Welcome Steve Early, and Host Joe Burns (Reviving The Strike).

The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor: Birth of a New Workers’ Movement or Death Throes of the Old?

Host, Joe Burns:

Labor commentator, and former union staffer, Steve Early draws on years of trade union activism to shed light on labor’s troubled path over the last decade. His recent book, The Civil War’s in US Labor, examines the internal conflicts which have wracked the labor movement over the last decade: the 2005 split of several international unions from the AFL-CIO to form the Change to Win coalition, the subsequent fracturing of Change to Win, and the internal conflict within the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Early has long been an outspoken proponent of union democracy and grassroots control. Indeed, questions of internal union democracy are at the heart of Civil Wars. Early says he “became increasingly concerned that some progressive trade unionists were not only abandoning ‘participatory democracy,’ a still-worthwhile Sixties notion; they were creating union structures that disenfranchise workers to a greater degree than ‘old guard’ unions do.”

Come prepared to discuss many of the major issues facing the labor movement: Why is union democracy critical to the revival of the labor movement? What was really behind the split in the labor movement? How can we revive the labor movement? What are the sources of union power? The answers to these key questions will determine labor’s fate over the coming years.

This is an interesting time for the labor movement. As an active participant in many of labor’s key battles, Early is also uniquely qualified to discuss current labor events, such as the recent Verizon strike, the ongoing battle between SEIU and the National Union of Health Care Workers, and the significance of the uprising earlier this year in Wisconsin. Join us in the discussion with your comments and questions for today’s Book Salon author, Steve Early.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev] [To refresh your browser, PC=F5, MAC=Command+R]

132 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Steve Early, The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor: Birth of a New Workers’ Movement or Death Throes of the Old?”

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Hi Joe, Steve

BevW September 10th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Steve, Welcome to the Lake.

Joe, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 1:59 pm

You are Welcome Bev. Thanks for joining having us. Welcome Steve

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Steve, Civil Wars in US Labor takes issue with what you see as a top down, staff driven form of unionism. Can you tell some of the problems you this form of unionism?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Hi, Jim, Joe, and Bev–all first in line!

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:03 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 4

I think the main problem with this form of unionism is that it stifles rank-and-file initiative and
creativity–action that members need to take to build union power the base and in the workplace.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Steve, thank you for being here. The topic of your book is timely and a great insight for all of us.

Joe, thank you for hosting!

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 6

But some union officials argue that the staff driven model is the way to go. What do you say to them?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Jim–how is life down in Florida–I was just with 1298 friends of yours in Las Vegas at CWA convention two months ago. The struggle goes on at AT&T–even in your absence.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:07 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 8

As a longtime, but now retired staffer for CWA, I’d be the last person to say that staff people have no role.
But it shouldn’t be running or dominating the affairs of what are supposed to be organizations run by and for workers. Role of staff people should be to help develop and support rank-and-file leadership.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Your book has a lot of criticisms of SEIU under Andy Stern. What do you see as the problems?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Everyone else, feel free to join in the discussion or post your own questions for Steve? This is your chance to talk to the author!

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Steve, are the Dock Workers/Longshoremen and UAW ran the same way?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

The main problem with Andy’s legacy as a union leader was a very top-down and top-heavy union structure, in which locally elected leaders who wanted to engage in constructive dissent were shut-down and then pushed out.
The most dramatic example of this being what happened to United Healthcare Workers-West in 2008 at
the SEIU convention then afterwards. One of the best locals in SEIU was put under trusteeship essentially
for advocating greater internal democracy and reform within SEIU.

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I sense a disappoint out there about Trumka. He seemed dynamic and even fiery compared to Sweeney. But now he seems to be part of a “lowered expectations” era along with Obama.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 14

Your book talks a lot about the NUHW? Can you describe what happened there briefly?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 13

Every union culture is a little different–ILA, the east cost dock workers, is obviously very old school, top-down,
and bureaucratic and that has spawned a very lively and effective grassroots reform movement led by Ken
Riley in South Carolina and others, the Longshore Coalition. The ILWU out here on west coast has some strong
democratic traditions, altho Harry Bridges certainly ruled for many years with a firm hand. As for the UAW, that is a long (and sad) story of the debilitating effects of “one-party” rule!

