quick" elections, and the time isn't available to sufficiently
train workers to be prepared for what is to come.

9   See the Labor Party's "Toward a New Labor Law-A Labor Party
Discussion Paper" for a good discussion on the need to change the
constitutional basis of labor law from the Interstate Commerce Clause
to the clauses' guaranteeing freedom of association and speech.
Available at or from the Debs-Jones-
Douglas Institute, 1532 16th St.N.W. Washington DC 20036

+++Will there be problems of left sectarians trying to seize control
of the workplace committees and use them to push their own "line?"
Probably, in some cases, but most often we have observed that those
people never attract any following for long and neither are they in it
for the long haul.

There will also be problems of some unions trying to use this movement
for their own narrow self-interest. It will be natural that if unions
are providing money, time and staff in this effort that they will lay
claim to the committees they initiate. That is ok. Hopefully they will
allow other forces to participate and not try to dominate the national
effort. Eventually all workplace committees will have to decide what
union they wish to affiliate with, and hopefully they will bring to
that union some new traditions based upon struggle and democracy.
Union participation in this effort should be based upon real work
being done, not who is the best at pontificating.  The leadership in
this effort will be won by those who can most successfully learn the
lessons that the workers and the situations themselves will teach and
thus are able to further refine this strategy for union organization.


Return to KC Labor Home
| Know Your Rights | Unions | Solidarity | Safety |
Retirees | Labor Law | Culture | Labor History | Labor Education | Environment 
| Health Care | Social Security | Transit Labor | Information | Arts | Labor Party | Shopping | Women | War Page

Daily Labor News Digest Labor Advocate Online