In this video clip, David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, discusses the dramatic new scope and impact of gerrymandering following the 2010 Census. Daley spoke alongside legal experts at a panel discussion held at the Murphy Institute
Table of Contents
From the Editorial Team
Under the Radar
By Sarah Jaffe
On the Contrary
Info-Tech Is Not the New Utopia
By Howard Brick
Rethinking the Problem of Alliance: Organized Labor and Black Political Life
By Brandon Terry and Jason Lee
What would it take to find common ground?
Labor’s Bill of Rights
By Shaun Richman
What might the Constitution offer a nearly embargoed labor movement?
The Cure Worse than the Disease: Expelling Freeloaders in an Open-Shop State
By Chris Brooks
Why members-only unionism is no solution as “right-to-work” becomes the law of the land.
Labor Movement vs SCOTUS: The Bleak Future of Labor Law
By Sochie Nnaemeka
If the law fails what then?
America the Decrepit: The Trump Plan Won’t Fix the Infrastructure Deficit
By John Miller
Public-private schemes are full of potholes.
Labor’s Fight for Trade Justice in the Trump Era
By Adam Weissman
Trump’s shifting and contradictory statements on trade keep the labor movement guessing.
Italian Neoliberalism and the Decline of the Labor Movement
By Ugo Marani
The north-south divide has crippled the Italian economy and the Italian labor movement.
The Ecstasy and Exploitation of Art Handling
By Clynton Lowry with Kressent Pottenger
Earth to Labor: Dispatches from the Climate Battleground
When Stopping Coal Plant Closures Makes Environmental Sense
By Sean Sweeney
Roots of Rebellion: A Guide to Insurgencies from Coast to Coast
Keeping Public Lands Public: How Oregon’s Rural Communities Rescued the Malheur Wildlife Refuge
By Mariya Strauss
Organized Money: What Is Corporate America Thinking?
Bridges to Nowhere
By Max Fraser
Books and the Arts
Free Markets, Unfree Labor
Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk about It)
By Elizabeth Anderson
Reviewed by Ahmed White
Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent
By Brooke Harington
Reviewed by Megan Tobias Neely
Dissent and Solidarity in the Global Economy
Southern Insurgency: The Coming of the Global Working Class
By Immanuel Ness
Building Global Labor Solidarity in a Time of Accelerating Globalization
Edited by Kim Scipes
Reviewed by Nausheen Quayyum
By Solmaz Sharif
In the chilling 1959 cold war apocalyptic film, On the Beach, the entire northern hemisphere has succumbed to radiation sickness after a nuclear war. A few pockets of humanity remain in the southern hemisphere but, the characters in the film discover, their demise is inevitable as wind currents slowly move the nuclear fall- out toward them. Life goes on as usual, albeit at a more frenzied and desperate pace, as people await their doom while the radioactive cloud creeps toward them, silencing other outposts as it moves.
At the risk of being overly dramatic, it could be said that today’s AFL-CIO is “on the beach” and awaiting its own demise while attempting to carry on as if it still had a future. Formed in 1955 with a merger meant to end two decades of bitter infighting, the AFL-CIO’s primary purpose was to consolidate and administer the post-war collective bargaining regime. There was a reason why its new headquarters building overlooked the White House. The premise of that regime was that labor was a limited partner with capital in a relationship mediated by the federal government.
This arrangement made workers and their unions particularly vulnerable to the rise of neoliberal globalization. Moreover, a labor movement whose mission focused on collective bargaining with individual employers, and with many of the fundamental functions of working- class solidarity outlawed or constrained, left little scope for a national labor organization to mobilize and lead an organized working class in campaigns against capital.
Instead, we got a federation whose primary internal function was not to unite but to mediate between autonomous unions and whose exter- nal function was to intervene in a regulatory state and serve as a junior partner in a multi- class political party. (Until the end of the Cold War, the U.S. labor movement also performed the additional function of serving U.S. foreign policy interests.)
Today, labor’s influence has been reduced to a few diminishing private-sector outposts. Capital has long moved on, embracing a neoliberal world order with no place for unions or any restraints on its mobility or autonomy. The strange fruits of the November 2016 presidential election make a Friedrichs’-style open-shop public sector all but inevitable. The current Congress and Trump administration may well enact a national right-to-work regulation and do whatever else they can to undermine the right to organize and bargain.
