Sunday, July 21, 2013

Change to Win - An Island of Two?

Mike Elk scored a huge scoop this past weekend, reporting that UFCW will vote to rejoin the AFL-CIO after its upcoming convention in August.

You can read Mike's full story at In These Times.

When I covered LIUNA's decision to return to the AFL-CIO back in 2010, I interviewed James Williams, President of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades(IUPAT) to get his opinion on LIUNA's return.  One of my main inquiries was regarding whether the AFL-CIO should require LIUNA to pay back per capita as a condition of rejoining the federation.  My feeling back then was that not requiring some form of repayment would make it attractive for unions to leave the federation to avoid per capita for a time if they ran into financial trouble.  The union could then hypothetically rejoin the AFL-CIO without any penalty.

As Mike Elk reports in his story,

Details of the negotiations between the UFCW and AFL-CIO are unknown at this time. However, inside sources say the AFL-CIO is likely to offer the UFCW some sort of deal, such as a discount on dues, as motivation to rejoin.

I understand that having UFCW back in the fold is more important o the AFL-CIO than some back per capita taxes, but it doesn't exactly set a good precedent going forward.

The larger implication for the labor movement is that Change to Win can't really be looked at as a labor coalition or federation anymore.  However, I am floating a few new name ideas for the two remaining unions.  How about Steamsters, or SEI-2.  They could make t-shirts saying Purple and Black Attack.

Although the return of UFCW will certainly get people wondering if SEIU and the Teamsters will rejoin the AFL-CIO, I don't foresee that happening any time soon, with different reasons for each organization.

The departure of the Teamsters was almost entirely about two things: 1) money and 2)money. Also 3)Article 20.  The Teamsters are in deep with their pension plan, and I don't see them willingly adding more per capita taxes when they don't even have a way to pay for their own pension fund 20 years from now.  They also still like to raid other unions, which Article 20 prohibits.  It would be something to see the Machinists and Teamsters under the same roof again.

I could actually picture SEIU coming back to the AFL-CIO before the Teamsters.  SEIU has the money for per capita, and rejoining the AFL-CIO could be used as a strategic way of blocking the National union of Healthcare Workers(NUHW) from organizing more members, as NUHW is now affiliated with CNA, and therefore subject to Article 20, which prohibits raiding other AFL-CIO member unions.

However this hashes out, this will be an interesting year in the House of Labor.

In Solidarity,


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Massive Motor City Union Busting Scheme

This afternoon, Detroit became the largest city in the history of the United States to file Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  The city had been the subject of a hostile takeover by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who appointed Kevin Orr, a bankruptcy expert, to rescue the city from massive deficits.

Why would you hire a bankruptcy expert to turn a city's finances around?

The obvious answer to that question is that someone doesn't want the city to recover. The who in this question becomes a little clearer once you find out that Governor Rick Snyder is a venture capitalist.  And what are venture capitalists experts in? Bankrupting companies and selling off their assets.

The purpose of this action could not be any clearer:

This is the biggest, most blatant union busting stunt since PATCO, and it might even be bigger. In filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the state would be able to sell off the city's assets, renege on pension obligations, and make labor agreements obsolete.  This isn't your average union busting scheme - this is the Twinkification of an entire city.

Make no mistake, if this is allowed to stand, you will see this in every major city with a strong collective bargaining presence. If the working class was waiting for a moment to get out in the streets with the pitchforks(well, not pitchforks, but pots and pans maybe) and raise nine kinds of hell, this is it.

We have to get in the streets and fight this battle.  We can't just throw money, or send email blasts, or send out our talking heads on cable news.  All of us - you, me, your buddy, my grandma, your pastor, the neighbors and their dog all have to get out in the streets and fight to keep the corporate vultures from imposing their will upon us. It's time for sit-ins, teach-ins, walk-outs, and anything else necessary to get the job done.

It has begun.

In Solidarity,