Libcom's introduction to the unions discussion

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Mar 16 2012 10:34

Steven, I didn't mean to suggest youse did was just trying to make sense of EWob's statement.

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Mar 16 2012 16:37

I only liked where their thoughts could be going independent of the article, that's why I'm waiting for EWob to explain.

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Mar 16 2012 16:45

Specific crits re existing text:

Quote:
Most unions take the easier road, helping to ensure peace, at our expense, in the workplace. They kick our problems into the long grass of grievance procedures, casework forms and backroom negotiations. And employers love it. As a manager at a multinational in South Africa once said when asked why his company had recognised the workers' union: “Have you ever tried to negotiate with a football field full of militant angry workers?”

That's both dumb and sneering in tone. If employers really loved the way crap mainstream business unions work, with their limited casework against egregious cases of management abuse etc, union density would be massive, because firms would be inviting unions to come into their workplaces.

You could make your point much better with more realistic language, for example "...and if even this limited, legalistic defence of workers rights is experienced as an imposition by many small firms, who will fight tooth and nail to keep even the most reformist unions out, this unofficial auxiliary HR role is often appreciated by some larger employers who may welcome the unionisation of their workforce by a suitably compliant "social partner"..." (except not as a massive run-on sentence, obviously), or something...

Also the immediate follow up with the Anglo-American boss explaining why they recognised Cosatu before the latter were even legal (I think it was "a football field of angry workers waving pangas [machetes]" if I remember the original quote correctly), its just the kind of chalk and cheese absurd comparison that is also going to alienate any but the tiny circle of ultraleft faithful. Unless you've walked past any football fields full of unionised shopworkers baying for blood and preparing to necklace their employers in your neighbourhood recently. You can't take the levels of the development of social struggle in the dying days of Apartheid and apply them to the woes of union bureacratisation in present day Tunbridge Wells without looking seriously in need of a reality check.

However, like syndicalistcat, I found the overall tone of the intro to be too ultraleft for my liking anyway, so perhaps the above objections should be weighed in that light.

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Mar 16 2012 18:10

Ocelot, thanks for your comments. I agree with you with respect to the "employers love it" sentence. We will look at rewording it

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Mar 16 2012 19:44

You could look at industries where there is a massive anti-union culture, talk to the sparks about the blacklist, talk to the cleaners at the Guildhall... they wouldn't say that their employers are even lukewarm about the union. There's a massive difference between being a union rep there and being one in a council or a school. I think it's useful to look at the differences and the reasons for that.

And it's hardly a breeze being a rep in a traditionally "easy" workplace at the moment. Near me, in the same workplace three reps are on disciplinaries at the moment. One is because she took sick leave because she had a miscarriage.

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Mar 16 2012 19:47
ocelot wrote:
Unless you've walked past any football fields full of unionised shopworkers baying for blood and preparing to necklace their employers in your neighbourhood recently. You can't take the levels of the development of social struggle in the dying days of Apartheid and apply them to the woes of union bureacratisation in present day Tunbridge Wells without looking seriously in need of a reality check.
.

Top post.

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Mar 16 2012 22:33

Fair enough. Employerss feelings towards unions are often based on the overal combativeness of the working class at the time. At high points of struggle, employers do love it and will invite the union in as an extra means to discipline the workforce. At other times--my entire lifetime, for example--class militancy has been at such a low that the disciplining role isn't needed and employers come after the limited protections that trade unions offer.

But perhaps that doesn't come through in the write-up.

Also, I'm not sure it's just the ultra-left who will be attracted to this critique. I've worked in a couple of unionised places and nearly every person in each of those places had a story about someone they know getting fucked over by the union taking the boss' side.

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Mar 4 2013 09:43

Good article here on the US government's support for trade union collective bargaining:

http://libcom.org/blog/%E2%80%9Cjust-peaceful-labor-relations%E2%80%9D-why-us-government-supported-collective-bargaining-11082012

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Mar 10 2013 20:06

Saw Glaberman's Punching Out is available online now:

http://www.zerowork.org/PunchingOut.pdf

Be good to get it in the library and linked to in the further reading section here, too.

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Mar 10 2013 21:20
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Saw Glaberman's Punching Out is available online now:

http://www.zerowork.org/PunchingOut.pdf

Be good to get it in the library and linked to in the further reading section here, too.

could you do that?

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Mar 10 2013 21:27

Yeah, let me see if I can find some time this week...

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Mar 14 2013 08:29
Steven. wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Saw Glaberman's Punching Out is available online now:

http://www.zerowork.org/PunchingOut.pdf

Be good to get it in the library and linked to in the further reading section here, too.

could you do that?

Done:

http://libcom.org/library/punching-out-martin-glaberman

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Mar 23 2013 22:59

Don't post many comments on Libcom, thought I'd chuck one in tonight though

Found myself torn in the past between focussing on an 'ideal' structure such as IWW of SolFed or building through the 'usual' unions. I've always been wary of 'pure' grouplets and so a couple of years ago, finding myself in another warehouse, started to build the union there through Unite. took a couple of years to get 'recognition' (as I understand from above this may be a 'horse's head issue) and to seriously get the ball rolling on tackling some serious issues. I've some TU experience before, and to be quite honest, haven't had too many issues, if any, with TU bureaucracy so far. i was closely involved with drawing up the recognition agreeement (it's at a national distribution centre for a major telecoms company) and I was able to limit officer involvement at all levels. Never had any serious opposition to this from the bureaucracy. we established the structure of the union in the workplace, again, with a free hand and always with the aim of maximising participation.

i'm also on a couple of Lay Committees which, yes, are loacking in involvement sometimes, but have huge potential to shape actual outcomes. The committee members have all been through similar processes to me and have the same drive to network and build.

There are some downsides, of course. The main one we find is ignorance of the potential to network and establish common goals.

i take on board the concept of the bureaucracy and the need to combat top-down unionism, but i do think there are sufficient spaces to allow the rank and file to muscle in, providing they are aware, and create networks that are member driven

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Mar 24 2013 09:21

BrokeFive, be really good to hear more about that. Have you done any more in-depth writing about the organising process?

I'd also be curious to hear if you all have taken industrial action? I know a couple of other folks from very democratic and participatory trade union branches and it's when they have to go to national or regional for a ballot or to authorize action that the problems really begin.

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Apr 23 2013 20:47

Sorry, another untimely reply

Chilli Sauce, I don't mind writing something a bit more in depth about our experiences with organising at a local level (good and bad) if you think it would be useful.

I'll knock something together and chuck it out at our branch meeting next week to get a bit more of a collective view.

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Apr 24 2013 17:38

Great! Look forward to it.