The AFL-CIO has been grappling with this existential crisis since 1995 when, in the only contested election in the history of the AFL- CIO, the New Voices slate was elected with the promise to stop doing business as usual and implement an organizing-intensive program to revitalize the labor movement. The proximate cause of all of this ferment and change was the realization that the Democratic Party had also been captured by neoliberalism. This was driven home by the Clinton administration’s indifference to labor law reform, deference to the medical industrial complex, attacks on federal workers and abandonment of the New Deal/Great Society principles of a social safety net and its embrace of punitive models of social regulation.
Unfortunately, the New Voices leadership never addressed the need to break out of its entrapment within the neoliberal Democratic Party. They actively discouraged the significant union-sponsored effort to build an independent Labor Party that emerged in the late 1990s.
Instead, they doubled down, giving more and more money and organizing resources to Democratic candidates and getting less and less in return. Each election was “the most important fight of our lifetime.” Each victory gave us nothing. Each defeat had disastrous consequences.
This political accommodationism meant that there would be no real improvements in the laws regulating workers’ rights to organize and bargain nor restrictions on plant closures and offshoring. The unrelenting decline in private- sector union density continued, creating a hollowed-out labor movement in all but a few northeastern and west coast states. Union density in Wisconsin in 2011 (the year of the pas- sage of the state’s anti-union public-sector legislation) was less than the union density in Mississippi in 1964. First in Indiana and Wisconsin and then throughout much of the old industrial heartland, anti-union state governments began to aggressively dismantle public- and private-sector organizing and bargaining rights.
In 2005, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) led five national unions out of the AFL-CIO and launched the Change to Win Federation with a promise to shift resources from politics to organizing. Despite its sound and fury, Change to Win failed to reverse the forces leading to the broad decline of the institutional labor movement. They tripled down on accepting the two parties of neoliberalism as the eternal and unchanging reality of American politics and adopted an instrumental politics that would make an old school building trades local proud: we offer this support in exchange for an agreement to unionize these workers under these terms.
Live by the sword, die by the sword. As union density and political clout diminish, a new cadre of anti-union politicians has abrogated these “organizing” agreements as quickly and as easily as they were established by their predecessors. Today, Change to Win mostly exists on paper while the SEIU spends more on political candidates than does the AFL-CIO.
The logical conclusion of the SEIU’s organizing strategy has been described by “new labor” superstar David Rolf, president of Seattle-based SEIU Local 775, as the “nurse log metaphor” (a nurse log is a fallen tree in the forest that provides nourishment for other plants). Under this scenario, the institutional labor movement’s primary function is to trans- fer resources from organized, dues-paying members to new initiatives like the Fight for $15 campaigns that can rapidly improve conditions for broad sections of the working class without the hassle and difficulty of building a permanent workplace organization. The problem with this, of course, is that it fails to leave behind the type of organic working-class insti- tutions that can nurture leadership and a sense of collective power. At best, the end result is hollowed-out structures like those unions created by administrative fiat to “represent” home health care and family daycare workers.
One alternative to this approach is what journalist Rich Yeselson has called “fortress unionism”6: Defend the remaining bastions of high-density unionism, strengthen existing union locals, build coalitions with other social movements, and then, “Wait for workers to say they’ve had enough.” This is not unlike the characters in On the Beach who wanted to believe that the radioactive clouds would dissipate before they got to them. Defending collective bargaining where it is still viable is a necessary but not sufficient response to the crisis. “Fortress unionism” as a strategy would merely replicate on a much smaller scale the post-war labor movement’s acquiescence to a non-union South after the defeat of Operation Dixie in 1946-1947.
This is the paradox of the American labor movement trapped in a dying collective bar- gaining regime. On the one hand, its very existence is an affront to the neoliberal consensus that views any effort to intervene in the market as parasitic rent-seeking. Its very survival requires that it mobilize workers to confront massive political and economic power, and the threat of that mobilization is what focuses the organized power of capital against it. On the other hand, on a day-to-day basis, the labor movement must deal with the quotidian concerns of its dues-paying members. This is the world of compromise and contract enforcement, of shift schedules and work boot reimbursements, and of defending the guilty so the innocent will not be harassed. They used to call this stuff industrial democracy but now it just befuddles and bores those staffers and “leaders” who never worked in a union shop or experienced what it is like to be a shop steward coming into work in the morning and seeing ten coworkers waiting by the time clock.
The growth of alt-labor worker centers and similar organizations offers some hope as groups such as the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance evolve from foundation-funded “set- tlement house-style” centers that treat workers as clients to membership-driven organizations intent on building worker power. They may very well develop new models that embed worker organizations into workplaces without relying on the legal entailments and formalities
of the collective bargaining regime. But most workers are not willing to sign up for a lifetime of guerrilla warfare. They want security, respect, and enforceable rights and conditions. It certainly makes for great visuals when fifty immigrant construction workers take the day off and picket the boss’ house when they are robbed of their overtime pay, but, I can assure you, most would rather pay union dues so that they could file a grievance under an enforceable labor contract.