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 14

Aren’t all of the large unions (more than 100,00 members) in the US “top heavy” and “Bottom-down” unions?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 17

So how do the members hold union officers accountable?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 15

Hi Bruce–I think Brother Rich does have tendency to blow militant one day and more conciliatory the next.
Obama’s Labor Day speech in Detroit, with Trumka there with him last week, came across as a clarion call for more union concessions–a little bit “off-message” for a labor event? But, recent criticisms of the Dems notwithstanding,
I think the AFL is still pretty joined at the hip with them and the administration–even tho alienation, disappointment, and frustration is pretty rife at labor’s grassroots.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 15

Bruce: What do you think Trumka should be doing?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Steve: Your book ends describing SEIU’s victory at Kaiser. Can you give us an update?

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 19

I imagine that is hard to do. Just think about your average fellow and how he transforms when he gets the name plate, “President”. LOL! (grins)
That ego thing takes over and shuts down real thinking.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 19

I think best mechanism for accountability is, of course, direct elections–for top officers. The Teamster
experience shows this is an important exercise for 1.3 million IBT members every five years–a big improvement over the old mob-dominated, staff-and-official run Teamster conventions, prior to 1991, which elected the
likes of Hoffa, Sr., Roy Williams, Jackie Presser, all of whom were more than little tainted with corruption.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 24

I agree. Voting and term limits should be in place.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 24

Sure,and with the help of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, Ron Carey was elected and went on to lead the UPS Strike in 1997.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:23 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 22

On NUHW status, the new union now has bargaining rights for about 10,000 workers, 4,000 of them at Kaiser,
where fight for first contracts has been difficult. A re-run election has been ordered in largest contested
Kaiser unit, with 45,000 workers, where election was tainted last Fall by collusion between management and
SEIU, as recently documented by NLRB. In two weeks, NUHW,CNA, and several other KP unions will conduct
three days of anti-concession strike activity, statewide in California, a very important coalescing of labor strength within this key health care industry employer. I think NUHW deserves some credit for being a catalyst in this
fight-back campaign.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 27

When will the election be held and any ideas how it will go?

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 21

I am sort of an old-timer, so my experience of Trumka is as a “new generation” labor leader who was calling for clearing some of the cobwebs out of organized labor, and initiating a new era of dynamism and militancy.

That’s what I’d like to see now. I’d like to see Trumka has a household name in America, associated with reform, renewal and an independent labor mocement. Right now, he seem like a minor appendage of the Obama clique.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 29

We definitely need more of the spirit of Pittston, referring to the strike the UMWA under Trumka led in 1991.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 21

I think AFL will always be hampered in what it can do because it is a bureaucratic structure, at the national level, two or three or four times removed from union workplaces. It certainly should be welcoming the recent display of strike activity–at VZ, HIatt Hotel chain, Kaiser, and in ILWU Seattle/Tacoma ports this week. Because actual
worker resistance to concessions and contracting out schemes counts for a lot more than the “resolutionary activity”
and related speech making that is an AFL speciality!

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

So what about the Verizon strike. What do you see of its significance?

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Ths thing I like about Trumka is his seeming support for all labor, not just his union but all labor. I think many of the public do not truat unions thinking they are corrupt and narrowly focused, certainly not very progressive.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 29

Bruce, just remember that Rich is an “old-timer” two–at least my age, 62, and planning
on staying in his post as long as Sweeney did. So look forward to seeking him for next 15 years–he, like
so many others, in top labor positions, is opposed to mandatory retirement ages for the union officer class–which should be given their golden watch and ample pensions at 65, so younger people can move up the ladder
quicker. A necessary if not entirely sufficient formula for new blood in the labor movement.

