Solidarity UnionISM

182 posts / 0 new
Last post
888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Jan 5 2007 16:49
Solidarity UnionISM

(totally unrelated to my other thread)

I recently read this - but found it a bit vague and limited:
http://www.akpress.org/2004/items/solidarityunionism

Solidarity unionism seems to involve small informal groups who attempt to make gains through direct action on the job - immediately, rather than after a long process of negotition with the manamgement.

Quote:
. In the solidarity unionism model, workers themselves formulate strategy and take action against the company directly without mediation from government or paid union representatives.

What do you think of it? Is it a real distinct tendency or nothing new? Can anyone give more information or examples? What interested me was its seeming flexibility and its not being limited to one particular union (and possibility of occurring where ther was no union).

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Jan 5 2007 16:53

PS above quote came from an IWW starbucks site as does this:

Quote:
Solidarity unionism is a term coined by the great labor activist and author, Staughton Lynd, to describe a rank and file organization of workers who fight directly to win demands without resorting to government certification or union bureaucracy. One of the many benefits of the solidarity union approach is its scalability. A solidarity union is simply a group of workers uniting with each other and other workers in the community and (with the internet) around the world, to apply direct pressure around issues of concern at work. Therefore, with some hard work and a willingness to take a stand, baristas anywhere could join the IWW Starbucks Workers Union to fight collectively for a better life on the job and an independent voice in society.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 5 2007 17:05
888 wrote:
PS above quote came from an IWW starbucks site as does this:

Quote:
Solidarity unionism is a term coined by the great labor activist and author, Staughton Lynd, to describe a rank and file organization of workers who fight directly to win demands without resorting to government certification or union bureaucracy. One of the many benefits of the solidarity union approach is its scalability. A solidarity union is simply a group of workers uniting with each other and other workers in the community and (with the internet) around the world, to apply direct pressure around issues of concern at work. Therefore, with some hard work and a willingness to take a stand, baristas anywhere could join the IWW Starbucks Workers Union to fight collectively for a better life on the job and an independent voice in society.

So its just syndicalism, under a new name?

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Jan 5 2007 17:12

it's similar although it is not tied to any one organisation and is presented as a tactic.

ftony
Offline
Joined: 26-05-04
Jan 5 2007 17:15
Quote:
So its just syndicalism, under a new name?

not as such, also because solidarity unionism wouldn't necessarily involve any element of revolutionary intent (the IWW just happens to be revolutionary, but it could be anyone else doing it).

i think it could/can be quite useful if done properly. however of course if you're agitating without a union, chances are you'll be even more likely to be fired than with one.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 5 2007 17:18
ftony wrote:
Quote:
So its just syndicalism, under a new name?

not as such, also because solidarity unionism wouldn't necessarily involve any element of revolutionary intent (the IWW just happens to be revolutionary, but it could be anyone else doing it).

i think it could/can be quite useful if done properly. however of course if you're agitating without a union, chances are you'll be even more likely to be fired than with one.

Oh ok, so would it be simply like workplace assemblies without unions?

ftony
Offline
Joined: 26-05-04
Jan 5 2007 19:06
Quote:
imagine MWR but without the cheap ARGOS jewelry and paedophile jokes.

grin more or less, that's what my impression would be

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Jan 5 2007 22:30

It's a major tendency of thought on how organize in the IWW today. I think the term caught on in connection with some stuff that appeared in the Industrial Worker by Alexis Buss, much of which has just been reprinted in a pamphlet by the Chicago GMB. I think those columns are online someplace. As I think of it, the basic idea is that recognize ourselves - we're a union when we say we are, we decide what the organization does and how. The bosses and the state's definition of a union and our organization doesn't matter to us except as something we respond to tactically.

Bubbles's picture
Bubbles
Offline
Joined: 4-12-06
Jan 6 2007 02:06

A new book just came out about our 100 years. You can get it from the website, any branch, or the lit department. It has alot stuff about solidarity unionism etc. we have a whole book plainly called solidarity unionism. The various illustrated novels (comic books) about the IWW explain it a little bit too.

