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Towards Growth AND Power; Organizing Radically and Organizing to Win

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billz
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May 13 2014 14:06
Towards Growth AND Power; Organizing Radically and Organizing to Win

It’s Time For A New Strategy

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that both the IWW and the “progressive” end of the mainstream labor movement have a lot to learn from each other (I would define the term “progressive” in a practical sense as kind of “Labor Notes on over,” including the National Union of Healthcare Workers [NUHW], certain radical nurses unions, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America [UE] and others who still believe in fighting bosses and organizing workers instead of organizing bosses and using staff to control outright the direction of the union like complete a third party). Let me first say that this is a statement based less on ideology and more on the reality of the current state and time of the U.S. working force. Turn of the century class struggle and revolutionary mass action is no longer on the radar as a goal for the overwhelming majority of U.S. workers. For the most part, the boss is winning and the labor movement as a whole, with a few exceptions, remains in rapid decline currently on the way to being legislated out of existence.

So what can radical labor do? First and foremost, the current IWW of mostly disconnected individuals with little workplace connections to one another is a serious impediment to the growth and strength of the union. We need more job shops and less branches and individual members. We need to secure more collective wins, both in the short and long term, for more workers in specific workplaces. We then need to hold on to those wins while planting the flag of the IWW. These wins can reverberate through an entire workplace and sustain an IWW presence.

Contracts, grievance procedures and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections are not and do not have to be an end. They can, believe it or not, be used as a means to more progressive and radical ends. To refuse to engage with them on principle will stymie the kind of organizing that I would argue we need more of to grow as a union.

Organizing within shops, collectively against a boss in a specific workplace, is how we can establish a foothold with job shops. Job shops under contracts, managed and created by the workers who work under them, are worth more than most will realize. To accomplish this, the Organizing Department (ODB) needs to grow in size and resources and then begin to search for and field realistic organizing leads.

When a lead is discovered, a team of trained and experienced organizers, under the direction of the General Executive Board (GEB), should assess it. If the lead is assessed to be ripe for a strong campaign, a trained organizer will be dispatched based on geography. The organizer will help develop a rank-and-file organizing committee.

This organizer needs to either dedicate his full-time work to aid in organizing the workplace in question, or work closely directing a team of volunteers, one of which needs to be able to dedicate his full-time hours to aiding the organizing campaign.

This of course would require a stipend paid to at least one person, within the budgetary constraints of the IWW, for a time period through an NLRB election and at least one month or more after. The ability to utilize a full-time organizer could easily be the difference between winning and losing an election.

Once the election is won, the committee of rank-and-file organizers needs to demand that the boss negotiate with them over not just wages and benefits but also turning over more control of the workplace to the union itself. This could include health and safety, working conditions, control over scheduling and discipline, discharge and hiring, etc.

While the boss will likely not do anything without the union surrendering its right to strike, the union may be able to trade that right temporarily for concrete gains in all aspects of workplace democracy and higher wages. These concrete gains will prove to the workers, a majority of whom would have not wanted a union before the process started, that the union is right for them and will now fight to defend it.

Why should we not be dogmatic about an endless right to strike in exchange for gains in workplace democracy?

1) Depending on what the workers want and what the boss is willing to give, a noticeable net positive for the workers could be won, a net positive that can grow with struggle. That struggle requires time and organizing.

2) We are not surrendering our right to strike forever, only temporarily. A smart union will use the time to champion the initial gains made while simultaneously preparing to strike.

3) Strikes involving a sizable workplace (say over 100 workers) are not easy to conduct or win. As described in the above point, they take a lot of planning and that time is going to have to pass regardless without a strike. Strikes are more effective after a union has demonstrated to the workforce that it is worth fighting for. They are of course also more effective when you have a workforce completely prepared and willing to strike. It is very rare to have the immediate support of the majority of workers you would need to win a strike right after a union is organized.

4) Rushed strikes lacking real support amongst the community and workforce elevate the risk of losing the union entirely; this is a victory for the boss even if he has to pay off one or two workers to never come back due to an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) settlement.

5) The kind of organizing I am proposing we delve into is going to involve workers with much stronger bonds to their employers than we are used to. Quite frankly, many of these workers are going to be scared of joining a union, let alone striking. The coercive power the boss has on their lives is real. While our job as organizers is to push them to a point of striking and taking risks, that decision is theirs and theirs alone. These workers cannot be ignored nor simply punted into business unionism. I believe we will do a better job at getting them to the point of fighting than a business or service model union. These workers can grow our union’s power immediately and in time get to a point where some of you reading this would prefer they be at immediately.

In short, signing a contract that most will see as a huge and sustained net positive for the union is basically giving the boss the sleeves off of your vest. You now have a strong unionized workforce that you can organize and build to strike. And yes, you would, at times, need to litigate through a fairly confining process, if, for example, someone gets unjustly fired. But we don’t need to buy into the management culture of using lawyers and spending lots of money. It is not necessary and members can be trained to handle such a process. A little training and confidence could put a member/organizer on par with many lawyers. The same goes for helping workers conduct hearings before the Unemployment Compensation Review Board, is something else I argue the union needs to get more involved in. Winning people’s jobs back can be very demoralizing for the boss and be quite energizing for the union, even in this process. (Many times it can happen even quicker than through a ULP). This process does not need to be exclusionary to workers. It can be used as a tool to organize and involved them if the will of the union to do that is strong.

I also believe that it is key to have specific language in any future IWW contract that releases a rank-and-file worker, at least one day per week (depending on the size of the workplace) to help organize the union on an ongoing basis. This is where dues check-off can be useful, although we need to be careful not to get lazy and use it as an excuse to not talk to workers.

If the boss is forced to provide the union with a check every pay period, this is big and guaranteed influx of resources that can be put to good use. Half of these funds could go to IWW General Headquarters (GHQ) and half could stay at the local. The half for the local should primarily be used to pay the lost time of the rank-and-file worker who is spending that day or two helping to organize the union. Not having to spend all that time hounding workers for dues and could allow time for instead proactively organizing with them around issues and aggressively fighting the boss.

The union I work with was (and still is) engaged in a particularly brutal battle with a viciously anti-union employer. To try and break the union they ceased dues check-off deductions after our contract expired. We were able to hand-collect dues from upwards of 80 percent of the membership. This went on for several months with a few hundred workers in the shop. It reduced the income of the union by a non-trivial amount (as it was a union shop and now those who refused to pay didn’t have to) and it also devoured an immense amount of organizing time and resources that could have went to more proactive ways of fighting the boss.