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 31

We have seen more signs of life lately in unions and that has got to be good.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 33

Yes, when Brother Rich and others do speak eloquently about all workers and their plight it does help
position organized labor–representing now just a fraction of the workforce (12 % and dropping)–as
a defender of the entire working class (or “middle class,” as Rich and AFL PR people would say!).
Anything that dispels–via better rhetoric or, better yet, improved union practice==the image of labor as a narrow
special interest is very important,

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 34

So in the Civil Wars in US Labor, you talk about the 1960s activists who entered the labor movement with progressive ideas and high hopes. Yet, much of your book talks about how things went bad and they went after each other. Were their ideas flawed from the start or did they fall away from them at some point?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 32

Back to Joe’s question about VZ strike–it certainly shook things up last month in 8 states and DC. The struggle is far from over, and a return to the picketlines may still be necessary. The militancy was impressive–but the two
week casualty rate high. 80 to 100 strikers faced discipline and dozens remain out of work while their
alleged “picketline misconduct” remains under investigation.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 38

What do you make of the decision to go back to work without a settlement of the overall contract?

bigbrother September 10th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I worked at grocery loading dock a teamsters union shop in CO then CA in the late 50s. Seemed like the workers did nit count but the Union and Company officials were comfy.

I like the unions that have apprenticeship and skill enhancement rograms. but those usually go to member families. Pretty clickish naturally.

How can labor get more like European benefits with complete medical, pregnancy time off with pay, sick leave and adequate retirement?

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 9

Steve things are good down here, there will always be a struggle with AT&T, 1298 took awhile to get but once we did we ran with it

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Steve,

Do you see the Unions, across all industry coming together to fight against what is being done to working American citizens? You see, I don’t think they will brush off the old propaganda, ie: “unions are bad and crooks” unless they step up. The Corporations and Capitalists have almost gotten this country where they want it. Now all they have to do is force changes in the labor laws and rid the minimum wage act. IF all the Unions would work together at some point, I think it would make a difference and scare the beejeebus out of the Capitalists that have stolen America blind.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 37

On the personal and political trajectory of 68ers in labor, I think it has varied. But all, as they rose from the
ranks–certainly those who moved into top union positions–came under a lot of institutional and societal
pressure to behave differently then they did when they were young radicals on campus in the 60s or
in workplaces or unions halls in the 1970s.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 35

Bluedot: What do you see as the good signs of life?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:38 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 43

Certainly, another good recent labor book, which I believe you have a chapter in, is Rebel Rank and File, which describes the militancy and strike activity of the early 1970s.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 40

An excellent question from BigBrother.
One of great problems facing US unions is the difficulty of bargaining industry by industry, shop by shop, for
things like paid time off, pensions, and health care that are provided via universal social programs in countries like France. That’s why linking the fight against health care cost shifting to continuing need for Medicare for all/single payer system in the US is one key way of doing public and membership education about need for legislative/political solutions that would get more of these issues off the bargaining table (where one still exists, of course)

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 42

I agree with that.

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 34

I don’t want to be TOO critical of Trumka.

Since ascending to office, he has tried to go out on teevee and spread the good word (with mixed effect). That’s good. That needs to be done, and we need more of it.

And, like Obama, he entered office inheriting a heavy, heavy load shit on his head. So he need some space to clear a path for himself.

But labor also has to lead, not merely to follow the varuious cliques in the Democratic (or Republican) Party. If we can’t do it now, there may not be a future for the labor movement in this country.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 27

You have been an outspoken supporter of the National Union of Health Care Workers. Why is that?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 42

I think the most effective “working together among unions” is created by member-to-member, worker-to-worker networking and relationship building on a cross union basis–the kind of thing Labor Notes has been promoting
for 30+ years. That’s what’s helped weld IBEW and CWA together at Verizon in the northeast for several decades
and is helping to bring people together within Kaiser, even if they trapped in a particularly union that’s not inclined to resist concessions like NUHW, CNA, and hopefully a growing number of others.

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 44

I think unions must take on the challenges that face them like the union busting in Wi or O. They need also to step more into the public realm of politics b/c the things that are being proposed by the Tea Party will hurt all Americans, those in unions or white collar. There is common cause here. And that is what I liked about Trumka.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 48

But labor also has to lead, not merely to follow the varuious cliques in the Democratic (or Republican) Party. If we can’t do it now, there may not be a future for the labor movement in this country

Absolutely! In my opinion, the first thing they need to do is to step away from politics. It clouds the system and shadows over the real issues.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 49

I think, like the UE–also very small, due to his difficult history–or even the IWW today, NUHW provides an important model of more member-driven indy unionism. There’s not a lot of dues dollars available for
full-time staff and officers to “handle” all the problems so elected stewards take the lead and help
bring the union to life with shop floor activity. That’s a model more unions are going to have to re-learn
very fast or they are not going to do well hand-collecting dues in the new open shop midwest of
Governors Walker, Kasich, Snyder, and Daniels!