The tactic was widely used during the early 1900's by IWW and made popular in the states then. We find it to be very effective if done right but thats why all of us bumble when you ask us for a deffinate number on our membership. Its widely looked down upon by most of the service unions here.

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Jan 6 2007 15:07

It sounds equivalent to anarchist federation-style proposed "workplace resistance groups", or basically just informal direct action on-the-job.

throwhen
Offline
Joined: 19-12-06
Jan 6 2007 15:32
x357997 wrote:
A new book just came out about our 100 years. You can get it from the website, any branch, or the lit department. It has alot stuff about solidarity unionism etc. we have a whole book plainly called solidarity unionism. The various illustrated novels (comic books) about the IWW explain it a little bit too.

The tactic was widely used during the early 1900's by IWW and made popular in the states then. We find it to be very effective if done right but thats why all of us bumble when you ask us for a deffinate number on our membership. Its widely looked down upon by most of the service unions here.

It is one of the great reasons why the wobblies were destroyed in the teens and twenties.

There needs to be organization.

I've heard anarchists/syndicalists talk for over a decade now about solidarity unionism -- workplace resistance groups. I have still never met anyone that was a part of one or that one anything with one.

If you have some recent examples, particulary of ones that were/are successful I would love to hear it.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Jan 6 2007 15:37
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 6 2007 16:00
888 wrote:
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

The workers need tobe organised into a structured and formal way which is under the control of the rank and file.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Jan 6 2007 16:04
John. wrote:
It sounds equivalent to anarchist federation-style proposed "workplace resistance groups", or basically just informal direct action on-the-job.

Which is precisely why, a number of AFers have recently joined the IWW.

throwhen
Offline
Joined: 19-12-06
Jan 6 2007 16:23
888 wrote:
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

um...is that what I said?

I'm pretty sure I said organization.

violencia.prole...
Offline
Joined: 12-07-06
Jan 6 2007 16:29
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

The workers need tobe organised into a structured and formal way which is under the control of the rank and file.

How exactly is the IWW informal and without structure? Have you ever read our constitution?

throwhen
Offline
Joined: 19-12-06
Jan 6 2007 16:42
violencia.proletariat wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

The workers need tobe organised into a structured and formal way which is under the control of the rank and file.

How exactly is the IWW informal and without structure? Have you ever read our constitution?

i've read it.
tons and tons of fucking structure; on paper. Nothing in reality.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 6 2007 16:55
violencia.proletariat wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

The workers need tobe organised into a structured and formal way which is under the control of the rank and file.

How exactly is the IWW informal and without structure? Have you ever read our constitution?

I think the IWW is structured and organised, i have read the constitution. I was just responding to 888's comments as it implies that you cant have non hierachical organised workplace organisation.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Jan 6 2007 17:28

eh? That's not what I meant. But chuck hendrik's version of "organisation" implies what I said, judging by his previous posts onother threads.

Wobbly Preacher's picture
Wobbly Preacher
Offline
Joined: 6-11-06
Jan 6 2007 17:33

Chuck:

I can think of several examples of effective solidarity union/workplace resistance groups. To cite a recent one, here in the DC area there's a Starbucks where the workers have won removal of unsafe equipment, an unpaid holiday for Christmas (i.e. the store was closed), more people on shifts and greater control over scheduling. Basically any action that takes place outside of a contract or official union activity is an example of this sort of thing. They happen all them time.

Also, the IWW doesn't have a lot of structure but is moving in the direction of having more all the time. The recently formed Organizing Department will hopefully be a good step in this direction.

