Saturday, July 16, 2011

unions make us strong

"Workers can't pay rent, pay the mortgage, get a credit card, find a job, buy clothes or schoolbooks for their kids or retire. They face increased divorce rates as family tensions rise, and they have lost their sense of dignity. They don't care about labor law reform, and they don't care about unions (at least in their current form). They are in despair, and unanswered despair quickly becomes either fertilizer for the fearmongers or the reason to not bother showing up at the polls.,,

"Rather than posting links to the websites of housing groups, how about starting direct worker-to-worker conversations about occupying mortgage company headquarters across the country until the banks stop foreclosing on their members' homes? Rather than suddenly calling for members to picket banks or take seemingly random militant actions, how about sitting down with union members and talking about what actions everyone can take to force solutions to the housing crisis—solutions such as making banks revalue mortgages to the actual value of homes and creating lines of credit so workers can move to places where they might find a job?

"Unions need to start connecting with workers face-to-face through house parties and worksite and home visits to ask what's keeping them up at night. Then unions should plan direct actions with workers that respond to the issues facing them. How about taking over the offices of big credit-rating agencies and occupying them 24/7 by the thousands until they agree to erase all the bad credit heaped on anyone who has made a late mortgage payment because they lost their job or their hours were cut back? The housing crisis ties directly to the wage crisis, which ties directly to the jobs crisis. People in this country are screaming for a fight, but the only people offering one have been from the right wing. All these issues have been staring labor in the face for several years. Why hasn't any union turned the crisis facing workers into a crisis for capital and the political elite?"

--from "making unions matter again" by jane mcalevey in the december 20, 2010 issue of the nation

why not? excellent question and I think I have a part of the answer. I've asked students, who you would think would be most interested in making tomorrow better and making a revolution in the workplace that could do nothing but benefit them, variations on this question for years. and the answer has come back every time: things are too good. things at work might be bad, they may be making less money than their parents--indeed, they may be the 1st generation since wwii to do poorer than previous generations--but so long as their life outside work remains relatively attainable (television, games, alcohol, gas, entertainment) to the majority of them, they will do nothing to upset the applecart. in fact, many of them have an outright disdain of unions, especially government unions, for being able to wring concessions in the past that they themselves are unable to get. (as I explain to them, for not having joined a union; their response to that is usually that they don't want to pay dues or be beholden to some shop rep, thereby ensuring things will never improve at their worksite.) most haven't a clue about the employment laws already guarenteed them--10 minute breaks and separate lunch spaces and automatic overtime and not needing to find their own sickday replacements--and their employers certainly aren't about to make them aware of them.

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