bigbrother September 10th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

CA grocery workers caved to management a few years back. The new members get poorer benefit and pay packages.
Management is moving jobs offshore. China, India and SE Asia are producing what American union workers used too do.
Can legislation help?
I worked in the iron workers union for a while as well. Later in the mill workers in the lumber industry…weak tea that.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 52

I’m a pretty hard core left syndicalist and no big fan of mainstream party-style electoral politics. But, in the
public sector, it’s a pretty hard sell to say to workers they shouldn’t be engaged in some fashion in influencing the selection of their “bosses”–whether mayors, governors, legislators, or local city council members. The problem
is we don have two, three, many Vermont Progressive Parties, local labor-backed progressive political
formations with the ability to actually get people elected at the state, municipal, and in case of Vermont with
indy socialist Bernie Sanders, the federal level.

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 52

You say step away from politics, but I see it differently. I take it seriously that some out there want to eliminate the minimum wage or SS or medicare. These are issues facing all of us, not simply those with a union label.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 41

Jim–are still on the road” what’s it like making transition from Ct. telco guy to Florida trucker?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

So discussing current events. You talked about some the recent struggles, Verizon, the longshore battle, Hyatt. Do you see a return to a struggle oriented labor movement?

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 57

A different world out here, no union, no common shop so, can’t meet face to face with groups of co-workers, so getting any type of organization with them is tough

BevW September 10th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Steve, Joe,
What are your thoughts on the future of unions for a new large section of workers – the Information Technology (IT) and Programmers? The field has matured since the 80s and the workers are tired of working long hours for “options” that never happened. Are there efforts to unionize these fields?

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 58

In the current political climate, I do, but it is not only unions. It involves the middle class in general. I see unions as a possible leader in this struggle.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 54

Fending off a serious overseas outsourcing threat at Verizon–in form of data support centers and call centers being moved to India, Philipines, and Bangladesh–was another cause of last month’s strike. Through Jobs with Justice and other international labor networks, CWA has tried to build relationships with Indian unions
representing call center workers or trying to. But see Slum Dog Millionaire–highly educated Indians can be
hired to call center work on a contracted-out basis for VZ or other US companies at only a fraction of U.S. wages.
Unless we help them get stronger unions and higher labor standards, as well as the jobs they need to
in countries like that, it’s a race to the bottom for everyone, in the end!

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to BevW @ 60

For many years CWA has backed WashTech in Seattle–their website is worth checking out and they function as a regular CWA local even though the founding members were perma temps at MIcrosoft and other companies
and have never been covered by collective bargaining agreements. WashTech has, for years, been organizing around issues of concern to info technology workers. And the pressure it applied to Microsoft over its use of
long-term temps as part of a two-tier workforce, even involving professional and technical jobs,eventually
led to some improvements in personnel practices (or at least fewer abuses).
But there are very private sector examples of traditional forms of unionization among engineers or software people except in the airline industry, with biggest such union being SPEEA at Boeing.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 55

Oh! No, sorry. I didn’t mean get out of the political realm. I meant they seem to let/allow the politics get in the way of what is really needed.

No, I know they need to fight and fight hard against this labor shattering group of Tea Hadists trying to tear what is left for workers away.

So sorry. I said it wrong.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to BevW @ 60

I am not aware of any serious efforts to organize IT workers. CWA experimented with minority unionsism at IBM (I believe) in the 1990s. They tried to focus on building organizations rather than winning union elections. That would probably be the way to go with these workers.

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 62

Steve besides making the overseas employees stronger, won’t we need congress to step in and help make it harder for employers to send these jobs overseas, after all it doesn’t help the bottom line to lose the tax base of these jobs

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:00 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 65

I remember going to IBM and talking to employees in Connecticut it didn’t work out well then

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Here’s a big picture question: For twenty years, we have tried to turn around the labor movement. Yet we keep losing members. What will it take to turn things around?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 58

On the recent uptick in contract and wildcat walkouts, I think it’s a great advertisement for Joe’s book, Reviving The Strike, and demonstrates that what he’s calling for is not pie in the sky (to borrow an old Wobbly phrase). The concession demands faced by workers in healthcare, the hospitality industry, telecom, and on the docks–even where hugely profitable employers are involved–are pushing their unions in the direction of more strike activity.
Can’t think of a better way to commemorate the sad 30th anniversary of the defeat at PATCO–than by
showing that the strike is not dead and buried in America (as so many in management thought and still hope is true)

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 67

Hi Jim: What do you think the reason it didn’t turn out with the IBM workers?

