Welcome Joe Burns, and Host David Swanson

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America

Reviving the Strike: Joe Burns’ Cure for What Ails the Labor Movement

By David Swanson

Joe Burns’ incredibly important new book seems to me much larger than the labor movement. I hope he will share with us today some insights into his view of U.S. labor history and the potential for a U.S. labor future, but also his perspective on how this impacts our society as a whole. Are we right to look to the labor movement as a possible ally in the struggle for justice and maybe even peace?

How do you get politicians living off legalized bribery to criminalize bribery? How do you persuade the corporate media to report on the interests of flesh-and-blood, non-corporate people? How do you take over a political party when the only other one allowed to compete is worse? These are not koans, but actual problems with perhaps a single solution.

It might seem like there are a million solutions: pass state-level clean election laws, build independent media, build a new party, etc. But the fundamental answer is that when the deck is stacked against you, you insist on a new deck. Power, as Frederick Douglas told us, concedes nothing without a demand. We cannot legislate our way out of plutocracy. Instead, we the people must seize power.

The problem of seizing power for non-billionaires is the problem of the dying labor movement. To many, this looks like an unsolvable riddle as well. How do you pass the Employee Free Choice Act to legalize unionizing when you have no aggressive unions willing to pressure Congress to do so? And if Congress works for corporate masters, do we need to apply the pressure there instead? But making a scene in a corporate lobby doesn’t hurt a corporation in an era of shamelessness, and we can’t unelect CEOs.

What to do?

Joe Burns, I think, has an answer in his new book “Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America.” Burns argues that for the last 30 years, since 1980, the labor movement has sought ways to succeed without employing the fundamental tool required, and that employing that tool is a choice available to the labor movement and to all workers immediately without waiting for anyone’s approval.

From 1930 to 1980, unions created ever improving lives for millions of workers, improving our economy and our politics in the process. And they did it by striking. They would have found the idea of unions that did not strike unimaginable. Congress and the courts have stripped away unions’ power to effectively strike, but so has corporatist ideology. When the anti-union assault intensified in the 1980s, and ever since, the labor movement has responded in a completely new and completely hopeless manner. Rather than halting production, unions set up picket lines that merely watched scabs replace union workers. And when unions are able to negotiate contracts, they no longer seek to establish standardized wages for a whole industry, but negotiate a variety of standards even at a single corporation.

To survive and succeed, Burns argues, unions must use strikes to halt production and impose their demands; and those demands must be industry-wide. Unions must use secondary or solidarity strikes and boycotts in support of other striking workers. A solidarity boycott is far more effective than the extremely difficult consumer boycotts that well-meaning atomized citizens are always dreaming about. Compelling a store to stop selling a particular product is far easier than persuading consumers to not buy that product.

The central tool that must be revived is the strike that halts production and imposes a cost on an employer. A strike is not a public relations stunt, but a tool for shifting power from a few people to a great many. The era of the death of labor, the era we have been living in, is the era of the scab or replacement worker. Scabs were uncommon in the 1950s, spotted here and there in the 1960s and 1970s, and widespread from the 1980s forward.

In the absence of understanding the need to truly strike, the labor movement has tried everything else for the past 30 years: pretend strikes for publicity, working to the rule (slowing down in every permitted way), corporate campaigns pressuring employers from various angles, social unionism and coalition building outside of the house of labor, living wage campaigns, and organizing for the sake of organizing. These approaches have all had some defensive successes, but they all appear powerless to turn the ship around.

“[T]he idea that the labor movement can resolve its crisis simply by adding new members — without a powerful strike in place,” writes Burns, “actually constitutes one of the greatest theoretical impediments to union revival.” From 1995 to 2008, with unions focused on organizing the unorganized, the U.S. labor movement shrank from 9.4 million to 8.2 million members. The Service Employee International Union (SEIU)’s famous organizing success is in large part the takeover of other unions, that is of people already unionized, and in large part the bribing of politicians (through “campaign contributions” and other pressure) to allow the organizing of public home health-care workers. What’s left of the labor movement is, in fact, so concentrated in the public sphere, that unionized workers are being effectively attacked as living off the hard-earned pay of private tax-payers.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), so much a part of candidate Obama’s campaign, and now long forgotten, might not fix anything if passed, in Burns’ analysis. To succeed, the labor movement needs the sort of exponential growth it has had at certain moments in the past. Easier organizing alone would not persuade enough workers that joining a union is good for them. But persuading them that joining a union holds immediate advantages for them would revive labor with or without EFCA. And EFCA might make things worse. EFCA tries to legislate the right to quickly create new contracts, to avoid employer stalling. But it does this by subjecting workers to the decisions of arbitrators. Rather than empowering a class of arbitrators, the labor movement we had until 30 years ago would have considered the obvious solution to be empowering workers to compel the creation of contracts through the power of the production-halting strike.

Striking does not require a union or majority support but is itself a tool of organizing and radicalizing, with a minority of leaders moving others to join in what they would not choose to do alone. Solidarity is the process as well as the product of a labor movement. And it is by building strikes with the power to halt entire sectors of the economy, not through bribes and emails and marches, that ordinary people gain power over their so-called representatives in government. “Imagine telling Samuel Gompers or Mother Jones or the Reuther brothers or Jimmy Hoffa that trade unions could exist without a strike. However, in the name of pragmatism,” Burns writes, “the ‘progressive’ trade unionists of today have fit themselves into a decaying structure. On a deeper level, they have abandoned the goal of creating the type of labor movement capable of transforming society.”

To turn this around, Burns suggests, we will have to change the way we think about workplaces. According to our courts, a man or woman can work for decades in a business and nonetheless have no legal interest in it, the legal interest belonging entirely to the employer. The employer can move the business to another country without violating a labor contract. The employer can sell out to another employer and eliminate a labor contract in the process. The employer can break a strike with scabs. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 might have looked good on paper, but its interpretation by courts and restriction by other legislation — notably the Taft Hartley Act of 1947 — have made clear its weaknesses. Labor has no choice left, Burns argues, but to repeal the NLRA by noncompliance.