Of course there were positives, as there are with all sides of this debate. Showing management that we could hand-collect dues, and actually doing it, was certainly a blow to boss morale, but without us striking once and threatening another strike on May Day, management would have never backed off that issue (and others). The boss would have been happy to keep us out collecting dues by hand forever and it would have become more difficult and divisive over time for the workers.

A lot of what we see as corrupting business unions: dues check-off, grievance and arbitration, no strikes, contracts, paid organizers, etc., corrupts them primarily because they are business unions to begin with. We are not the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). I have seen smart and aggressive unions use these tools against the boss and to organize workers to fight. If the radical intent and drive the IWW remains the same, I would not expect contracted job shops to hurt the union or its politics. I don’t expect an IWW member in a job shop, even if they spend a day a week doing work for the union, avoid talking to workers because of dues check off. I don’t expect them to stop building to strike because they are under contract, nor would I expect them to let the union atrophy after its certified by the NLRB by becoming some kind of pork chopper pie card.

I think this type of organizing I describe is essential if the union is to grow, especially in the arena of job shops and workers new to the labor movement.

Bill Zoda has been an on-and-off Wobbly over the past 10 years, first as a carpenter and since 2007 he has worked full time organizing with an independent and feisty union of hospital nurses and other healthcare workers. He has helped organize multiple strikes and job actions. The shop he works with specifically, in Philadelphia, led the longest strike in the United States in 2010 against a bitter boss. The boss got fired, the union remains.

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Pennoid
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May 13 2014 17:38
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5) The kind of organizing I am proposing we delve into is going to involve workers with much stronger bonds to their employers than we are used to. Quite frankly, many of these workers are going to be scared of joining a union, let alone striking. The coercive power the boss has on their lives is real. While our job as organizers is to push them to a point of striking and taking risks, that decision is theirs and theirs alone. These workers cannot be ignored nor simply punted into business unionism. I believe we will do a better job at getting them to the point of fighting than a business or service model union. These workers can grow our union’s power immediately and in time get to a point where some of you reading this would prefer they be at immediately.

By this do you mean to suggest that we should focus on organizing workers that experience less turnover?

On contracts: I'm not sure if getting contracts through state arbitration create the kind of legitimacy you argue that it creates. We DO need to find ways to build campaigns in a way that legitimizes the union, but by having a local corps of workers trained in the legal language of contracts, negotiations and arbitration, we're certainly leaning back toward the bureaucratic tendencies we want to avoid. For the past 70 years, labor has relied on the state for support in disputes, and like Lucy, the state keeps pulling the football away from us right when we go to kick it. A union's power is in it's ability to interrupt production. Part of building up that power to interrupt production is making the union a legitimate force in the eyes of workers and members, but I'm not confident the state or experiences with it, will always confer legitimacy.

I do think you make a point about lulls in struggle and winning specific demands as being ways to legitimate the union. And perhaps we could use the NLRB etc. in an extremely reserved way, but I'm not sure how. Both the SWU and the JJWU used the NLRB and ULP's a lot to try and get jobs back etc. to absolutely no avail. I might hypothesize that partially it was because they often didn't have the direct action, production interrupting power to enforce their demand. At most they won wages and backpay. Where they did win jobs back, it was mostly as a result of direct action alongside the ULP. So I guess I think that where you say contracts could help us gain legitimacy we need, you're right that we need legitimacy, I'm doubtful that contracts can give it to us.

I do think we could have something more of an organizer school or some kind of mentoring program, or like training and then pairing of new organizers with experienced ones who can help them through planning campaigns and cutting their teeth. As for these organizers becoming paid staff of the union, that would necessarily have to confer with it the lack of voting privileges in the union or some other way to stave off bureaucratization.

I think the contractual-ism debate gets to the core of our ideals. Do we want long-term, totally stable, union membership with high benefits? Or do we want a working class insurgency that develops a new social vision and asserts a new standard of what human life should be like? Certainly, the former contains some aspects of the latter, but a union shop is not the same thing as the abolition of the wage system.

billz
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May 14 2014 14:58

Yes, i think organizing those kinds of workers will help grow the union.

Its rare to get contracts through state mandated arbitration, you find that more common in police and fire, and I dont think we are interested in organizing police and likely will not get traction in fire i dont think thats much of an issue. The contracts that I argue we should fight for would be forced onto a boss and only accepted via democracy of the workplace and no outside party. I totally do agree with you about training.

I think what you are saying is that contracts are helpful to organize but are not the ends all towards legitimacy? Is so i agree. its not a contract itself, its what you can force the boss to do with your power as a united workforce that gets legitimacy. One of the most legitimizing moments for my union was a strike. But we would have never gotten to that point without laying a groundwork with contractual gains and protections and union stability and legitimization.

I totally agree with you that any full time or part time paid union staff person should not have voting privileges on anything.

No, a union shop is not the same thing as a workers revolution, but i dont think we are there yet and we can do a lot of good for people, build the union, and push in that general direction.

Thanks for your well thought out response

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May 14 2014 18:41

Billz,

Just as a point of clarification, I think that contracts between bosses and workers, when they break down, which they will, rely on the NLRB and other bodies for ultimate enforcement and arbitration etc. Or that is my understanding. Because of the web of legal bullshit that accompanies this, we should focus more on building power and making gains, non-contractually. The NLRB is a part of the state. Hell, Obama just appointed a lawyer to the NLRB in New York who spent at least part of her professional time advising Starbucks against the IWW.

I definitely think the no no-strike-clauses policy is a good middle ground.

billz
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May 15 2014 18:08

Pennoid,

The basic meat of contracts almost never break down. For example we make the boss pay us X dollars per hour. While not impossible, it almost never happens. A lot of arbitrations come from disciplines (which is actually better and more of a wider net of security than a ULP) and also disagreement over language interpretation.

So if there is a grey area, which usually there is, you can at times squeeze even more out of the boss than what the boss was actually agreeing to, or thought they were agreeing to. That can be a net positive.

While there is certainly a web of legal bullshit on the bosses side, we can control our side. We dont need lawyers and as i argue, some training can put many workers or volunteers on par with some of the best boss lawyers. You also can organize outside of that legal procedure at the same time you fight within it, just as you would with any issue.

The no no strike cause policy, in short, is what is likely going to keep the union from attaining any power. I know it is ironic, but i think that is what is going on.

Even in small shops or co ops where the union has launched strikes, they seem to not have anchored a union presence with the boss. Either the union presence has dissipated or people have moved on. Remember, just because you have contract with a no strike clause it doesnt mean you cant ever strike. the prep time and building the union time is just as important, if not more, than the strike.

