Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creating A National Organizing Drive

Something I've often thought about is how to develop a strategy to organize workers across various industries in a national blitz to jump start a renewed sense of union membership in the United States.

I've mentioned before that Labor Day would be an ideal opportunity to run commercials nationwide showing what unions have done historically for working people, and displaying a number on the screen that people can call to get information about organizing.  People who call the number would be directed to the appropriate union for more information.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Well...

The reasons why this has not happened are many, but here are a couple of the big issues that I believe would hamstring this sort of effort:

1.  There is far too much overlapping of various unions in similar industries.  For instance, you have hospitals that are represented by Teamsters, United Steelworkers, in addition to SEIU.  Hell, SEIU and the Teamsters don't seem to have any boundaries as to what they'll go after.  The old adage Jimmy Hoffa used was "If there's a wheel anywhere in the facility, including inside someone's watch, they should be Teamsters." There would have to be some serious ego swallowing and negotiating take place in order for this to work.

2.  It would require unions to spend significant money up front.  This has been something unions have been reluctant to do in the past - unless it's blowing half a billion dollars watching spineless Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives.  Unions would have to hire more organizers and internal member representatives.  Given the fact that a lot of unions are already stretched thin on staff, this would be a sizable commitment.

If unions could ever just take a page out of the old IWW playbook and just stop jumping into ever industry imaginable, this would be a vision that could come true.  The Wobblies had this basic principle right - you don't need more than one union per industry.  When there is more than one union vying for the same workers, we raid each other instead of going after the 93% of private sector workers who need a union.

In Solidarity,


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