There are recent examples to build on: the 1986 United Food and Commercial Workers Local P9 strike against Hormel in Austin, Minnesota; the 1989 Pittson Strike in West Virginia, in which workers used sit-ins and road blocking, as well as vandalism, to successfully resist concession demands; the 1995 lockout of workers at A.E. Staley and Company in Decatur, Illinois; the 2000 campaign to free the Charleston 5 in which a global strike in ports was organized to successfully oppose the prosecution of five picketers in South Carolina; the 2008 takeover of Republic Windows and Doors, in which workers in Chicago compelled an employer to pay them severance; and the 2011 pushback against union busting in Madison, Wisconsin.

The specific approaches used in a newly striking and solidarity-building labor movement will be invented as needed and vary with the circumstances. Burns proposes creating new start-up unions without the financial assets that are placed at risk in this country by exercising the international and human right to strike. Strike funds could be transferred to such “new unions created to protect old unions.” Employers have manipulated the law, creating new entities for every purpose under the sun. Labor needs to become equally aggressive about finding the way to create its vision of a just society.

How compromised/ corrupted / misguided is the labor movement right now? How embedded in the Democratic Party? How embedded in the NLRA? How divided in its leadership from its membership?

What can those outside of labor hope for from the labor movement or do to help? What can bring workers and students and academics and activists together? Are there lessons to draw from Walkerville and Bloombergville?

I just returned from England where labor unions oppose foreign wars. What would it take for that to occur in the United States?

And above all, how did we come to this place where we imagine that the theatrical reproduction of labor struggles can serve the purpose of the real thing? We peace activists, too, get ourselves arrested blocking a sidewalk in front of the White House that nobody actually has to walk on to fight the wars. We don’t close down the Pentagon or the Congress or the White House or the State Department or the weapons factories. We do theatrical picketing. We imagine that public shaming is enough in a day and age that seems shameless. We have sex scandals. But when was the last political scandal?

Was there a time when rhetorical and theatrical resistance made more sense than it does at the moment? Or did it always fall so laughably short? How did we come to accept it? How can we overcome it?

I hope Joe will pick up some of these themes and that you all will as well in asking him what’s most on your minds.

222 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Joe Burns, Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America”

BevW June 18th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Joe, Welcome to the Lake.

David, Thank you for returning and Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Joe, do you think there can be an authentic and effective Labor Movement if the strike is not at the centerpiece of the movement?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hey? Am I in here?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

It is Kyle, Terri…..good question

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 1:59 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Hi David: Thanks for having having me on. And thanks to FDL as well.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:00 pm
In response to terridi @ 2

For 150 years the strike was the centerpiece of trade union strategy. For the last twenty years we have abandoned the strike and we are seeing the results. The labor movement needs the strike.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Thank you.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

How exactly was it abandoned without the realization that the future of the labor movement was being abandoned?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thank you, Joe, for your amazingly great book and for being here. Welcome, everyone. Please ask the questions you want Joe to answer so I don’t monopolize this myself.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Joe, can you tell us how you came to write the book? What prompted this book? And, why now? Thank you.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:04 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 8

Hi David,
In the 1980s, corporations launched an attack against unionism. Unions fought back, but generally with our hands tied behind our backs. In the early 1990s, a lot of unionists were attempting to revive an effective strike. But then this ideas rose that we should focus on organizing the unorganized, and the search for an effective strike was abandoned.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

What should labor’s approach to the Democratic Party be?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 9

David, Thanks for hosting this discussion. Joe

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

And what can we do about corporations often successful attempts to divide us by race, religions, etc?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Joe, have you read Frazer’s “The Golden Bough”? It centers around a study of a particular religious ritual amounting to a vestigial reenactment of something that was once more real. A ceremony in which an individual was actually murdered (sacrificed) is reenacted. We don’t do human sacrifice anymore, we just munch on wafers and sip wine, etc. Do you see the analogy I’m getting at? Are pickets and day-long strikes reenactments of something more real that has been lost in the mists of time?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:06 pm
In response to terridi @ 10

I first thought of writing a book on labor during law school, where I realized that the primary purpose of labor law was to prevent successful trade unionism. After bargaining contracts for a decade, I finally wrote it.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:08 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 15

David, Today the picket line, the boycott, and other tactics are shells of what they used to be. They are symbolic rituals, weak forms of moral witness. In contrast, the picket line of decades past was a powerful tool, it was a means of bringing production to a halt, and directly impacting corporate profits.

Chris June 18th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Joe, I’d like to hear your views on Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, especially his recent statements that his organization will no longer support a single political party.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 11

Interesting. So nobody had to think “We’ll have the power of the strike without the strike” because they could switch to thinking about a different question: we’ll organize. They didn’t have to think about the question “Organize for what?” Still, doesn’t that require an amazing feat of mental blindness? Or am I describing it unfairly?

To take something current: If Target stores are organized, will that do their employees much or any good if their employees don’t strike?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:10 pm
In response to KDelphi @ 12

We need a labor movement that is independent of the Democratic Party. That should be clearer now then ever. The problem is, without an effective strike, trade unions lack and independent base of power, and thus rely on Democrats for support. The development of an effective strike and militancy will likely go hand in hand with political independence.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to Chris @ 18

It’s good that labor leaders such as Trumka are talking about independence from the Democratic Party. The question, as Mike Elk recently wrote in Working In These Times, is whether labor leaders will actually follow through with the tough talk.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Joe and David: speaking of Target, have you seen that Target’s recently exposed anti-union video was made with union actors and at least the passive approval of AFTRA?

tambershall June 18th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I am curious if you know why Wisconsin workers did not strike?
Was labor’s “leadership” behind that decision?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 21

How can union members and others press for that independent action?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 19

One thing I discovered in researching the book, is how little discussion there was over abandoning the strike. In hundreds of articles in labor journals over the last two decades only a handful discussed the topic. I think no one wants to deal with the topic because to discuss it is to admit the absurdity of the proposition.

On the second point, unionists generally blame employer repression for the failure to organize. That is part of it, but leaves out an important point, which is the reason we are not able to attract workers is we lack the tools, the strike and boycott, which can improve workers’ lives

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to tambershall @ 23

I was recently in Europe where there seemed to be a general misunderstanding that Walkerville was a labor strike. I don’t think they could imagine it as something else, as union members rallying but not striking.