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May 15 2014 22:21

So, funny story about this article: I was arguing with Billz last month on another thread and, while doing that, I checked my email. And what did I have in there? A request from the IW editor to proof the very article Billz has posted above. So I had a sneak preview of this little travesty.

I mean, really, there is so much wrong with this article - literally starting with the very first sentence - that I don't even think it's worth engaging with. What I will say, in short, is that if one advocates forgoing all radical principles in the name of radicalism, well you don't belong in the IWW.

Now, I know how Billz will respond: "You're just being dogmatic..." Well, you know what? One person's dogma is just another's principles. And, for all the time I've been involved in the labor movement, it's always been the forces of reformism - union bureaucrats and the like - who've trotted out that old chestnut any time a course of actual radical action is proposed.

Personally, I think the most this article deserves is a place in the libcom library with the Best of the Worst.

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May 15 2014 22:25
Pennoid wrote:
For the past 70 years, labor has relied on the state for support in disputes, and like Lucy, the state keeps pulling the football away from us right when we go to kick it.

I just want to say that I love this analogy.

Also:

Billzzzz... wrote:
The no no strike cause policy, in short, is what is likely going to keep the union from attaining any power. I know it is moronic, but i think that is what is going on.

Fixed.

billz
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May 15 2014 22:52

chilli, thanks for your "well thought out" and "constructive" comments.

Its not your dogma that I am concerned about, its the fact that your clear anger (fear?) and dogma to not deviate from some incorrect notion of purity, is actually a hindrance to radical growth and that is bad for workers everywhere.

you cant just pigeonhole any new idea to "reformism" and "old bureaucrats" who are self interested and somehow countering some non existent realistic actual radical alternative action.

That is the actual travesty because we could actually build the union if you were not so concerned about your own self congratulatory politics.

great flame zinger at the end of your last post btw, totally unexpected.

anarkinsey
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May 16 2014 02:04

You say the IWW and "progressive" (reformist) labor unions have a lot to learn from each other but you seem to be most focused on what the IWW can learn from reformist labor unions. I don't think the mission of the IWW was ever just to "grow" like the ideas you propose suggest. That growth doesn't mean shit if you throw your principles out the window "temporarily" (which rarely turns out to actually be the case in matters involving the state) to achieve it. The very point of radical organizing is to show workers that they don't need to rely on bosses and the state. You propose the opposite, for the IWW to commit to jump through all the hoops the state and capital sets up to achieve "legitimacy"... and for what? Growth? There's no point having a big union if it's restricted by the desire to maintain "legitimacy"... that's the problem with reformist unions, not the solution!

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May 16 2014 08:05
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Its not your dogma that I am concerned about, its the fact that your clear anger (fear?) and dogma to not deviate from some incorrect notion of purity, is actually a hindrance to radical growth and that is bad for workers everywhere...we could actually build the union if you were not so concerned about your own self congratulatory politics.

Ah, armchair psychology and contradictory statements. And, I get it, as you've made so clear in your own little self-written bio there - I mean, Jesus, talk about "self-congratulatory" - you're a super-organizer. But I assure you, I'm no novice either. I've been involved in IWW strikes and held active roles in the Organizing Department. So spare me your assumptions, yeah?

Look, all you have is a bunch of words - suggestions without any any historical or contemporary basis that, if implemented, would strip the IWW of any actual existing radical content.

It seems to me that what you're suggesting is basically UE with a red preamble. Fine, I like UE as far as trade unions go - but then again, I didn't join the IWW to join a trade union. If you're embracing that model, and your organizing skills are as great as you seem to think they are, why don't you get a job organizing with them? It would be a lot more useful than absurdly suggesting the IWW consciously adopt all the things - no-strike clauses, contracts, grievances procedures, and paid organizers - that has historically differentiated the IWW from the class collaborationist, mainstream of the labor movement.

billz
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May 16 2014 14:44

Thats mostly because this was an article for the IWW. Believe me, mainstream labor unions have more to learn.

No one is saying the mission of the IWW is just to grow, but growing and building the union is pretty much the backbone of whatever agenda you want to branch out with, be it radical or not.

I know you think that I am saying that workers need to rely on bosses and that state, but that is not actually what i am saying at all. Its a knee jerk reaction that I expected but all I ask is that you read some of the concrete ideas without bias. There is nothing in there about showing workers that they just need to rely on the state or bosses. Im actually saying they can rely more on themselves

The IWW files ULPs all the time and I dont think they are going to stop any time soon, nor should they. An NLRB election is a hoop, yes, but is also a gauge of the strength of the union. If you win, then good. Build the union. If you dont have the support to win, then fight with a minority, but I think the goal should always be to gain that majority on program. You are not going to have a successful strike without out and not all strikes are magic or successful.

By legitimacy I mean legitimacy with the workers, not the boss. just a point of clarification. thanks for the reply

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klas batalo
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May 18 2014 15:46
IWW Preamble wrote:
We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

...

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

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May 18 2014 18:35

Don't have a whole lot to add here that some of us, or most of the IWW for the past 80 years hasn't said before. You're not being non-ideological. It sort of sounds like you are union staff, which doesn't surprise me. Other arguments in the IWW that are similar to yours have been made by people who are union staff. These arguments aren't non-ideological, but are in fact the ideology of business unionism. A sort of dogmatic pragmatism that demands results right now. The only principle it really has is growth and numbers. I mean arguing for dues check-off, really?

Really, what you're saying is that we should do everything that AFL-CIO unions do, and that because we somehow have some special knowledge of the dangers or because we're anticapitalist, the results will be different. You make no argument and have no examples about how this can be done. You see very little problem with the class colloborationism, legalism, structure, purpose and bureaucracy of the business unions, you just seem to wish it was being done by people who consider themselves revolutionaries. I don't get it.

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May 18 2014 23:29

Billz I'm curious to hear what you think the left of the business unions can learn from the IWW.

billz
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May 19 2014 00:00

Juan,

This is not about extremes. I am in no way saying we should be doing "everything" the AFL CIO does but I dont think the iww should be doing exactly what its doing now either.

I do believe that taking a couple things, which i describe above, into practice with the iww that the results will actually be different. I think that is true. I see it in left mainstream unionism vs buisness unionism. There are differences between say, NUHW and SEIU, those differences are not completely irrelevant. Taken a step further to the left they can build the IWW.