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 68

High unemployment, only low paying jobs available, need to change the perception of some people that unions protect the lazy workers, remind non union workers that the reason their wages are what they are is because on unions.

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 52

I agree, but only up to a point.

Labor SHOULD be involved in politics, but not at the level of negotiating legislative language at the margins, or pushing the pet projects of union-contracterd companies.

Politcal leaders who respect the rights of working people deserve our support. Political leaders who regard labor unions as just another interest group should be left in the dust.

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 68

Well, just now the democratic party has decided to back austerity and spending cuts including SS and medicare. And they do propose that in the middle of a fucking depression. I could go on. But it certainly suggests we need another party. The dims dont help. How about a socialist labor party for starters?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 69

Certainly, the events in Longview, WA seem to bear that out? What do you think of the ILWU battle there? Just had a very militant demonstration the other day, with multiple arrests, etc.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 68

Jim’s point about legislative curbs on manufacturing runaways (and other kinds) is well taken. That would certainly reduce the potency of management threats to shut-down in factory settings when workers try to organize. I think
the revival will inevitably come from those areas of the economy where the work has to be done here, rather than somewhere else. So trucking, warehousing,utilities, service industries, and the public sector all remain key
battlegrounds for defending past gains and building for the future.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 69

The Longshoremen in California were on strike the other day. Their dock, an export dock was supposed to be totally Union. They brought in non-union workers and the Union workers had no choice but to stop the trains.

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 70

Joe from what I remember, management put a big push on, the usual unions will take your money, will not get you anything in return, the employees bought into that, and were scared for their jobs, they also seemed to be comfortible with what they had

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 72

There you go. You said it much better than I did! Thanks!

BevW September 10th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 65

Joe, reading stories of Electronic Arts and other game companies being sued now for all the abuses, making programmers work 12-24 hour days to finish games, called “crunch time”. The lawsuits are doing a good job of pushback, but I think a union would prevent this from happening in the first place.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 77

Jim: Sounds pretty familiar in terms of organizing campaigns.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 73

Bi-partisan embrace of deficit reduction and related austerity schemes would seem to create a political opening
for more initiatives that challenge two-party domination. Unfortunately, where such vehicles exist, under whatever name, it took years of grassroots work to get them where they are today (VPP, being a case in point). So while
worsening conditions can may be speed things up, politically, new parties don’t summoned into being by
resolution passing, radical pamphleteering, and street corner exhortation alone.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to BevW @ 79

Bev, great comment. I didn’t think of those gamers. Glad you did.

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 80

Joe yes it followed the perfect script for the company

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to BevW @ 79

Bev: Some of the more effective union organizing campaigns of recent years have focused on building workplace organization, rather than just winning union elections. With management able to contract out the work for programmers, utilizing straight up traditional organizing is very difficult. That’s why you see efforts going on to form non-traditional unions, such as the New York Taxi drivers or the Starbucks workers union.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 79

Part of WashTech’s strategy was a legal one–so yes litigation, where possible, about wage and hour violations, etc.
is one way of building a workers rights organization. Most parts of the workers center movement, however, have been focused on the problems of the foreign-born and low-wage service sector workers, rather than those
higher up the job food chain who face their own problems of exploitation by employers (like university adjuncts, or the IT workers with no protection against forced overtime)

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 81

Copy that. But it all begins by becoming involved. Maybe a little push back.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Steve: Can you give us an update on the Verizon strike? Strikers went back to work but the struggle is far from over. What’s going on and what do you see happening?

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Question: Should organized labor ever support Republican candidates for office?

(For many years, I have thought the answer was NO. Now I am beginning to re-think this. The Republican Party is obviously in a state of turmoil now, so is it possible that there is an opening for us amongst a splintered Republican organization?)

