Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ten Principles All Unions Should Be Built Upon

I found this list of precepts from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union(ILWU).  The ILWU is a militant, independent union that most unions could learn a few things from.  The ILWU honors every picket line, which I have written about before here. The ILWU has a long history of successful labor actions and an extremely active membership.  The following is a list of the ILWU's ten guiding principles.  The labor movement would do well to adopt them across the board.

A Union is built on its members. The  strength, understanding and unity of the membership can determine the union’s  course and its advancements. The members who work, who make up the union and pay  its dues can best determine their own destiny. If the facts are honestly  presented to the members in the ranks, they will best judge what should be done  and how it should be done. In brief, it is the membership of the union which is  the best judge of its own welfare; not the officers, not the employers, not the  politicians and the fair weather friends of labor. Above all, this approach is based on the conviction that given the truth and an  opportunity to determine their own course of action, the rank and file in 99  cases out of 100 will take the right path in their own interests and in the  interests of all the people.

 Labor unity is at all times the key for  a successful economic advancement. Anything that detracts from labor unity hurts  all labor. Any group of workers which decides to put itself above other workers  through craft unionism or through cozy deals at the expense of others will in  the long run gain but little and inevitably will lose both its substance and its  friends. No matter how difficult the going, a union must fight in every possible way to  advance the principle of labor unity.

 Workers are indivisible. There can be  no discrimination because of race, color, creed, national origin, religious or  political belief. Any division among the workers can help no one but the  employers. Discrimination of worker against worker is suicide. Discrimination is  a weapon of the boss. Its entire history is proof that it has served no other  purpose than to pit worker against worker to their own destruction.

“To help any worker in  distress” must be a daily guide in the life of every trade union and its  individual members. Labor solidarity means just that. Unions have to accept the fact  that the solidarity of labor stands above all else, including even the so-called  sanctity of the contract. We cannot adopt for ourselves the policies of union  leaders who insist that because they have a contract, their members are  compelled to perform work even behind a picket line. Every picket line must be respected as though it were our own.

Any union, if it is to fulfill its appointed task, must put aside all internal  differences and issues to combine for the common cause of advancing the welfare  of the membership. No union can successfully fulfill its purpose in life if it  allows itself to be distracted by any issue which causes division in its ranks  and undermines the unity which all labor must have in the face of the employer.

 The days are long gone when a union can consider dealing with single employers.  The powerful financial interests of the country are bound together in every  conceivable type of united organization to promote their own welfare and to  resist the demands of labor. Labor can no more win with the ancient weapons of  taking on a single employer in industry any more than it can hope to win through  the worn-out dream of withholding its skill until an employer sues for peace.  The employers of this country are part of a well-organized, carefully  coordinated, effective fighting machine. They can be met only on equal  terms, which requires industry-wide bargaining and the most extensive economic  strength of organized labor.

 Just as water flows to its lowest level, so do wages if the bulk of  the workers are left unorganized. The day of craft unionism – the aristocracy of  labor – was over when mass production methods were introduced. To organize the  unorganized must be a cardinal principle of any union worth its salt; and to  accomplish this is not merely in the interest of the unorganized, it is for the  benefit of the organized as well.

   The basic aspiration and desires of the workers throughout the world are the  same. Workers are workers the world over. International solidarity, particularly  to maritime workers, is essential to their protection and a guarantee of reserve  economic power in times of strife.

 A new type of unionism is called for which does not confine its ambitions and  demands only to wages. Conditions of work, security of employment and adequate  provisions for the workers and their families in times of need are of equal, if  not greater importance, than the hourly wage.

Jurisdictional warfare and jurisdictional raiding must be outlawed by labor  itself. Nothing can do as much damage to the ranks of labor and to the principle  of labor unity and solidarity as jurisdictional bickering and raiding among  unions. Both public support and strike victories and jeopardized by  jurisdictional warfare. This code for rank and file unionism is implemented by the membership’s  participation in organization, negotiations, strike machinery, contract  enforcement and every other aspect of union life. Thus, its discipline springs  out of participation, conviction and the right of the membership to decide its  own course of action. The above principles and steps to implement them, and an  informed and alert membership make the union what it is.

In Solidarity,


1 comment:

  1. I found this list of precepts from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union(ILWU). The ILWU is a militant, independent union that most unions could learn a few things from.
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