I do not think every single union is class collaborationist but I think many are, most notably SEIU under Stern and continuing in figures like Dave Reagan and many in the AFL. I have a big problem with it. I also have a problem with "legalism" but for the time being its a structure we can use to our advantage and do it our way, democratically, without costly lawyers and use it as a weapon against the boss. As i said the IWW is not going to stop filing ULPs nor should they.

Im willing to play out an example in more detail if it will make some of my suggestions clearer. Like say, for example a nursing home wants to organize a union, or industry x. There are 150 workers.. we get a call. Lets play it out step by step. What works better?

billz
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May 19 2014 00:05

Wobbly,

I think they can:

a) spend less time and money on big politicians, particularly and the federal level.

b( spend more time and money on organizing both internal and external

c) spend more time planing strategic fights against some of the worst bosses

d) be much more inclusive of the "rank and file" and break the staff culture of the union as a third party.

e) Take risks and learn to strike the right way

Thats a start but I have more. That will turn into article two.

billz
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May 19 2014 00:07
klas batalo wrote:
IWW Preamble wrote:
We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

...

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

Just for the record;

I am in no way arguing for any kind of craft or "trade" union. Although I think the IWW could benefit from say; a healthcare workers division or service workers division etc... But that would all be under the umbrella of one big union.

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May 19 2014 17:05

Okay Billz, here's the thing, I think the point where I may just disagree with you is that I see the things the business unions do as a fundamental part of what they are.

In your article you say that we could learn from the business unions by bringing in dues checkoff and hiring more staff. In your post you say that the business unions could learn from us by being less reliant on staff. The way we are less reliant on staff is not a matter of abstract principles, it's a matter of organisational policy. The IWW doesn't do these things because it doesn't do these things.

In your article you say that we could learn from the business unions by being more open to contracts but at the same time you criticise SEIU for being collaborationist with the employer. Contracts are designed to condition labour relations, to bring recalcitrant bosses and workers to a working agreement that leaves the functioning of the workplace untouched. It rewards collaboration and punishes resistance.

It isn't just a matter of being smart enough to play this system, it is a strategic move on the part of the government to keep things running.

I know you see yourself as some sort of middle ground between ideals and practical experience but a lot what we have developed in the IWW has been through our own experience. Ten years ago the IWW was much more open to contracts and staff and it has actually been through various campaigns that these ideas have come to hold more weight. Not through theoretical discussions but through careful thought about where campaigns did well and went wrong.

billz
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May 20 2014 02:19
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Okay Billz, here's the thing, I think the point where I may just disagree with you is that I see the things the business unions do as a fundamental part of what they are.

In your article you say that we could learn from the business unions by bringing in dues checkoff and hiring more staff. In your post you say that the business unions could learn from us by being less reliant on staff. The way we are less reliant on staff is not a matter of abstract principles, it's a matter of organisational policy. The IWW doesn't do these things because it doesn't do these things.

In your article you say that we could learn from the business unions by being more open to contracts but at the same time you criticise SEIU for being collaborationist with the employer. Contracts are designed to condition labour relations, to bring recalcitrant bosses and workers to a working agreement that leaves the functioning of the workplace untouched. It rewards collaboration and punishes resistance.

It isn't just a matter of being smart enough to play this system, it is a strategic move on the part of the government to keep things running.

I know you see yourself as some sort of middle ground between ideals and practical experience but a lot what we have developed in the IWW has been through our own experience. Ten years ago the IWW was much more open to contracts and staff and it has actually been through various campaigns that these ideas have come to hold more weight. Not through theoretical discussions but through careful thought about where campaigns did well and went wrong.

Youre right, this is about a middle ground. That is exactly why the point I make above about seiu contracts or staff are not contradictory. The ground covering both extremes is much more vast than I think most people believe. The IWW has had contracts, local 8 in philly (one of my favorite historic IWW locals) had a business manager and in fact they too had run ins with the iww national which i think was being quite dogmatic about entry fees and their being able to control the workforce in order to stabilize and grow the union. iww dogma there helped lead to their downfall and i bet was being pushed by people not in job shops.

I was in the iww ten years ago too and i dont remember much of what i argue being practice. I remember drama and infighting and the same kind of dogma that i feel is a hindrance to organizing.

But if you have a specific example of a campaign that "went wrong" that was working within the framework I described above I am definitely open to hearing about it and discussing.

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May 20 2014 15:22

Yeah sure I have a lot of examples of where things went wrong, I can provide a comprehensive list but here's a few:
1). Starbucks, they originally went for a contract in Manhattan and the LRB said they had to organise every store in Manhattan which was way outside of the NYC GMBs capacity, so they went solidarity unionism after the fact. This campaign has been going strong as a campaign since but one of the initial hits was taken after the LRB stuff to begin with. At this stage the IWW often went Solidarity Unionism after a bad LRB ruling that was a mistake.

2). JJWU, this campaign had functioning shop committees in multiple shops. They had a decent track record of solving smaller grievances through shop floor pressure. After this point a majority on the committee decided the best move was to go for an election and try for a contract. Ultimately they lost this push, which in itself isn't proof of much I'll admit that, but it did lead to the campaign putting all of their eggs in one basket and set the campaign back pretty seriously after that defeat.

Also both of these examples (on the topic of learning from business unions) leave aside the dismal record that business unions have in enforcing contracts meaningfully in fast food. The Canadian Auto Workers voluntarily decertified their Starbucks stores after they found that the cost of servicing them with staff was way more expensive than the dues they could reasonably expect to bring in from the workers. Building a large enough volunteer steward base proved a problem for outside organisers due to the dynamics of small shops its easier to build relationships between workers and bosses and harder to have one steward represent a few hundred workers due to geographic separation.

The strength in the IWW approach is the emphasis on the on the ground, politically motivated organisers and flexible organisation. It allows groups to form around issues fight for those issues and pick up steam but also to shrink as struggle subsides. The shop committee system also creates more buy in and spreads the work around and builds up soft skills like organising actions, doing 1 on 1s etc inside the committee instead of just in one person who shoulders all the weight. Also a direct action approach builds the workers sense of power and independence, legal approaches tend to develop specialists and specialist knowledge.

Finally there is the issue of actually enforcing contracts, a lot of unions have to make hard decisions about what grievances to take to arbitration and what not to take to arbitration. If you don't have the finances to take a contract through the employer will know that and press the attack even more strongly. So at my old job we had a backlog of 50,000 or so unresolved grievances, our local alone filed about 1,000 a year. A cheap arbitration gets resolved for about 10,000 if you include meeting space for the hearing, plane costs for the arbitrator and the staff to process the file.