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 74

On Longview, I’m headed up that way for a book event in Seattle and we hope to have an ILWU
speaker update the Elliott Bay bookstore event attendees on 9/ 23 about what’s happening with this key local
fight against contracting out. Unfortunately, just as we saw very quickly in the VZ strike, a lot more media
coverage has been devoted to clashes with police and security guards than the universality of the underlying issue involving job security and maintaining decent benefit coverage. (Pensions were a sticking point in the contractor’s abortive talks with the ILWU.)

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 88

Bruce I know we supported one Republican in Connecticut, sorry age and time I can’t remember who it was but he did support labor on some issues so we felt it would help us to help him

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 87

VZ Contract campaign continues to take the form of labor/community protests at VZW stores–”Wireless Wednesday” protests in many parts of the country. See CWA website for location list if you want to lend a hand.
Negotiations are continuing in New York–but forced OT for a lot of techs, due to weather-related
“emergency” declared by the company in NY/NJ is making certain forms of contract campaign hard to
maintain.

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 88

NO way. Once elected they follow the leadership and Grover Norquist. There may have been a time 50 years ago, but not now, ever.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 90

Some unions, such as Teamsters, have at times supported Republicans versus exclusively supporting Democrats. Not sure it has made a lot of difference. At the end of the day, union power is rooted in the workplace and we are only seven percent of the private sector and dropping. Not sure electing politicians will change that.

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 91

Steve when VZ was out striking did use the roving pickets, and taking it to the management out in the streets where they were working?

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 91

We have a Verizon striker coming to the Labor Notes Troublemakers school in the Twin Cities next weekend so am looking forward to a first hand update.

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 93

That is why unions have to expand their sphere of influence. When the leaders have the opportunity they need to speak for the working person, blue and white collar.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 88

SEIU contributions to Republican Governor’s Association in 2004-5 backfired big-time–helped elect
Mitch Daniels, in Indiana, who then devastated state worker unions in his state, providing a model for
Kasich and Walker more recently in Ohio and Wisconsin respectively.
I don’t think the way to punish the Dems is to back the GOP, even assuming you could find a labor-friendly candidate or two. As several participants in this discussion have noted, what we need is more indy political
action by labor–whether that takes the form of VPP-style efforts, the Working Families Party, where
fusion or cross-endorsement can be used or re-legalized or helping to make other third parties, like the Greens, less marginal than they unfortunately are today in most plaves

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 94

Yes, just like in our strike against SNET in Ct in 1998, there as much mobile picketing–which, along with wireless store activity, became a focus of the company’s efforts to get court orders restricting picketing.
So the CWA-IBEW tradition of follow-the work and picket the poles and manholes, rather than empty garages, was
carried on quite well from Mass to Virginia…

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

So despite heroic efforts in Wisconsin, Walkers anti-union bill went through. The recall efforts failed to win back a majority for the Dems. What is next in Wisconsin for the unions there?

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 99

It was a good fight and they gained some support. They won, not big, but they won at a time when unions are not supposed to win anything. The keep going is what is next.

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 90

I am sort of an amateur labor historian, and I know that there is a long history of organized labor supporting selected Republican candidates (a history that continues to this day, by the way).

Now, a lot of this support had (has) its origins in parochial or corrupt arrangements, but it should be obvious to us all that the institutional Democratic Party will not always stand with us in a fight. Wouldn’t it be better to have real allies in the blue-collar populist wing (wing-let?) of the Republican Party?

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 101

Again, I say NO. The republican party of today is not your daddy’s.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Steve: So let’s talk a bit more about the struggle in California in the health care industry. In many ways, SEIU’s trusteeship of the progressive California local lead by Sal Rosseli was the heart of your book. It did not have a happy ending as SEIU won the big election. Now there is a rerun ordered by the NLRB. Can you tell us why that was ordered and what the prospects are for NUHW?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Jim–if you’re still there, 1298 just had a great but narrow organizing win at T-Mobile in CT, the tech
group that failed to unionized last time under previous owner. This is first T-Mobile NLRB election win anywhere and, if AT&T take-over of T-Mobile isn’t approved, with related extension of CWA’s organizing rights agreement
to T-Mobile’s 20,000 other workers, the job of organizing them won’t get any easier!

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to Bruce H. Vail @ 101

I am not sure that we can count on any real allies in Republican Party except for a select few (very few) that show us they will stand with us

bluedot12 September 10th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 105

If any of them wanted to stand with us there is a party for that. Its called the democratic party.