How does the labor history of the past 40 yrs with re to the strike differ in the US and EU?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Wal Mart “workers” are starting an OUR WM org……dont know quite what to make of that??

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 22

I saw the ad, but had not heard about union actors. If true, that shows the deplorable state of things today.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 22

And the male actor claims to be “pro-union”? Excuse me but, WTF? Is this an indication, Joe, of the shallowness of labor consciousness?

Chris June 18th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Joe, I haven’t yet read your book, but I know you talk about the problem of laws specifically aimed at making effective strikes illegal. When I was young, in my 20s, I was involved in several wild cat strikes with mass picket lines in Albuquerque, NM. We ignored the laws about mass picketing, have thousands of people on the picket line from our own plant and from other unions. I think we need that kind of action and solidarity today. What do you think should be our answer to these laws passed by anti-labor legislatures?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

EU Unions are much stronger and dont have Taft Hartley and Riot Act to deal with…ie they are much more free…..

tambershall June 18th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 26

Great question.
I believe that wen France was striking, they literally halted those specific parts of the system.

However I am still curious if anyone knows why Wisconsin workers did not strike?
Was labor’s “leadership” behind that decision?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Chris @ 30

I agree Chris!

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to tambershall @ 23

Wisconsin workers did strike. The events in Madison, happened because in large part, thousands of teachers at great personal risk decided to show up at the Capital during that first crucial week in Madison. The question of why there was not a general strike is a complicated one, but generally solidarity develops as a process. I think the strike has been lost for so many years we are going to have to rebuild solidarity step by step

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 28

Also when you show people the video online, the most common response is “Oh, that sucks because I love shopping at Target”. That is, people’s default position is that grotesqely exploitative corporate giants like Target behave acceptably, unless some particularly sexy scandal is exposed. Then, rather than leaping at the chance to find solidarity and struggle, they regret or even resent the inconveniencing of their shopping routine. What does this indicate?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

aoeey i thought that would just go to chris…..

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to Chris @ 30

Chris, telling that story in some detail might help, no?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

There are folks in this neighborhood who have to work at WM or Target, tho…..they used to work at GM, and, still would if Unions had held their ground

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 24

During the 1990s, there was an effort to form a Labor Party, which got some international unions to support the effort. Folks were upset with President Clinton, who pushed through NAFTA, among other anti-labor acts. The effort died. I think it will be hard for labor to break from the Dems until we develop an independent base of power, which means developing a strike.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 34

There were murmurs about the idea of a general strike. How far did that get? How valuable is it?

tambershall June 18th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 34

I am not being argumentative, so please don’t take it as such. Just trying to learn.

But did they strike? Or would it be more accurately termed a rally?
My impression of a strike is to stop working period.
Once again, just looking for clarification.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Who made this effort, Joe?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

For a strike to be effective, you have to keep doing it unti lyou get what you want……

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:23 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 35

Actually, the default position I have seen is, “Oh, Target, you’re so hypocritical. You trash unions but you used union actors because only union actors get the job done right.” Few seem to have realized that this is much more of an indictment of AFTRA/SAG than of Target.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Chris @ 30

I think that is a good point Chris. If you look throughout history, the laws have almost always been stacked against labor. The bigger question is do trade unionists refuse to follow unjust laws. During the 1930s, and in previous decades, unionists considered the restrictions on the right to strike to be unjust and refused to follow them.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

The peace movement and other social justice movements are inviting labor unions to join in a nonviolent resistance effort to shut down Washington in October http://october2011.org and this was discussed at the recent labor conference in Kent, Ohio. What do you think are the chances of unions taking part in a major way?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 45

Yes there IS that reaction too, and I see it as an indictment of Target as well of course!

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Joe you responded above, “..we are going to have to rebuild solidarity step by step”. Can you tell us, specifically, how you envision this step-by-step solidarity building which will result in establishing an independent labor movement with the strike at the centerpiece? What needs to occur? How does labor move from soft rallies to the potent shutting down of production? Thank you.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 35

Appeals to consumer boycotts have rarely worked. There are simply too many people to convince to honor them, and in reality it is an individualistic appeal. The stronger tactics have been secondary boycotts which appealed instead of trying to convince the general public targeted business owners to force them to quit selling products.

seabos84 June 18th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

in my NOT humble opinion,

the co$t$ of rule$ and law$ have to be figured out and have to be public, so EVERYONE knows how many pennies an hour old people care costs them and the defense department costs them and lilly ledbetter costs them …

and what junk “health” insurance will cost them after they lose their job “with” insurance,

AND these costs have to mapped back to the wellpoint exec who wrote the corrupt law for baucuses’ corrupt ass committee,

AND THEN the strike has to be organized publicly, on the internet, so every time that evil woman who worked for baucus / wellpoint / ahip / AGAINST US goes shopping or to buy coffee or the hair place or to work …

there are people standing there with signs, asking …

“how’s that fat check to f’k all of us doing in YOUR bank account”

those people are thieves, being nice to them is stupid.

rmm.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

That would be great, David….I am trying to talk to some folks around here about it….

Beerfart Liberal June 18th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Can’t economic strikers be permanently replaced? Nobody wants to put their jobs on the line. Do you blame them? That needs to be changed, in my view.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 47

Hi David – I thought the Kent Ohio Labor conference was coming up in late June (June 25-26 or so. Has it already occurred?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

If you have time for this one, Joe, how do you view Eugene Debs’ contributions and value as a model for today?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 50

Yes, a point you make well in the book.

Beerfart Liberal June 18th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

when i say “that’ needs to be changed, i mean permitting ecominc strikers to be permamnetly replaced. i don’t think you can ever change people not wanting to put their jobs on the line.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to terridi @ 54

You could be right – I’m not going.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to tambershall @ 42

Strikes come in all forms. Teachers called it a personal protest but it was a concerted withdrawal of labor. I think your question is why did it not become a general strike, or a larger strike of public employees. I think the unions on the ground decided that that would not gain them support so they did not do the tactic.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

being nice to who??