The thing about direct action is that you can make priorities based on strategy and shunt off stuff with little prospect of being a mass issue onto other legal channels. I don't have a problem with MOAs that don't have no strike agreements for example, also there is human rights legislation, OH&S, employment standards and LRB rules regarding advocating for a union of your choice that can all be used.

This isn't about a dogmatic adherence to doctrine, this is about different political commitments and organising experience.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
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May 20 2014 20:19

In regard to Philadelphia local 8, they negotiated agreements with the employers, but these were as Edmonton says: "MOAs that don't have no strike agreements". I agree that the GEB was being dogmatic in not allowing the $24 initiation fee. The key thing, tho, is why they were adamant about not agreeing to a no-strike clause. Such a clause would prevent solidarity actions. This means it is a knife directly in the heart of class unionism. As Bill Haywood said, the AFL unions couldn't organize a general strike -- a class strike -- because of all their various "sacred" contracts that prohibited striking. A major weakness of American unionism is its deeply entrenched sectoralism. This is all rooted in the no-strike contract. This more or less forces the officials to oppose solidarity action or any action against grievances, that violates the no-strike contract, to protect the solvency of the union.

Quote:
Also both of these examples (on the topic of learning from business unions) leave aside the dismal record that business unions have in enforcing contracts meaningfully in fast food. The Canadian Auto Workers voluntarily decertified their Starbucks stores after they found that the cost of servicing them with staff was way more expensive than the dues they could reasonably expect to bring in from the workers. Building a large enough volunteer steward base proved a problem for outside organisers due to the dynamics of small shops its easier to build relationships between workers and bosses and harder to have one steward represent a few hundred workers due to geographic separation.

This actually brings us back to the problems that were faced by industrial unions in the USA in early 1900s. Leftists usually criticize the IWW for not having benefit funds & strike funds & suuch but the thing is, no AFL union that organized mainly unskilled workers did those things back then either. Low paid workers couldn't afford to pay the dues that were needed for benefit funds & strike funds. So it seems CAW found out the economics of organizing low paid workers.

As an example of IWW influence on "reformist unions" I'll mention two examples from UE. In '70s I talked to an organizer of UE in L.A. in the midst of a strike by mostly undocumented Mexican immigrants at a wire factory. The union provided groceries but not strike pay. He told me that not having a strike fund was part of the tradition of "revolutionary unionism" (IWW i.e.). Another example: In 1980 I interviewed the president (only paid officer) of UE local at Allen-Bradley's main plant in Milwaukee. They had an open-shop contract, no dues checkoff. He told me they had to constantly organize on the shop floor, always looking for younger workers with class consciousness they could train as shop stewards on the floor. 97 percent of the workers belonged to the union, even tho it was an open shop contract.

No strike clauses historically arose with the new bureaucratic layer of AFL in early 1900s. that's when AFL style "collective bargaining" began. in 1880s-early 1890s AFL unions didn't do "collective bargaining." They didn't negotiate with employers. They decided on pay rates & work rules in their member assemblies. Then organized strikes to enforce these. This was called "union legislation". Bargaining contracts with no strike clauses came along after emergence of paid officials because they did not work the job & so ability to enforce conditions was not of primary concern to them, whereas keeping their "partnership" relations with management was key, because they ran a political machine in the union, and getting elected meant pointing to things they could say they did for people. So processing grievances, getting people jobs (as in working for the union or thru preference in the hiring hall).

billz
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May 21 2014 02:45
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Yeah sure I have a lot of examples of where things went wrong, I can provide a comprehensive list but here's a few:
1). Starbucks, they originally went for a contract in Manhattan and the LRB said they had to organise every store in Manhattan which was way outside of the NYC GMBs capacity, so they went solidarity unionism after the fact. This campaign has been going strong as a campaign since but one of the initial hits was taken after the LRB stuff to begin with. At this stage the IWW often went Solidarity Unionism after a bad LRB ruling that was a mistake.

but if it were in the gmb's compacity, wouldnt that have been a good thing? I mean better than the current state of employee rights and union strength for Starbucks workers in manhattan? Im not defending the LRB, just talking about thinking strategically. In cases where it doesnt make sense, then dont have an election, but in cases where it does, go for it. Its a case by case basis

2). JJWU, this campaign had functioning shop committees in multiple shops. They had a decent track record of solving smaller grievances through shop floor pressure. After this point a majority on the committee decided the best move was to go for an election and try for a contract. Ultimately they lost this push, which in itself isn't proof of much I'll admit that, but it did lead to the campaign putting all of their eggs in one basket and set the campaign back pretty seriously after that defeat.

I dont think the status of the JJWU would be much different now then if they hadnt tried for an election. And, if using some of the things i talk about, they could have won the election, i would argue JJWU would still have a union, made significant gains, build the union and maybe even have been able to organize a successful strike by now

Also both of these examples (on the topic of learning from business unions) leave aside the dismal record that business unions have in enforcing contracts meaningfully in fast food. The Canadian Auto Workers voluntarily decertified their Starbucks stores after they found that the cost of servicing them with staff was way more expensive than the dues they could reasonably expect to bring in from the workers. Building a large enough volunteer steward base proved a problem for outside organisers due to the dynamics of small shops its easier to build relationships between workers and bosses and harder to have one steward represent a few hundred workers due to geographic separation.

The strength in the IWW approach is the emphasis on the on the ground, politically motivated organisers and flexible organisation. It allows groups to form around issues fight for those issues and pick up steam but also to shrink as struggle subsides. The shop committee system also creates more buy in and spreads the work around and builds up soft skills like organising actions, doing 1 on 1s etc inside the committee instead of just in one person who shoulders all the weight. Also a direct action approach builds the workers sense of power and independence, legal approaches tend to develop specialists and specialist knowledge.

I dont see a reason we cant do it all

Finally there is the issue of actually enforcing contracts, a lot of unions have to make hard decisions about what grievances to take to arbitration and what not to take to arbitration. If you don't have the finances to take a contract through the employer will know that and press the attack even more strongly. So at my old job we had a backlog of 50,000 or so unresolved grievances, our local alone filed about 1,000 a year. A cheap arbitration gets resolved for about 10,000 if you include meeting space for the hearing, plane costs for the arbitrator and the staff to process the file.

