Thursday, December 03, 2009

SEPTA strike commentary

Walt Weber, Industrial Worker:

To make the strike more effective, the union should have taken the resources that it dedicated to the 2008 presidential election and gone door to door across the city to educate the community about their issues and try to gain the community's support.  This should have been followed with community meetings, joint meetings with other unions, resolutions at churches, community groups, and the central labor council, just as a start.

What we saw instead was a union preparing to go it alone, into a strike that is probably only one notch more popular than a garbage strike.  Without a proper inoculation campaign in the community, the union was successfully demonized as a bunch of greedy thugs who would defend their fiefdom with force, despite all logic and reason.
The true problem, however, is that this strike was organized by a trade union, and not along industrial lines. Under [the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority], there are currently several different divisions, all working under different contracts and with different unions.  While the SEPTA strike was on in the City Division, all of the other divisions continued to work, under different unions, with different contracts and a similar no-strike clause.
[A]n industrial union would never let workers at the same company be divided.  One Big Union means just that: all SEPTA workers, no matter what division, in the city, suburbs, or running regional rail trains hundreds of miles away, all united.  When there is a problem in one division, everything stops.

Unions do well to take their lead from communities, highlighting workplace concerns alongside other issues relating to local industry, because it is ultimately from communities that unions secure the kind of legitimacy which always prefigures their power.

The American labor movement made a compact with employers in the mid-20th century to forgo the social legitimacy of communities in exchange for the political legitimacy of the state. This left a new class of labor bureaucrats with just as much power as the courts, the legislature, and the executive saw fit. In a democracy where capital always casts the largest vote, labor leaders have spent more and more of their members' dues to attend fewer and fewer important dinners ever since! Their candidates have won Congress and the presidency -- and their agenda is dead!

Labor has no claim to legitimacy within a state beholden to capital. Legitimacy only comes from the threat that working people will finally fold their arms, and advance their concerns without lifting a finger.


Anonymous said...

i'm gonna make my own site about it

JRB said...

In that case, don't be a stranger!