Chris June 18th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

David, I worked at GTE Linkurt, the phone equipment manufacturing arm for GTE. At that time GTE was the second largest phone company in America. I was 24-26 and that was the average age of the worker at the plant. We were low-paid and high-stress. The first strike we held was a sitdown to protest conditions. After two days the cops were called in with dogs to roust us out. Then we set up mass pickets in a field across the street form the plant. We often closed down the street itself and tried to block scabs from going in. Out of 2,000 workers, less than 20 scabbed on us. We held a few other strikes after that time. We won most of our demands after two weeks. It would take too much time to go into all the details, but for a bunch of 20-something wildcatters, I think we were amazingly well organized on many levels, including getting community and worker participation from across the city. I think much of what we did would be a great example for young workers today.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 48

Yes, it is an indictment of Target. But Target is a viciously anti-union corporation: no novelty there, But when a trade union approves of its members participating in a vicious anti-union campaign, alarm bells should be going off.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 41

There was a lot of discussion of a general strike, with the Madison central labor union even passing an resolution to explore a general strike. General strikes have played a key role in US history. Labor law, is set up to forbid them.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Unions need to use dues to set up funds to support striking workers, not Trumka’s huge salary or donating to Dems….

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

I don’t think your book goes into this, Joe, but the timeframe you discuss is also the time frame in which women generally became part of the outside-the-home workforce in a new way. There are obvious advantages in women’s liberation. Have there been disadvantages in the struggle for labor rights, power, compensation?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

It was amazing to my naive self that a GS could not be had during the action in Madison…..

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Chris @ 61

If you’re willing, please do find the time to put down all the details, or at least the important and moving ones, and publish it on this website or send it to me at david at davidswanson.org to publish

Chris June 18th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I should have added that these strikes at GTE in NM were in the mid-late-70s.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 62

Agreed.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

That is an important point and shows how deeply flawed labor law is. Despite the language of the NLRA, which was passed in 1935, since the late 1930s courts have allowed employers to “permanently replace” striking workers.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 63

Your strategy in the book seems to hinge on defying labor law. At what point does that theory hit the ground in practice?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Chris @ 68

Which fits with Joe’s narrative in the book.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

But striking workers needs funds to survive on while they strike….that is a big problem

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 70

Should scabs be shamed? Should that shame be a part of our culture?

Phillip M Zeuner June 18th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Hi Joe,

With unemployment so high at this time, wouldn’t the issue of ‘scabs’ be even more prevalent? How to appeal to those already on the down-side of a slippery slope, less than one paycheck away from financial catastrophy, and convince them that striking is necessary? In what ways, aside from not patronizing the store or buying the product, can the currently unemployed support a strike?

Thanks for your efforts.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 55

At heart, the revival of the labor movement will start with big ideas. Whether it is the socialist ideas of Debs, the leader of the 1895 railroad strike, or even mainstream AFL ideas such as “labor is not a commodity” we need to challenge capital’s right to control the workplace and the economy. An effective strike, by definition, blockades a plant or uses solidarity to pressure employers. We need underlying ideas which justify those actions

Chris June 18th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Yes David, I’ll do that.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

In the book, Joe, you talk about the history of organizing an entire industry. Many industries have become international. Does that mean they need to be organized internationally?

tambershall June 18th, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 63

So what so you feel their actions should have been?
Meaning how would you have done it differently, if at all?

Chris @61 ‘s comments are impressive.
And I believe that with a strike, in less than 2 weeks, the corporations would have conceded. It’s just about the money for them. ANd they would have lost millions.
Is this accurate or just plain inaccurate? You thoughts please.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 74

Definitely: scabs should be shamed. Conversely, solidarity should be held up as the standard for the labor movement.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:38 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 71

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, most of the left of the labor movement was focused on just that David. We had Rich Trumka and the Pittston strikers in West Virginia blocking highways; meatpackers in Southern Minnesota expanding picket lines. We need to refocus on those tactics, But to do so may require new forms of organization or new unions.

Chris June 18th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I want to recommend a paper by some of my colleagues in the Labor Party–which David already spoke about–on what’s needed in labor law reform. http://lpa.igc.org/documents/lpd_laborlaw.html

This paper takes the position that we need a complete overhaul, that U.S. labor laws are based on inter-state commerce and not on human rights law as labor laws are in many countries.

Phoenix Woman June 18th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 20

Indeed. Working with other groups marginalized by Corporate America is the key.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

To answer a couple questions at once. Appeals to workers not to cross picket lines have rarely been effective. The problem is that labor markets are simply too large that as a matter of economic theory it is not possible. That’s why the labor movement in the 1930s developed tactics capable of stopping production: mass picketing and the sit-down strike.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Joe: some trade union structures still have considerable wealth invested in pension funds, which to a certain extent merges their interests with those of the private corporations they’re invested in. To what extent does this impede more effective tactics, and how can that be changed?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Joe, do you think that the US organizational pattern of Unions is a failure? I mean, does it need to be scrapped, or “worked with”?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 78

David: Unions need to operate across labor markets and product markets. In today’s global economy that means we need global unions and international solidarity. There are some efforts in this direction. But the problem is we need a strong labor movement in this country to link up with other worker movements

Beerfart Liberal June 18th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 70

which means the law has to be changed. which means we have to have a legislative strategy. which isn’t working and won’t work. which depresses me. bummer.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 81

What kind of new structures?

And does it require a culture of nonviolent resistance that takes advantage of the ability of movements that use strategic nonviolent resistance while publicly and consistently shunning violence?

Or is there a place for violence? Is destroying property part of that or not?

Beerfart Liberal June 18th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 87

excellent point

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 85

One of the greatest pressures that courts and employers have against unions is the assets which unions have built up over the years. Some unions have hundreds of millions in strike funds, and millions in assets. So courts have been able to get unions to police the members by threatening their pocket books

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Have you made any videos? About your book? Would you consider making one as a response to the arguments in the Target video?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

The law is not going to change, at least on the key points. What can change, is our willingness to follow labor law.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 87

Having worked for many years alongside of (though not for) the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center in Central America and the Andean region, I would say that many efforts at international labor solidarity by U.S. trade unions have been opportunistic and, at times, just racist. If there’s something to be gotten for a particular U.S. trace union from exposing an employer’s labor practices in a Latin American country, they’re all for it. But when there isn’t, they often could care less — not the rank and file, but the leadership.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Joe, I used to work for the ILCA – the AFL’s labor media association. We pushed constantly for investment in labor reporting, newspapers, radio, maybe tv. The interest was only in PR, in kissing up to the corporate media. Labor still has the resources, if it chose, to create major sources of news reporting and distribution. This still strikes me as the smartest most easily doable thing that it seems will never ever be done. Your thoughts?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Yes, the IRA and 401k were total scams designed to—do what they did…