All:

I think that the larger and more pertinent question is what is the best way to keep gains that people have won on the job and what sort of structure facilitates the long term building of working class power. From what I can tell the three options advocated by people on libcom are:

1. Work within the mainstream labor movement to do this. The mainstream labor movement is the only portion of the labor movement with the necessary resources to build working class power and "win." Revolutionaries should take advantage of the structure that exists and use it to try and push workers towards engaging in more radical forms of struggle. (I believe this the position advocated by Chuck and Thug.)
2. Work outside of the mainstream labor movement to build revolutionary unions. These unions will push their members towards more radical forms of struggle through both their radical ideology and their workplace emphasis on direct action. (This is the position of the IWW and many, if not all, European syndicalists).
3. Work outside of the mainstream to build independent unions that are not radical in ideology but are radical in their emphasis on workplace direct action and democratic control. Building a revolutionary union isn't really an option because of the conservative nature of U.S. society. (I believe this is the position of the WSA and syndicalist and syndicalistcat).

There's also a fourth option which is build non-workplace based workers centers to support workplace organizing and workplace resistance groups. These centers can be radical or non-radical in ideology and help connect workplace resistance to community struggles. This option, while not advocated by anyone on libcom, is actually where I'd guess the majority of radical activists in the U.S. are putting their energies. In the last twenty years a couple of hundred workers centers have opened in the U.S. Some have been affiliated with religious organizations, some have been affiliated with AFL-CIO/CtW unions and at least a few have been started and, in some sense, controlled by Marxist-Leninist and Maoist groups.

Am I missing a position? Or does that provide an overview of the positions held?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Jan 6 2007 17:47
Wobbly Preacher wrote:
Am I missing a position? Or does that provide an overview of the positions held?

I think you're missing out the most basic position that most anarchist communists would hold, which is organise where you are, with workers in similar circumstances to you in the best way appropriate for the situation.

I.e. if you're in a small team of agency workers on a 1-month project there's no point starting a union, so you make demands collectively and take unofficial action. If you're in a unionised factory where union members get to attend workplace meetings inside working hours, you join the union and push for all actions, organisation and negotiation to be controlled by mass assemblies, independent of union officials. Meanwhile form links with other radical and anarchist workers across industries and geographical areas to spread anarchist ideas and organise and argue for workers to use anarchist methods (direct action, direct democracy, solidarity) in struggles.

throwhen
Offline
Joined: 19-12-06
Jan 6 2007 18:59
Wobbly Preacher wrote:
Chuck:

I can think of several examples of effective solidarity union/workplace resistance groups. To cite a recent one, here in the DC area there's a Starbucks where the workers have won removal of unsafe equipment, an unpaid holiday for Christmas (i.e. the store was closed), more people on shifts and greater control over scheduling. Basically any action that takes place outside of a contract or official union activity is an example of this sort of thing. They happen all them time.

Also, the IWW doesn't have a lot of structure but is moving in the direction of having more all the time. The recently formed Organizing Department will hopefully be a good step in this direction.

1. Work within the mainstream labor movement to do this. The mainstream labor movement is the only portion of the labor movement with the necessary resources to build working class power and "win." Revolutionaries should take advantage of the structure that exists and use it to try and push workers towards engaging in more radical forms of struggle. (I believe this the position advocated by Chuck and Thug.)

Am I missing a position? Or does that provide an overview of the positions held?

1. Examples of workplace resistance groups: Most major unions in the US engage in non-contract campaigns. The area of my local that I'm involved with has had just in the last few months shop floor fights about non-contract issues ranging from the height of high heels workers have to wear, their right to wear glitter on their chest, the amount of taxes they pay on tips, and the way sections are distributed amongst cleaners. As well as a new dishwasher. These fights are carried out by the mainstream union during the life of a contract, on non-contract issues through the official union shop steward/committee structure involving actions and pressure on the bosses.

2. The question is can workplace resistance groups without an official structure maintain victories and grow into a larger power base? I don't think they can.