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 104

I didn’t hear of that win, T-Mobile has always been a tough nut to crack, lets hope that AT&T wins the take-over.

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 92

Good point.

It seems many politicians, especially Republicans of a certain stripe, are happy to accept union support when there are no hard worker rights’ issues at the top of the agenda.

But when thing heat up, they disappear.

There are some rather priminent Democratic Party leaders whoa re guilty of the same thing.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 106

In many states, Democrats have joined in the attack on public employee pensions and benefits. On the federal level, we see the failure to support changes to labor law and support of budget cutting austerity. Don’t we need to move beyond the Republican vs Democrat quagmire and on to a new politics. Tony Mazochi, the great OCAW union leader and founder of the Labor Party in the 1990s said “the bosses have two parties, workers need one.”

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 103

The re-run in the service and technical unit at Kaiser was ordered by an administrative law judge and upheld by the NLRB in Washington because there was extensive evidence of incumbent union (ie SEIU) and Kaiser management
misbehavior in the vote among 45,000 workers last fall, the largest private sector representation election
in 70 years. Briefly, the misconduct involved threatening workers with loss of benefits and contract
conditions if they switched unions–an unfair labor practice that KP had already committed in several
smaller Kaiser units where workers switched unions in early 2010.
The conditions for a re-run, if held soon, are not favorable to NUHW because of the resource imbalance between the new union and the incumbent one–but if enough workers in the S and T unit respond to the threat of SEIU-facilitated concessions (what the Sept. 21-23 multi-union strike activity is designed to fend off), it could still be a very lively contest. But the ball will have to be carried by NUHW supporters on the shop-floor up against
an army of staffers like the one SEIU sent in last fall.

PeasantParty September 10th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Steve, I’m not sure if you struggled with the title of your book or not, but dadgummit, it definitely is Warfare. Just look at the Koch Bros. revelations of their secret meetings. They state they are in all out war mode against the populace and Democracy.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 110

Any idea when the rerun election will be held?

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 109

Joe, can we get a third party in the mix, what would we (the workers) need to do, and can it be done? I agree a workers party would be ideal, but coule it fly

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 99

On what’s next in Wisconsin, the upsurge has produced a mini-book publishing boom, several
volumes out already or on the way examining the experience and what steps union members should take next.
I highly recommend the first out of the box–We are Wisconsin, a collection edited by Erica Sagrans and published on line and in hard copy from Tasora.
Next up is a collection from Monthly Review Press, edited by Mike Yates, called The Wisconsin Revolt,
and one from Verso edited by Madisonite Paul Buhle.
All have pieces written by participants, observers, from labor and the community and the student movement inolved earlier this year out in “Cairo by the lake” in Wisconsin!

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Jim Bartlett @ 113

The labor movement tried in the 1990s. Steve’s earlier comment is right. It takes a lot of hard work, such as what they have done in Vermont, grassroots organizing. That being said, I think we will probably need to work on rebuilding the labor movement on the same time, getting strike activity going and coupling that with new organizing and independent political action.

NorskeFlamethrower September 10th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 104

AND THE KILLIN’ GOEZ ON AND ON AND…

Citizen Steve Earl:

Sorry that I am late to the party, Brother Steve, but I’ve just fought my way through the comments and I am VERY interested in your speculation about how teachers unions can learn from the last 25 years and become a more muscular and effective force from state to state. My father taught for over 35 years and was an AFofT organizer back in the day and my wife just got forced into early retirement after 32 years in the classroom here in Wisconsin.

For the first time in my lifetime a majority of teachers are now seeing themselves as “working class” however the state and national leadership has not caught up with the rank and file.

(By the way, I’m a couple a years older than you but I think our experiences and understanding of the union movement are similar.)

KEEP THE FAITH AND PASS THE AMMUNITION, THE DURE FOR A SICK DEMOCRACY IS MORE DEMOCRACY!!

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 112

I don’t believe a re-run election date for Kaiser has been set yet but I’m hoping to see Brother Rosselli tomorrow and will
ask him that very same question!

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to Steve Early @ 114

Sounds like a lot of good reading. I am going to Madison in a couple of weeks for a book event on Tuesday September 20 so will be interested in hearing what is going on.