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 89

The labor movement has rarely won when it followed unjust laws. The rules of the game are rigged so we will need a labor movement willing to violate the law. It’s the only way.
Throughout history, the labor movement has used a variety of tactics. In general, most violence has come from employers. Unions would mass hundreds of workers at a plant to shut it down. There was no violence unless the employers tried to bust through the picket lines.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 91

Excellent point. And I like how you frame the issue, the need to think of forming asset-less union organizations that don’t have that vulnerability. That, of course, puts a new spin on where the power lies.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Joe you responded above, “..we are going to have to rebuild solidarity step by step”. Can you tell us, specifically, how you envision this step-by-step solidarity building which will result in establishing an independent labor movement with the strike at the centerpiece? What needs to occur? How does labor move from soft rallies to the potent shutting down of production? Thank you.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 80

Is this the age of the scab? Is the scab industry at a peak? Should this be better known and understood? How can that happen?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 97

I know, but with all respect, my congressman would have given that answer. :-) I’m asking if you take a stand for nonviolence?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 94

International solidarity is a problem. For decades the labor movement supported the CIA in opposing genuine trade union movements in the third world. True international solidarity means breaking from the US government’s foreign policy agenda and embracing true internationalism. We still have a ways to go in that regard.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Can unions legally gain more independence from a destructive system, and help others to do so, by creating local banks and credit unions?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 95

I think we need forms of media, but what we need more is to fund start up unions with an agenda to organize and take on corporations. Part of that will be independent media but it is not enough.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

isnt intl solidsrity, like, THE problem?

Phillip M Zeuner June 18th, 2011 at 2:54 pm

To me, one of the bigger challenges is that Americans treasure their individuality over any sense of collectivism. I can imagine the outrage of many that ‘some union bastards prevented me from getting X!’ It’s the same argument the right uses to rouse the rable, about taking away our freedoms. This is a deeply ingrained notion of our culture. The idea of shared sacrifice seems kind of foreign to most. Shared benefit – yes: shared sacrifice – no. This is not my position, just pointing up cultural behavior.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 100

I think the labor movement has been kidnapped by “leaders” who identify with corporate power and state power, and see themselves as junior partners in managing that power. It’s no surprise that such a movement has lost touch with basic values like solidarity, not to mention class consciousness.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

For those who haven’t read the book, here’s a bit I highlighted that touches on something we’ve discussed here alread a little:

“During the period many unions focused on organizing the unorganized, trade unions lost over 1.2 million private sector members, dropping from 9.4 million members in 1995 to 8.2 million members in 2008. Most telling is the failure of the SEIU….”

Consider and discuss.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to terridi @ 99

There is a good book by Rick Fantasia called Cultures of Solidarity. He talks about how solidarity develops as part of a process and does not just exist. It is created in the process of struggle. As organizers we know this, we get people involved a step at a time. The same is true with the strike. Once people get into motion, and start fighting employers, consciousness changes and visions broaden.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I think that there should be a cogent argument ie their “freedom”—that th4ese individuals think that they have…..

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 107

I’m afraid I agree

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

and to understand that the employer is not their “partner”

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 101

I am not a pacifist but appreciate the viewpoint. That being said the revival of the labor movement is primarily a function of the power of numbers. Employers have private armies and the national guard so the labor movement of necessity will primarily rely on numbers and peaceful protest.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 102

Joe, but I’m talking about what happened *after* Sweeney took over. There was a noticeable change in the AFL’s *political* orientation in much of Latin America, but in the end there wasn’t much improvement in its capacity to carry out international labor solidarity.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

folks around here lost faith in unions when their jobs were bargained away…after lowering their wages and benefits to keep them…thyen, they lost them anyway

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

sorry….i am typing on s laptop sitting on an icepack….it is bout ready to die…..

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 108

I saw the “debate” within the AFL-CIO (which eventually led to the Change to Win split-off) as just a clash of competing patriarchs.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

lurch i know what you are saying…..

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 100

Ever since about 1900, in most industries employers could find scabs to replace striking workers. In the 1930s, unions struck successfully despite unemployment in double digits. How did they do it? 400000 workers took over their workplace and factories.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

What’s the relationship between the need for democracy within unions and the need for aggressive action by unions?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 117

Maybe competing and frustrated and mutually finger-pointing Patriarchs.

Joe?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 114

Kim Scipes has a new book out which discusses post Sweeney and shows how the AFL-CIOs foreign policy still is messed up. He discusses Venezuela in particular.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 119

Now instead of encouraging those 400,000 to take over their places of work, and supporting them while they do it, at most the current “leadership” will encourage them to vote for Obama, and berate them if they don’t.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 120

They’re inseparable.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Another highlight from the book:

“An employee could work in a plant for 30 years and, according to the courts, still have no recognizable legal interest in the company”.

Is there any polling to suggest that Americans don’t view any alternative to that as incomprehensible, insane, evil, or atheistic?

If not, how do we get to a better understanding?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 120

We need better and more effective unions. The simple fact is that many leaders of unions at all levels are not interested in fighting. One thing you learn from labor history is the fight for aggressive unions has always went hand in hand with the struggle for union democracy. Every strike history of the 1930s has as much intra union intrigue and politics as fighting employers

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Yes, the AFL CIO came door to door here supporting Madison —AND Democrats….

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Joe, do you follow the labor movement in Egypt? What comparisons are helpful?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

How do they (Unions) seem to do it so much better almost everywhere else (but the US)?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 125

There have been a couple polls showing attitudes towards socialism changing as well as a marked decline in support for capitalism. I do think most workers believe they have an interest in their workplaces beyond the wages they receive. The law may not recognize it, but people do fight for their jobs.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Economists seem to agree that the same dollars we dump into the military would produce more jobs and better paying jobs with a broader economic impact if invested in any of a long list of other industries. Yet unions won’t oppose wars. Is this the effect of McCarthyism? Is it war-industry union inertia? Is it genuine belief in war propaganda? Is it male unionist machismo? Is it the lack of a broad union movement for the society outside the specific unions?