50,000? that seems insane, that local must have had 10,000 people in it. I think we can spend less than half that on an arbitration and I dont think contract enforcement, set up the way im arguing, would be particularly difficult, in fact, its a great way to build the union

The thing about direct action is that you can make priorities based on strategy and shunt off stuff with little prospect of being a mass issue onto other legal channels. I don't have a problem with MOAs that don't have no strike agreements for example, also there is human rights legislation, OH&S, employment standards and LRB rules regarding advocating for a union of your choice that can all be used.

Im not against direct action, but i think direct action that doesnt build the union, in fact direction action that weakens the union, is bad. You couldnt organizing a job shop to go on continuously striking all the time at will for little or medium size grievances. so trading off on that temporarily to build the union for a larger and better organized strike is really not hurting the union at all

This isn't about a dogmatic adherence to doctrine, this is about different political commitments and organising experience.

I think its both, but of course depends on the individual. Thanks for the reply

billz
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May 21 2014 03:00
syndicalistcat wrote:
In regard to Philadelphia local 8, they negotiated agreements with the employers, but these were as Edmonton says: "MOAs that don't have no strike agreements". I agree that the GEB was being dogmatic in not allowing the $24 initiation fee. The key thing, tho, is why they were adamant about not agreeing to a no-strike clause. Such a clause would prevent solidarity actions. This means it is a knife directly in the heart of class unionism. As Bill Haywood said, the AFL unions couldn't organize a general strike -- a class strike -- because of all their various "sacred" contracts that prohibited striking. A major weakness of American unionism is its deeply entrenched sectoralism. This is all rooted in the no-strike contract. This more or less forces the officials to oppose solidarity action or any action against grievances, that violates the no-strike contract, to protect the solvency of the union.

It was a strike the ended that union, ironically. But yes, working as lonshoremen their employers were many and contracts didnt make as much sense as they do for "job shops" (what i am talking about), workers all united working for one common boss. It was also almost 100 years ago. we have a new organizing culture, for better or worse. That fee that the geb was being dogmatic about, its the same thing i am talking about. If it were 100 years ago I would be writing the same kind of article about bad labor dogma. But its the same thing today, Im talking about building and stabilizing the union, so was local 8.

Quote:
Also both of these examples (on the topic of learning from business unions) leave aside the dismal record that business unions have in enforcing contracts meaningfully in fast food. The Canadian Auto Workers voluntarily decertified their Starbucks stores after they found that the cost of servicing them with staff was way more expensive than the dues they could reasonably expect to bring in from the workers. Building a large enough volunteer steward base proved a problem for outside organisers due to the dynamics of small shops its easier to build relationships between workers and bosses and harder to have one steward represent a few hundred workers due to geographic separation.

This actually brings us back to the problems that were faced by industrial unions in the USA in early 1900s. Leftists usually criticize the IWW for not having benefit funds & strike funds & suuch but the thing is, no AFL union that organized mainly unskilled workers did those things back then either. Low paid workers couldn't afford to pay the dues that were needed for benefit funds & strike funds. So it seems CAW found out the economics of organizing low paid workers.

As an example of IWW influence on "reformist unions" I'll mention two examples from UE. In '70s I talked to an organizer of UE in L.A. in the midst of a strike by mostly undocumented Mexican immigrants at a wire factory. The union provided groceries but not strike pay. He told me that not having a strike fund was part of the tradition of "revolutionary unionism" (IWW i.e.). Another example: In 1980 I interviewed the president (only paid officer) of UE local at Allen-Bradley's main plant in Milwaukee. They had an open-shop contract, no dues checkoff. He told me they had to constantly organize on the shop floor, always looking for younger workers with class consciousness they could train as shop stewards on the floor. 97 percent of the workers belonged to the union, even tho it was an open shop contract.
I find that hard to believe, but even if 97% of workers voluntarily joined the union should we not support closed shops as long as they dont undermine organizing?

No strike clauses historically arose with the new bureaucratic layer of AFL in early 1900s. that's when AFL style "collective bargaining" began. in 1880s-early 1890s AFL unions didn't do "collective bargaining." They didn't negotiate with employers. They decided on pay rates & work rules in their member assemblies. Then organized strikes to enforce these. This was called "union legislation". Bargaining contracts with no strike clauses came along after emergence of paid officials because they did not work the job & so ability to enforce conditions was not of primary concern to them, whereas keeping their "partnership" relations with management was key, because they ran a political machine in the union, and getting elected meant pointing to things they could say they did for people. So processing grievances, getting people jobs (as in working for the union or thru preference in the hiring hall).

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
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May 21 2014 08:23

"building and stabilizing the union" by using all the same tactics as the trade unions, but maintaining our radicalism by...declaring our radicalism:

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EdmontonWobbly
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May 21 2014 16:30

Okay taking on a few points:

Quote:
"I find that hard to believe, but even if 97% of workers voluntarily joined the union should we not support closed shops as long as they dont undermine organizing?"

Okay so what does "not undermining organizing" look like? If you refuse to provide supplies to a struck company in the USA this can be considered a sympathy strike and get you in hot water with the law, or be considered a violation of your no strike clause, unless you don't have a no strike clause, this is why I support the IWWs ban on such clauses. It's worth noting in the IWW you can sign contracts without a no strike clause. Like I agree entirely with the sentiment that we should use whatever avenue is at our disposal that does not constrain organising.

For that reason we encourage members to use the appeals systems for human rights legislation, OH&S, workers comp etc, the opposition to no strike clauses is that they -do- constrain organising.

Quote:
but if it were in the gmb's compacity, wouldnt that have been a good thing? I mean better than the current state of employee rights and union strength for Starbucks workers in manhattan? Im not defending the LRB, just talking about thinking strategically. In cases where it doesnt make sense, then dont have an election, but in cases where it does, go for it. Its a case by case basis

You saw my example with the CAW right? In that example they successfully brought all of the shops under contract and only managed to hold them for one contract term. These are material, practical, reasons. The servicing model that is dictated by legislation constrains you to a certain type of organising. It's also worth noting that even business unions came under this system reluctantly and commonly viewed it as an attack and a temporary measure when these things were introduced in WWII.

Now the IWWs presence in Manhattan may fluctuate and it may eventually die out but we managed to win MLK day off, a 2$/hour raise early on and have enforced a certain level of shop control for about a decade in some shops. Given that the CAW is gone from Starbucks in Vancouver I think that's a practical, current example.

On the grievance framework, it was 45,000 members in one bargaining unit across the country, but that was over one grievance per member that was more than 5 years from being heard. Again I agree with you that having a process for settling grievances that aren't organising issues, like being bypassed for overtime or scheduling conflict between members but that is different than a contract with a no strike clause. That sort of stuff has lots of precedent even in non union companies where there are appeals processes. The reason the government requires these things to end in arbitration though, that is a political, not technical decision.