3. I'll say that is a fair assessment of what I think about workplace organizing. Simplified, but ok with me.

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Jan 6 2007 19:05

John, the question is how to organize where you're at and what the goal is. Is the goal to deal with immediate grievances alone? Is the goal solely to radicalize other co-workers? Is the goal to form some kind of permanent organization in the workplace, whether formal or informal? Is the goal to link people up to a larger organziation? With solidarity unionism (as attemped by its advocates in the IWW) and I think with work within the business unions as Chuck advocates, the goal is all four, though there's important differences that WP notes. With the activist worker center stuff that WP mentioend, my sense is that the goal is usually just the first or the first and the second. It's not clear to me what you're advocating.

Also, I know WP thinks the second and third are important, but these weren't made explicit in his posts so I wanted to point them out. These seem to me to be exactly a problem of organization, which I agree with Chuck is totally crucial, though I disagree with him on what the organization should be.

throwhen
Offline
Joined: 19-12-06
Jan 6 2007 20:00
Nate wrote:
John, the question is how to organize where you're at and what the goal is. Is the goal to deal with immediate grievances alone? Is the goal solely to radicalize other co-workers? Is the goal to form some kind of permanent organization in the workplace, whether formal or informal? Is the goal to link people up to a larger organziation? With solidarity unionism (as attemped by its advocates in the IWW) and I think with work within the business unions as Chuck advocates, the goal is all four, though there's important differences that WP notes. With the activist worker center stuff that WP mentioend, my sense is that the goal is usually just the first or the first and the second. It's not clear to me what you're advocating.

Also, I know WP thinks the second and third are important, but these weren't made explicit in his posts so I wanted to point them out. These seem to me to be exactly a problem of organization, which I agree with Chuck is totally crucial, though I disagree with him on what the organization should be.

winning grievances is far less important and should be thought of as an organizing tool in the far more important task of building a strong organization with a strong committee structure. Only the organization has the capacity to build power in an industry and ultimately a society.

the committee is the formula for building a stable strong organization.

the work of workplace resistance and shop floor grievance fights serve as localized expressions and a daily reminder of the work of the larger union/organization.

throwhen
Offline
Joined: 19-12-06
Jan 6 2007 20:25

Ok. Where am I wrong?

Is it more important to winning a 10cent raise today for 35 housekeepers at a hotel, or a 10cent raise for 10,000 housekeepers in 3 years?

Those are the types of choice were talking about.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Jan 6 2007 22:11

WP: "WP: 3. Work outside of the mainstream to build independent unions that are not radical in ideology but are radical in their emphasis on workplace direct action and democratic control. Building a revolutionary union isn't really an option because of the conservative nature of U.S. society. (I believe this is the position of the WSA and syndicalist and syndicalistcat)."

They can be more radical than the AFL or CtW unions in their ideology, even somewhat anti-capitalist in recognizing fundamental conflict between bosses and workers -- whatever the furthest in this direction is feasible among large numbers of workers at the present time. But the thing is, this depends on where workers are at at present.

But this isn't the complete WSA position. WSA has a dual inside/outside strategy. We also advocate the formation of rank and file groups in AFL and CtW unions independent of the bureaucracy, including the ability in some cases to mobilize actions against both the union and the employer (as in the JeffBoat wildcat). Such groups can try to work for changes in the union structure itself, to make it more democratic, more controlled by the members. Even if we'd vote for some reform candidate who might be better than someone now in office, we don't see that as strategic, i.e. it just leaves the structure the same.

Chuck: "1. Examples of workplace resistance groups: Most major unions in the US engage in non-contract campaigns. The area of my local that I'm involved with has had just in the last few months shop floor fights about non-contract issues ranging from the height of high heels workers have to wear, their right to wear glitter on their chest, the amount of taxes they pay on tips, and the way sections are distributed amongst cleaners. As well as a new dishwasher. These fights are carried out by the mainstream union during the life of a contract, on non-contract issues through the official union shop steward/committee structure involving actions and pressure on the bosses.

2. The question is can workplace resistance groups without an official structure maintain victories and grow into a larger power base? I don't think they can."

I think Chuck may be right about this. But it's a question of what structure to work for, I think.