Mighty June 18th, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I think the decline of labor unions is a multifaceted problem. I don’t think any one thing can be pointed to as the culprit. I think in general labor laws over the decades have been successful enough that government regulations themselves helped replace the need for unions in companies. When you have the OSHA laws, labor laws etc with government enforcement you have less of a need for a union as a watchdog in my opinion.

I think as Republicans undermine and repeal those laws you will find a need once again for an outside watchdog such as a union to maintain safety etc in the workplace. I offer as evidence all of the anti union and repeal of labor laws going on currently in this country under Republican controlled states. They are actually galvanizing people in and outside of unions in ways they had not counted on.

There is also the fact more and more companies have become extremely savvy at making sure unions are not formed in the first place. Walmart being a prime example. There are companies in existence whose sole job is to prevent unions from forming. I had a family member who worked for Walmart as a butcher when they tried to form a meat cutters union. Walmart decided instead of allowing it they decided not to offer meat cutting.

The influence of money in politics especially after Citizens v. United is making things far worse. I think the pendulum has swung to corporations so much now that the citizens have little access to the halls of power. This in the end I believe will help to rebuild unions. People will look to outside sources for power to battle the corporations and unions are a great source for it.

These are but a few of the facets of the problem. Ultimately its going to be incumbent upon the people to decide if they want to change things or continue allowing Republicans to destroy the middle class in this country.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 130

What do you think of John Nichols’ new book on Socialism, “The S Word”? Maybe FireDogLake could bring him into one of these chats too? I’d love to see the two of you speak together at an event. Ideally here in Charlottesville — not to get too greedy.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 128

I can’t say I am especially up on the Egyptian labor movement. I have read that the uprising in Egypt was preceded by a strike wave in Egypt. Clearly the deterioration of living standards and rising commodity prices was the root cause, and worker organization played a key role

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to Mighty @ 132

Trumka says attacking working people and standing by and watching while pointing a finger and remarking “ooh look at the nasty Republicans” are two equally unhelpful approaches. You disagree?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Wasnt Hillary Clinton on the board at WM? She is a Dem….I dont think it is just GOP who have undermined workers….Clinton did NAFTA

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
In response to KDelphi @ 129

That is a good question. Unionization levels are down across most of Europe and Australia but here is particularly bad. We have very aggressive employers and very bad labor law. And a relatively conservative trade union movement.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

OK, I’m asking too many questions. The rest of you, take the microphone for a bit!

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to Mighty @ 132

Good points. There have been many problems and issues explaining the decline of unionism. I do think the decline of the strike is cental

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

OK, so I just went and read an article arguing that progress in Spain is coming from ordinary people giving up on labor unions and acting spontaneously http://www.truth-out.org/how-spain-launched-revolution/1308413538

Our fate?

For better or worse?

Or when Americans give up do they stay home and watch TV?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 133

I have not seen the book. Sounds interesting.

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I still don’t understand why the protesters in Wisc allowed the Dem party and the faux unions stop them utilizing the general strike. As we see, Walker is winning in Wisc. People need to be educated about the general strike. The Oilbomber admin would love people to behave and not use effective direct action to effect change. It’s too bad.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Why does the US not have a Labor Party? ( I sortve know, but not with certitude..lol)

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 81

But to do so may require new forms of organization or new unions.

What about the IWW?

Richard729 June 18th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

The German compact between government and the private industry seems to be a good middle ground. It does require the government to provide incentives, aka subsidies, but workers have job security and decent pay. Why can’t that approach work here?

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Yeah, we need an invigorated IWW. I agree.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I think Spain is a great example for us…

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Many people wanted to see a general strike happen in Wisconsin, viewing it as an appropriate response to the attack. If you look at General Strikes in US history you see that they developed as part of a process where workers engaged in strike activity, built solidarity, and then appealed for support, expanding the picket lines into a general strike. It was built upon actions and solidarity built over time.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Yes, but doesnt a contract with private industry leave you indebted to private industry?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

And arent sit downs impt for prevent scsbs….

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

sorry…i am really typing on an ice pack…this laptop is overheating….

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 137

And now we have these incredibly expensive bailouts of bankstas both in the U.S. and Europe (and in the U.S., they’re accompanied by tax cuts for the rich). Obviously, they’re to be followed by a huge downsizing int he public sector everywhere, and in the U.S. and Europe, that means a frontal attack on labor unions, since the trade union movement is stronger in the public sector.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

The IWW is a good organization. I think they are grappling with the same questions that we are discussing here. In the Twin Cities, there was an IWW attempt to start a union at the Jimmy John’s sandwich chain.

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Of course, with a general strike you risk state violence. I bet Oilbummer would send out the drones to kill people if a general strike persisted. He hates working people as much as the Rethuglicans.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Joe, I’d like to repeat this point you made, above: “The law is not going to change, at least on the key points. What can change, is our willingness to follow labor law.”

I might add, “what needs to change” is our willingness (or rather defiance) in following unjust labor laws.

If there’s anything workers need to digest and act upon it’s that the power is within us no matter how the laws evolve. Workers cannot change or influence labor laws — that is not within our power. Workers do have the ability to organize, strategize and strike. This is our collective power and this is the power we must exercise.

The laws will grow increasingly unjust — and how they change, in some ways,just doesn’t matter as our task remains the same.

The power to change course is not found outside of ourselves “out there” in electoral solutions, recalls, etc. but within us and this is what needs to be harnessed and developed.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 140

To answer you question, what was the largest strike in the United States over the last decade? The answer is the immigrant workers strike on May Day 2006 in which hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers stayed away from work to protest immigration policies. So I do think the revival of the strike very may come when workers break from existing structures and may come in ways we don’t expect.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:26 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 148

Is it growing in that direction in WI or being diverted into electoral politics and court cases, with the votes not even counted and the courts beyond popular influence?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to terridi @ 155

One of the things that has changed over the decades is the labor movement’s relationship to unjust laws. Even conservative trade unionists in the early 1900s viewed restrictions on the right to strike and injunctions as illegitimate. They disobeyed them because they believed their right to strike was fundamental and not something that a judge could take away.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 153

Are you in the twin cities? Have you gone to the Netroots Nation? What do you make of the political-partisan-progressive blogosphere? Advice to do it better?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Yes, didnt most Unions totally “miss” the May Day strikes of 2006? Was it a strike or more of a march? (dont know)

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 153

I’m a Wobbly. We tried to organize the hotel workers on St Pete Beach a couple years ago. Almost all were Hispanic and were more afraid of management finding out they were talking to an organizer and losing their jobs than they were receptive to the benefits of an organized workforce.