None of the existing labour relations framework in Canada or the USA was written by people who were interested in advancing the interests of working people. The legislation was specifically written so that you can't have it both ways, that is the entire point of the legislation. If it fails on that point, like it did in Alberta when IWW training programs started being used in mainstream unions (like in the Post Office and AUPE) the government threatened to fine those unions out of existence and the unions eliminated the training programs to save the legal framework.

So Billz, look I appreciate the desire to have it both ways, I really do. In fact there was a time when I actually thought the same thing as you but honestly the IWW way of doing things isn't just a political, or dogmatic commitment, it's after a decade and a half of organising. Of walking the picket lines, of participating in wildcat strikes, of sitting on a local executive and in the political action committee for my labour central and generally playing by the rules. What you are suggesting is just not realistic and I suspect is more based in experience as a union staffer than as a member who has been on strike and seen a workforce win, lose, and learn through its own collective actions.

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syndicalistcat
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May 22 2014 01:42
Quote:
97 percent of the workers belonged to the union, even tho it was an open shop contract.
I find that hard to believe, but even if 97% of workers voluntarily joined the union should we not support closed shops as long as they dont undermine organizing?

you may find it hard to believe but that is what they claimed on their website. (The plant was closed a couple years ago so the local no longer exists.)

I think there are problems with a union security clause. Many workplaces have conservative anti-union people who work there. Managers or owners often hire relatives or friends. Do we want these people in the union? I think as far as the more right wing, motivated anti-union minority that exists in some workplaces, better for them to not be in the union.

Quote:
It was a strike the ended that union, ironically. But yes, working as lonshoremen their employers were many and contracts didnt make as much sense as they do for "job shops" (

On the contrary, they HAD an agreement & it was critical that they did. Precisely because of the one-off, precarious nature of longshore work. This was how they imposed the hiring hall. The strike that ended the union was a case of the black leadership getting out of touch with their own rank & file...at least Peter Cole makes a good case for that. Sometimes a retreat is called for.

billz
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May 23 2014 19:24
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Okay taking on a few points:

Quote:
"I find that hard to believe, but even if 97% of workers voluntarily joined the union should we not support closed shops as long as they dont undermine organizing?"

Okay so what does "not undermining organizing" look like? If you refuse to provide supplies to a struck company in the USA this can be considered a sympathy strike and get you in hot water with the law, or be considered a violation of your no strike clause, unless you don't have a no strike clause, this is why I support the IWWs ban on such clauses. It's worth noting in the IWW you can sign contracts without a no strike clause. Like I agree entirely with the sentiment that we should use whatever avenue is at our disposal that does not constrain organising.

non undermining organizing means you dont use the fact that you dont hand collect dues as an excuse to not do anything else. I dont think that would be a problem in the iww but would shore up resources and time. Of course, most workers can legally sign without it, but its not just a matter of law, its a matter of power. this is the whole point about stabilizing and building a union that is not going to magically have endless successful strikes multiple times a year, rather than see it get crushed or fade away

For that reason we encourage members to use the appeals systems for human rights legislation, OH&S, workers comp etc, the opposition to no strike clauses is that they -do- constrain organising.

not sure i follow here, but would love more details

Quote:
but if it were in the gmb's compacity, wouldnt that have been a good thing? I mean better than the current state of employee rights and union strength for Starbucks workers in manhattan? Im not defending the LRB, just talking about thinking strategically. In cases where it doesnt make sense, then dont have an election, but in cases where it does, go for it. Its a case by case basis

You saw my example with the CAW right? In that example they successfully brought all of the shops under contract and only managed to hold them for one contract term. These are material, practical, reasons. The servicing model that is dictated by legislation constrains you to a certain type of organising. It's also worth noting that even business unions came under this system reluctantly and commonly viewed it as an attack and a temporary measure when these things were introduced in WWII.

Now the IWWs presence in Manhattan may fluctuate and it may eventually die out but we managed to win MLK day off, a 2$/hour raise early on and have enforced a certain level of shop control for about a decade in some shops. Given that the CAW is gone from Starbucks in Vancouver I think that's a practical, current example.

decent unions end up raising wages all the time for workers as a whole, either because they set the bar with decent contracts and other employers follow, or they start an organizing drive and the boss buys off workers. Here contracts and election wins cement a union and help it grow. I bet more workers would get that the union gave them the 2$ raise if the union was actively present in those shops then now when most likely just assumed it was the market

On the grievance framework, it was 45,000 members in one bargaining unit across the country, but that was over one grievance per member that was more than 5 years from being heard. Again I agree with you that having a process for settling grievances that aren't organising issues, like being bypassed for overtime or scheduling conflict between members but that is different than a contract with a no strike clause. That sort of stuff has lots of precedent even in non union companies where there are appeals processes. The reason the government requires these things to end in arbitration though, that is a political, not technical decision.

That sounds like a massive mess. but i think all grievances can potentially be organizing issues,i do it all the time, it can be a win both ways on the smaller issues you talk about because you can a) beat the boss outright in arbitration and cost them a lot of money or b) organizing outside the grievance process and make the boss look mean and the union good, if youre not stuck in a six year contract (which is not what i am arguing for), its something you can fix later if you cant get the boss to back off by other means, and if then they still wont back off see if you can organizine a strike around it

None of the existing labour relations framework in Canada or the USA was written by people who were interested in advancing the interests of working people. The legislation was specifically written so that you can't have it both ways, that is the entire point of the legislation. If it fails on that point, like it did in Alberta when IWW training programs started being used in mainstream unions (like in the Post Office and AUPE) the government threatened to fine those unions out of existence and the unions eliminated the training programs to save the legal framework.

i agree.

So Billz, look I appreciate the desire to have it both ways, I really do. In fact there was a time when I actually thought the same thing as you but honestly the IWW way of doing things isn't just a political, or dogmatic commitment, it's after a decade and a half of organising. Of walking the picket lines, of participating in wildcat strikes, of sitting on a local executive and in the political action committee for my labour central and generally playing by the rules. What you are suggesting is just not realistic and I suspect is more based in experience as a union staffer than as a member who has been on strike and seen a workforce win, lose, and learn through its own collective actions.

i dont doubt that your perspective comes from exp but it also comes from politics, same as mine. I would love to actually hear more about your experience as a staffer, member, or whatever. Of course we still have the opposite conclusion, we both think what each other is proposing is not realistic, but I assure you i have seen workforces win and lose through its own collective actions and i have seen workforces do the same from a third party union model

billz
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May 23 2014 19:29
syndicalistcat wrote:
Quote:
97 percent of the workers belonged to the union, even tho it was an open shop contract.
I find that hard to believe, but even if 97% of workers voluntarily joined the union should we not support closed shops as long as they dont undermine organizing?

you may find it hard to believe but that is what they claimed on their website. (The plant was closed a couple years ago so the local no longer exists.)