Bruce H. Vail September 10th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Hey everybody, don’t forget that our brothers and sisters in in the So Cal UFCW are in a major contract fight with the giant grocery chains. They need our support!

Night, all.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for joining us Bruce.

NorskeFlamethrower September 10th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 118

Citizen Joe Burns:

Where and when is your autograph session in Madison? My wife and I hafta be there soon and I would like to get a couple of our new local union leaders (teachers) in the same room with you.

BevW September 10th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Steve, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and unions.

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

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Steve’s website and book

Joe’s website and book

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Sunday:
Stephen Glain / State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire; Hosted by Zaid Jilani (Think Progress)

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.

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

So Steve, you have been doing a lot of speaking events about your book, The Civil Wars in US Labor. What has the reception for your book been?

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

The demonization and denigration of public school teachers has to be one of the most disgraceful aspects
of the whole bi-partisan, Corporate America-assault on unions in both the private and public sector.
Who would have thought that folks so long held in such high esteem in so many of our communities (and
still well regarded in many to this day) and who were such a positive influence on millions of young people (including me in the 1950s and 1960s) could have been turned into an all-purpose public policy punching bag by the media, phony education “reformers,” and politicians from both parties.
I think both NEA and AFT affiliates have to go on the offensive quick, as the better local
chapters have done in LA, Chicago, and DC (with the help of reform caucuses)–building strong coalitions with
students and parents and community groups to resist the whole package of Obama/Race to the Top-funded contract give-backs and charter school expansion.

Jim Bartlett September 10th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

thanks Steve, Joe been great Jim

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for having us on Bev. And to everyone who joined in the discussion.

sn1789 September 10th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I bought *Civil War* over the summer but haven’t gotten to it yet. But *Embedded with Organized Labor* is top notch.

Is it better for relatively weak reform caucuses to try and win exec power outright or should they stay in opposition and seek to shape union strategy from below?

Here in Chicago the many good people in COREE in the CTU are stuck with a flake and nutter in Karen Lewis as CTU president. She talks the talk but in practice is a disaster. She helped featherbed the IFT, she tried to sell SB7 (a disasterous education reform law) as a good thing, and now her oppisiton to longer school days (a fight CTU can never win) only makes the CTU look like self serving slackers. I think it would have been better if the good folks in CORE stayed in opposition in the short term, while Poltrock’s UPC crew would stay in power to take the heat in the short run, then CORE could have built up a stronger organization and fought for the long run.

Also, it is disappointing to see Labor Notes *not* deal with these issues openly and forthrightly. There are enough local newsletters that are nothing but propaganda sheets for leadership. Labor Notes should be a place where critical dialogue about our successes and our mistakes takes center stage.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 123

good reception on the road, Haymarket is now printing a second edition, and looking forward to upcoming events which are listed at http://www.civilwarsinlabor.org
thanks, Joe!

Joe Burns September 10th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Well have a good weekend everyone.

Steve Early September 10th, 2011 at 3:59 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 127

Well I’m sure the trials and tribulations of reformers in the CTU will be much discussed next May
when the Labor Notes conference comes to town on the weekend of May 4-6–there will certainly
be a range of opinions on this and other topics there. Hope you can make it–register soon, with switch
from Dearborn to the Windy City, attendance will be bigger than ever!

cwaltz September 10th, 2011 at 4:11 pm
In response to Joe Burns @ 68

The behavior of unions present membership self interest is often to the deficit of future members. Alot of unions end up negotiating away their power. Then there is the fact that alot of the people who end up holding positions do so for their own interest (company gives them company business days and pays their claims)but doesn’t work out to the interest of many. Over time they get tired of fighting for something that they see as biased and not in their favor.

My husband is UTU. There was an election where he lierally was able to prove that the Secretary Treasurer sent out wrong ballots, did not give out information to get replacements, and failed to send out ballots. Because it was “only” a local election rather than an international elected position no one cared that they dienfranchised 1/4 of their membership that actually wanted a vote. How screwed up is that? Why in the world would they/the disenfranchised want to protect an organization that says your dues are important but your voice doesn’t matter when it comes to the direction and strategy “we” take with the company.

bigbrother September 10th, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Surprised to see so many union members vote R…what’s up?

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