More educating. Like Cesar Chavez said, “One person at a time.”

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to terridi @ 155

Hi Terri! Yes, and it will come down to whether labor unions and their membership continue to see themselves as working within the system, or having been thrown out of it (a long time ago, though maybe they didn’t notice). I suspect that the people who participated int he sit-downs of the 1930s, or who were victims of the Palmer Raids in 1919/1920, had no problem figuring out whether they were inside or out.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

And in broader terms, what can bring academics and students together with workers in all fields?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 157

The struggle in Wisconsin has been shifted into the courts and electoral politics. Some of the recent turnouts for rallies were way lower than the tens of thousands who came out early this spring. So hopefully demoralization does not set in.

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

David, not to offend, but Netroots is an exercise in futility. The current admin and the system itself will never be responsive to real people. Since 2008, I’ve given up on the political process because it is beyond redemption.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I gave up on netroots, too…

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 159

I stopped by the Netroots Nation. I think they are important allies for the labor movement. At the end of the day, however, the revival of the labor movement will be about our ability to create strong organizations, rooted in the workplace. The latest “fad” among unionists is to substitute ties with other social movements for real power in the workplace. Fact is, these other movements are weak as well.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Observing what happened in Wisconsin –and, on a smaller scale within my own workplace — I see people capturing their own power up to a point. Then, ceasing. When Madison workers had the whole world watching and all the media attention on them — that was the moment, I feel — to make a powerful move and strike. Can you imagine how things might have unfolded differently had the whole world witnessed various strikes in Wisconsin and not Dem co-opting? The story would have unfolded so differently. I would like to see more rage and less polite/less peaceful protesting as we watch politicians nervously increase their calls for “civility”. There is nothing that the WI protesters did which threw the owning class off-balance or had them worried, scared, concerned. Walker & Co. did not really become nervous or fretful as there was no real threat of anything going off course. The owning class is constantly calling for protesters to tamp things down, not let things ‘get out of control’ and avoid ‘chaos’, etc. It’s all too polite and tidy. This is not how advances are made.

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to lurch194 @ 162

YES!

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 164

Heh, with guys like NorskeFlamethrower on the ground up there I think there are enough firebrands to keep the flames stoked.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

offend?
moi? :-)
I just sent NN a note:

I’m still having trouble finding evidence on the Netroots Nation blog of any awareness that there are any wars underway. Am I missing it?

The US Conf of Mayors will vote for the first time since Vietnam on Monday to ask Congress to end the wars and spend the $$ on something useful.

The President will break his promise of a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan in the coming days.

The House has begun passing measures to cut off war funding for the first time, I believe, since Ronnie was president.

NN11 panels seem to be discussing the frustration that comes from relying on elections alone to solve things.

What a moment of opportunity if it were admitted that in fact the 50% of our federal budget that goes to military and wars exists!

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to terridi @ 168

Excellent observations and you are right on target!

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to KDelphi @ 160

Yes, it the Immigrant workers’ strike developed outside of the union movement. It was a protest. In many countries, workers engage in political strikes. The withdrawal of labor is tied into political demands. In the US, such actions are not protected under labor law. In fact, after the immigrant workers strike a NLRB memo said employers could fire workers for engaging in such actions

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 167

create strong organizations, rooted in the workplace

Not gonna happen any other way.

earlofhuntingdon June 18th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

The Brits are rediscovering the strike as a political and economic tool, despite “new” Labour’s attempt to disown it under Blair and Brown. The French still know how to use it, too. An obvious concern is that here, the social rules that might limit government’s retaliation through the differential exercise of its police and surveillance powers are less encumbered by restraint. That may have been the first “power” of government that Mr. Cheney tossed out. It certainly seems like the last club Mr. Obama will clean and put back in his Entitleist bag.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 167

yes, i agreed with that in your book
i don’t think other activists and journalists can be a substitute for a real labor movement
but can they benefit each other at all?

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Exactly, Terri! That wasa my feeling at the time, too….I just could not believe that the day was not seized!

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

We need more defiance, resistance, and unwavering determination. We need to challenge capital in ways that throw them off balance. Yes? Otherwise it’s just a nice ‘feel good’ show and nothing really moves, changes, alters…

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Joe, what’s next for you? Book tour? Where, when? How’s corporate and independent media treating you? What responses are you getting from labor — members and officials? Where can people go to follow your work?

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to terridi @ 168

My focus is not in creating a general strike. My goal is to start a discussion of the need for solidarity and strike activity. Once we develop that, then who knows what will happen. We do know that employers see them linked. The hallmark of modern labor law is preventing solidarity–which is workers acting across workplaces in their common interests

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Demonstrations may end up being fun, but that is not supposed to be their goal….if there is no rage now, there never will be…..

lurch194 June 18th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to terridi @ 168

The Democrats are probably grateful to Walker (and the Tea Party in general) for the service they provide in helping to discipline the left wing. According to the Democratic Party line, we need to demand *less* now that we’re faced with such ferocious enemies. Labor leaders who buy into this argument should be confronted.

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Hey Joe Hill wasn’t afraid to die for his beliefs and the movement. Are we? That’s the real question–to put it in very stark terms.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

“shared sacrifice”—-the workers should not have to sacrifice anything….if we do not stand and fight, we may die more slowly…not trying to be melodramtic

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Right! When a gathering has the full attention of the media — cameras, journalists, microphones..watching, listening, recording — that’s when you make your move and make it with potency! Protests and citizen action have so much trouble capturing the attention of mainstream media — so when the media comes your way and focuses on what’s happening — take full advantage and give them something worthwhile to report about. It saddens and disappoint me that Madison did not take full advantage when they had momentum.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 176

For sure. Strong social ties are important. The labor movement, and especially those unions who put their necks out first, need support from other groups in society.