Chuck: "chuck: winning grievances is far less important and should be thought of as an organizing tool in the far more important task of building a strong organization with a strong committee structure. Only the organization has the capacity to build power in an industry and ultimately a society. the committee is the formula for building a stable strong organization."

yeah, but what sort of committee structure? In the one case where I worked with a group to organize an independent self-managed union, i proposed a bylaws for a departmental organization that had an elected shop committee and regular general meetings (in a department with 24 employees). The shop committee was two people elected by the general meeting, and one of these was the steward who was the link to the wider union. The other was the convenor. The wider union was run by the shop stewards' council. So it was a "committee structure", tho of course the wider committee had to have mass meetings for major things like voting on a strike. The union also was built thru mass speakouts and a very frequent newsletter, as part of the organizing campaign. In that case the union was in a very large workplace (a thousand in the bargaining unit). The type of structure that you'd want to have may differ depending on the structure of the industry.

Thus i think shop commitees should be entirely made of elected members, not anyone appointed from above.

Strategic thinking is important, and there are various kinds of resources that i think will require people as paid staff, but it's important to think carefully about how to organize this. I've already proposed that things like education and a labor newspaper for a community can be organized through self-managed staff coops that have some relationship to mass organizations, unions as well as maybe other community organizations, and perhaps some negotiated relationship as far as content of classes, orientation of the paper, etc.

t.

booeyschewy
Offline
Joined: 18-10-06
Jan 6 2007 22:15

Solidarity unionism is a term used to pick out a tactical approach from a perspective of libertarian values given the historical period we're in.

That is, it is an attempt to unite elements of prior organizing and present organizing into a theory for how we can move forward and avoid the pitfalls of hierarchical business unionism.

That doesn't mean that solidarity unionism is small scale or informal (reading 'We Are All Leaders' by Lynd would make this clearer it is about organizing in the 30s that was wide in scale and was solidarity unionist).

I think solidarity unionism tries to drive a wedge in the debates that leftists have and is being perpetuated here: namely that you either organize informally/spontaneously or you organize into/within business unions.

Those are the things that I think are different about solidarity unionism, though it has clear parallels to other revolutionary organizing (which was the original poster's question I take it).

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Jan 6 2007 22:24

booey: "I think solidarity unionism tries to drive a wedge in the debates that leftists have and is being perpetuated here: namely that you either organize informally/spontaneously or you organize into/within business unions."

This is a mischaracterization of the debate here.

t.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Jan 6 2007 22:47

Let me elaborate on that cryptic comment. There have been a number of alternatives to "organizeing informally/spontaneously" described here, not just one.

When I read "We Are All Leaders," there are a number of initiatives described. There were a number of new mass organizations having a relatively self-managed character created, such as the Independent Union of All Workers or the Southern Tenant Farmers Union or the netmeg workers union. I don't see any description of the sort of organization that some anarchists would call a "revolutionary union." The independent unions are more in line with the sort of thing WSA advocates. Despite the massive energy and organizing in working class cirlces in the early to mid '30s, the IWW didn't fare well. It's membership dropped from 20,000 to 30,000 in the early '30s to about 2,000 by 1940. Has the IWW ever tried to understand that?

t.

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Jan 7 2007 00:20

Chuck, I'm in complete agreement.

Tom, "Has the IWW ever tried to understand that?" Is that sarcasm or do you honestly think no wobblies have thought about this?

Bubbles's picture
Bubbles
Offline
Joined: 4-12-06
Jan 7 2007 00:27
throwhen wrote:
violencia.proletariat wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
throwhen wrote:
There needs to be organization.

By which you mean total control of strikes by the union leaders rather than members, up to class collaboration with the bosses.

The workers need tobe organised into a structured and formal way which is under the control of the rank and file.

How exactly is the IWW informal and without structure? Have you ever read our constitution?

i've read it.
tons and tons of fucking structure; on paper. Nothing in reality.

Not true.