Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Time To Strike The No Strike/No Lockout Clause

Much has been said by various leaders in the labor movement over the last several years about the lack of solidarity in the labor movement, yet most of them seem to ignore one of the biggest causes of this problem - The No Strike/No Lockout Clause in most union contracts.

Admittedly, the plus side is very attractive to union leaders and workers:  The company agrees not to lock you out for the duration of the contract.  Well, at least they say they won't lock you out.  These rules may not apply if you work for Albertsons, Ralph's, Sterling Chemical, Castlewood Country get the point.

Unfortunately, the down side to a No/Strike/No Lockout clause is a huge one.  Not only are workers barred from going on strike, it bans just about any labor action, including leafletting, picketing, and slow-downs.  Bigger than the issues just mentioned is that most of these clauses prohibit sympathy strikes, and forces members to become scabs and cross picket lines of other unions.

It would seem to me that if the leaders of today's labor movement are searching for the reasons that workers aren't as united as we were 60-80 years ago, this might have something to do with it.  In exchange for not locking us out, which is not always effective, especially if the workers get into the plant and have a sit-down strike, the labor movement has signed over our most effective weapons:

1. The ability to control our own labor.
2. The ability to unite with other workers to effect commerce.

Without these weapons, the labor movement has become soft, weakened, isolated, and although it pains me to say it: corporatist.

So how do we solve this problem? Well, there are a few ways.  Some are more radical(effective), and some are more moderate(somewhat less effective).

1. Remove the No Strike/No Lockout Clause completely.  Instead of wasting time and money on arbitration cases that drag on forever, change the grievance procedure where any class action that is not solved at the 3rd step can result in a strike.  Of course, this means that unions will actually have to mobilize workers, which is what our purpose is supposed to be in the first place.

2. Keep the No Strike/No Lockout Clause, but retain the right to picket and leaflet.

3. Keep the right for sympathy/general strikes.  At the very least refuse to cross picket lines.  What the hell ever convinced the labor movement that it was alright to force our members to become scabs?

If you want real solidarity and a united labor movement, this would be a good start.

In Solidarity,


Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Few Things I'd Like To See This Labor Day

Here are a few things I would like to see this Labor Day:

1. An actual push by the labor movement to organize new workers. I actually kind of liked the AFL-CIO commercial last year, but I'd like to see one this year that simply lists the benefits of being in a union vs. non-union with a message that says "If you'd like to learn more about joining a union or starting one where you work, call this number" with a number set up by the AFL-CIO to direct people to the appropriate labor union.

Sounds simple doesn't it? It is, except it would mean that big labor would actually have to spend some money on organizing - what a concept!

2. While millions of Americans are watching football, wouldn't it be awesome to see a commercial(maybe even the sort of one listed in number 1) featuring some of the biggest names in the NFL, who oh, by the way, happen to be union members, publicly supporting unions and encouraging people to organize?

3. Since it hasn't happened up to this point, wouldn't it be nice to have a union friendly President come out publicly in support of unions, and the right to organize freely under the Employee Free Choice Act? Does anyone remember Candidate Obama saying he'd be right out there on the picket line with workers? If anyone has a picture of Obama in Wisconsin, or at the Ohio Statehouse, or on the picket line with Verizon workers, please send it to me - I think I missed something.

In Solidarity,


p.s. - if you are interested in joining a union, please post a comment and I'll direct you to a union in your industry.