Workers engaging in strike activity are denied basic protections afforded other citizens. They often face repression in many forms and need allies to defend them.

As an example, Cub Foods grocery chain, here in the Twin Cities, last week sued CTUL an immigrant workers organization which had the audacity conduct a hunger strike for a living wage. So they sued the organization and two organizers personally. People can go the CTUL website to see how you can support them http://ctul.net/

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you’re ten years dead”
“I never died” said he,
“I never died” said he.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 186

Let’s all do that!

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 179

David:
I am speaking at in various cities, talking to trade unionists and supporters. Will be in Washington DC July 6 at Busboys and Poets bookstore. I am getting a good response so far and having very good discussions.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I am not being argumentative, but didnt the unions kindve let madison down??

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

In defense of Netroots, someone just tweeted (i can’t vouch):

“Netroots Nation boycotted Providence due 2 labor dispute at hotel- got resolved”

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 179
veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I equate Netroots with Kos, a right winger.

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to KDelphi @ 191

The true power in Madison was from the grassroots. A lot of the official labor movement was not prepared for the movement and clearly are more comfortable lobbying Democrats. The inspiration from Madison to me is the grassroots character and the solidarity employed. That’s what I like to focus on.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

That’s great, but didnt unions “miss a moment”, that is what I am saying…..

veganrevolution June 18th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I’d love to start a union in our workplace but Virginia is a trog state with trog labor laws. The game is rigged in so many places, though I know many of my coworkers would be for a union.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I tried to start one at the co8unty when I worked there….Union busters go to too many of the hourly workers and scared them….

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Neo-cons never let a disaster go by without making it worse…..true left should never let an inspiration end with only inspiration…but that is just MO

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:51 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 190

When there, please do Russia TV, Thom Hartmann, WPFW, Press TV, Al Jazeera English, etc. Tell me if you need contacts.

Also the AP reporter on Target this morning was incredibly free of anti-union slant. Talk to him/her.

Also, ask Barbara Irwin at the AFL-CIO’s ILCA to put something about your book in newsletter to labor union publication editors.

Also, I assume you know Andy Zipser at TNG-CWA — He should write about your book, shouldn’t he?

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

We had CWA in here at UVA for a while there.

BevW June 18th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

As we come to the end of this lively Book Salon,

Joe, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, Labor, and Strikes.

David, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Joe’s website and book

David’s website and books

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Thanks all,
Have a great evening!

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 193

OK, everybody share that FB page!

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Really no right or left wing to the neoliberals. They differ in some methodologies is all.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

how about blogtalkradio?

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 195

Yep, I agree.

David Swanson June 18th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Now let’s go unionize HuffPost – just kidding :-)

Thank you, Bev.

FDL is the best.

THANKS, Joe!

In Solidarity,

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

To recap the key points of my book: 1. We need to reorient towards tactics capable of shifting the balance of power. 2. Labor law operates as a system of labor control, preventing successful strike activity. 3. The labor movement needs to break with this mindset and establish forms of union activity which come from a work point of view

Joe Burns June 18th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 207

Thanks David, Bev, and FDL and all the participants.

KDelphi June 18th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

thank you joe!

Terri June 18th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for great book salon!

papau June 18th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 126

But the Target employees voted down a union yesterday – our message is not getting past the corporate message that unions just want your dues.

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Great book saloon. Thanks, Joe, David and BevW.

earlofhuntingdon June 18th, 2011 at 3:59 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 187

Somewhere on youtube is a John McCutcheon version of Joe Hill, which he nearly always prefaces with a story about Paul Robeson singing it at a pre-opening of the Sydney opera house. Incomparable. A version of Joe Hill by Robeson is here. Thom Hartmann has a long list of labor songs here.

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 4:02 pm
In response to papau @ 212

It’ more sinister than that. The heavy hammer is the corporation threatening to close the store if it unionizes and they’re not shy about letting the employees know that. It doesn’t come out at first but as the organizing effort gains momentum that card is eventually played. Worked in Canada in the last couple years and has been successful here. We can educate the workers til the sun falls from the sky but that’s a hard nut to crack, particularly in this economy.

papau June 18th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I had forgotten that ploy – thanks for reminding me. That threat is illegal only after there is a union contract as at Boeing.

earlofhuntingdon June 18th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

You’ve shopped at Wal-Mart, then? *g* It has withdrawn from entire countries when local laws that mandate or allow fair treatment of unions are enforced.

In my experience, the thing that leaves most American managers of int’l ops incredulous is that a lot of foreign countries, but not all, take fair treatment of workers and unions seriously and impose stiff practical and legal consequences on those who don’t.

SouthernDragon June 18th, 2011 at 4:17 pm
In response to papau @ 216

As the earl shows, it’s not only a ploy. Wal-Mart has no problem closing a store down if the workers vote to unionize. They’ve done it here, too. Today just the threat would be enough, though.

June 18th, 2011 at 5:38 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 76

The underlying ideas should be parecon (participatory economics).

Mighty June 18th, 2011 at 6:15 pm
In response to David Swanson @ 135

Trumka says attacking working people and standing by and watching while pointing a finger and remarking “ooh look at the nasty Republicans” are two equally unhelpful approaches. You disagree?

Well I see it more like you can swim with the current or against it. Those attacking workers are swimming against the current. Those complaining about the republicans are swimming with the current. At least they are likely to vote with you in the election and possibly even donate to candidates that favor your priorities.

I’d much rather swim with the current.

Mighty June 18th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I think in this current political and economic environment a strike may be counter productive. I would say if you can avoid it do so at all costs.

There are a lot of people out of work and I could see many people crossing the picket line to take a job. Its a reality we would have to consider.

I would focus all of our energy on building unions not striking. Use the media to show the greater sides of unions. Market them just like companies use marketing for themselves. Unions are beneficial for employees and employers alike. Unions need to work diligently to expand. Union leaders should only think about striking in this highly week economy as a last ditch effort.

There are very few unions left in the private sector and even in the public they a shadow of their former selves. Work on building a greater foundation, then when you have more numbers and power you will have far greater sway.

metro222 June 18th, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Joe or somebody, I heard that Walmart opened up in Germany and the employees are Unionized and the German Government set the conditions of pay to Walmart. Can someone tell me if this is true????

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