I think there are problems with a union security clause. Many workplaces have conservative anti-union people who work there. Managers or owners often hire relatives or friends. Do we want these people in the union? I think as far as the more right wing, motivated anti-union minority that exists in some workplaces, better for them to not be in the union.

there is nothing bosses hate more than union security clauses. right to work is the number one priority of the right wing in my state at the moment and its passage is bad for everything. anti union workers exist and they should pay dues to the union that represents them and that they benefit form. Also, i have never met a pro union worker who doesnt want an anti union worker to have to pay dues, its really up to them in my opinion

Quote:
It was a strike the ended that union, ironically. But yes, working as lonshoremen their employers were many and contracts didnt make as much sense as they do for "job shops" (

On the contrary, they HAD an agreement & it was critical that they did. Precisely because of the one-off, precarious nature of longshore work. This was how they imposed the hiring hall. The strike that ended the union was a case of the black leadership getting out of touch with their own rank & file...at least Peter Cole makes a good case for that. Sometimes a retreat is called for.[/quote

Local 8 didnt have a contract, although i am sure they had discussions with various bosses. strikes can end unions for many reasons, which is why i am saying that sometimes, given the power dynamic, not going on strike for a short time period in order to build and grow the union is actually a good thing and is like giving the boss the sleeves off of your vest

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
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May 24 2014 00:12
Quote:
Local 8 didnt have a contract, although i am sure they had discussions with various bosses.

They had agreements. For example, the negotiations in 1913 led to an agreement that included pay for overtime & for holiday work, ended segregated work gangs, and established the principle of the hiring hall. What is the difference between an "agreement" -- with various clauses & agreed to by both sides -- and a "contract"?

The reason that employers attack union security clauses nowadays is because the unions are the main financer of the Democrats. they want to destroy the capacity of the Dems to obtain funding from the unions.

I wonder what survey you base your claim about what "workers want", eh? A friend of mine worked as a meatcutter in a packing plant, a UFCW shop, in Iowa. Iowa is a "right to work" state. If a worker would refuse to pay dues to the union, they would not lend him a knife or do anything for him. They enforced union membership thru direct action. Similar to Local 8 in Philadelphia. If someone showed up to a longshore crew without the latest dues pin, they would not work with him. They'd send him to the union hall to get paid up. now, what workers want, in this case, is a sign of solidarity, a willingness to support their brothers & sisters. If it's a bureaucratic union, the mere fact that cash is extracted from their paycheck does not indicate anything about their willingness to support their brothers and sisters. I recall an IAM militant saying that the workers in a plant who did not pay dues willingly would be the first to cross a picket line in a strike. If they will cross a picket line, if they are that anti-union, what's gained by forcing them to pay dues to the union bureuaucracy? And I'd rather not having them voting & influencing the union from within.

Workers will sometimes argue that allowing people in the workplace to not pay dues encourages "free riding", taking advantage of what the union has won thru previous struggles, but not supporting it. But a union security clause in American unions is also part of the bureaucracy's control mechanism. Union leaders have expelled people on trumped up charges & then used this to get them fired. So another thing to consider about union security clauses is the character of the union. If it's a bureaucratic union, I don't want a union security clause, because having to voluntarily obtain dues acts as a control on the bureaucracy.

it's essential in particular that unions avoid no-strike or binding arbitration contracts. this not only constrain organizing & struggle against employers during term of the contract, they are completely incompatible with class unionism. they are a major reason for the intensely sectoralist practice of U.S. unions since World War 2. note that the no-strike clause in contracts only became universal during World War 2, due to the New Deal no-strike push. New Deal agreed to grant all unions union security clauses (well loved by the bureaucracy) in exchange for agreeing to no strike clauses. many of the contracts that were negotiated in the '30s had neither union security nor no-strike clauses. the first Teamster contract in Minneapolis in 1934 explicitly retained the right to strike. no-strike clauses get in the way of solidarity or sympathy action, because union leaders, fearing for the solvency of the union & legal troubles, will work against any such action. the no-strike & mandatory arbitration clauses are part of the whole practice post-World War 2 of taking grievance struggles off the shop floor & putting them into hands of the paid hierarchy....part of the process of taking control of unions away from workers.

in regard to dues checkoff, there are other options besides having stewards collect dues. workers can sign bank drafts or go to union hall periodically to pay dues.

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
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May 24 2014 03:58

Hey Billz, I've written a number of articles on my experiences and hope to have a few more come out over the next couple months but I have a bunch of them up here on libcom. You may find the article "On Contracts" pretty relevant to what we are discussing here but almost all of my writing touches on the questions we're discussing.

I was a rank and file member, then a member of the local executive, then a national organising coordinator for CUPW. I've also been staff at the Alberta Federation of Labour for a few months a number of years ago. To be honest though all the best stuff I've participated in was largely opposed by my union leadership and supported by the IWW and my "mainstream" union was about as red as they come.

https://www.libcom.org/tags/phinneas-gage

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Chilli Sauce
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May 24 2014 08:14
Quote:
if youre not stuck in a six year contract (which is not what i am arguing for),

And I think this is the point here, billz: it's not about what you argue for, it's about your actions.

Historically, contracts, even for the mainstreams unions, were seen as a short truce. However, as labor law - with it's stated drive to harmonize industrial relations - and union bureaucracy developed, longer and longer contract periods became the norm. For the bosses and the state, it meant longer periods without potential strikes. And for the union bureaucracy, it meant both a steady stream of dues and less servicing of the contract, namely negotiating a new contract year on year.

In any case, I'd recommend that you read Punching Out by Marty Glaberman. It's an amazing book as it lays out how what at the time seemed like good intentions - namely automatic dues deductions and formal contracts - quickly take on a life of their own and become tools for both the bosses and the union bureaucracy.

And since it all occurred at the Heyday of the UAW, we see how this happened at a much higher point of general working class militancy. This was a union with far more militants, far more industrial power, and far high levels of organisation than the IWW currently even dreams of. It's anathema to me that you somehow think that the IWW could consciously follow in those same steps and avoid the same fate.