What does all this portend for the future of the AFL-CIO? The Federation is being riven by barely acknowledged ideological debates. The dispute over the Keystone and Dakota Access pipeline construction projects exposed the fault lines between those who saw labor’s future as linked to a partnership with capital in an expansionist and extractive economy model and those who saw the potential in a labor movement aligned with the advocates for a planned and regulated green economy. The 2016 Democratic primaries also heightened the contradictions between those who have accepted the neoliberal world order as inevitable versus those who want to build a new social democratic alternative to neoliberalism, and the Trump administration will certainly intensify these differences. So far, the AFL-CIO has not proven to be a good forum in which to hold these debates. It has taken a hands-off approach and tried to sweep the contradictions under the table. But these contradictions persist nonetheless. They show up in debates over who to support for DNC chair and in the growth of informal caucuses of the left, right, and center. The decline of the collective bargaining regime and the growth of these tendencies based on very different visions of the role of labor in the age of Trump can only accelerate the demise of a Federation model that was crafted in different times for different purposes.
In addition to the ideological pressures, the AFL-CIO is facing a huge financial crunch that will be made worse as the large public-sector unions reduce expenses in anticipation of the loss of agency fee revenue under a new Friedrichs decision. The Federation may soon no longer be able to afford its penthouse terrace overlooking the White House.
But there is something to be said for labor unity, especially in a time of crisis. Many of the central labor councils and state labor federa- tions play a vital role in bringing together the best and the brightest, supporting workers in struggle and engaging in ground-level political mobilization. Compared with the one-party states that characterize most unions, even many of the progressive ones, these structures allow leaders and activists to escape from their silos and engage with a broad range of working-class concerns. If there is to be a real debate about labor’s future, it has to be within structures like these.
If nothing else, this would ensure that the debate would take place within organic structures of leaders connected and accountable to real constituencies and capable of committing organizational resources to a common program. One of the temptations afflicting many in the nominal left is to substitute their own prescriptions for the kind of programmatic unity that can only emerge from such a process. There is no shortage of ideas, many of them quite good, about what the labor movement ought to be doing next. What is needed is not more good ideas but a unified left pole that can give life to a common plan for a revitalized labor movement. This can only happen if key national and local labor organizations are at the table from the beginning of the discussion and feel like they own the outcomes.
There will probably be an AFL-CIO until the radioactive clouds envelop the last outposts of unionism. But time is running short for those who would like to see the AFL-CIO as a catalyst for a revitalized labor movement. To move forward, the Federation must embrace the “spirit of 1995” and acknowledge that we are in deep crisis and need an open and wide-ranging debate about solutions. This must involve a recognition that a revitalized labor movement needs a new vision of politics and a commitment to shift resources toward transformational programs such as single-payer health care, green infrastructure development, and expanding the public sector to support collective bar- gaining goals while building new relationships with social movements and working-class constituencies. There are certainly leaders, staffers, and activists at all levels of the labor movement who recognize the urgency for change. As we deal with the fallout from the disastrous elections and prepare for the AFL-CIO’s upcoming quadrennial convention, this a good time to begin.
One more thing about On the Beach. At the very end, the camera scans the deserted streets of Melbourne, Australia and settles on a Salvation Army poster. “There is still time,” it says. . . .
1. See Mark Dudzic and Katherine Isaac, “Labor Party Time? Not Yet,” 2012, available at http://thelaborparty.org/d_lp_time.htm.
2. Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/02/23/385843576/50-years-of-shrinkingunion-membership-in-one-map.
3. Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/big-laborunions-step-up-presidential-election-spending-1476783002.
4. Harold Meyerson, “The Seeds of a New LaborMovement,” American Prospect, October 30,2014, available at http://prospect.org/article/labor-crossroads-seeds-new-movement.
5. For further discussion of this tension, see Jane McAlevey, “Labor Wars: Put Workers Back at the Center of Organizing,” New Labor Forum 25, no. 3 (2016): 87-89.
6. Rich Yeselson, “Fortress Unionism,” Democracy,Summer, 2013, available at http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/29/fortress-unionism/.Response to Mark Dudzic’s”The AFL-CIO ‘On the Beach'”
Mark Dudzic is a long-time union activist and former national organizer of the Labor Party. He currently serves as national coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare.
Response to Mark Dudzic’s “The AFL-CIO ‘On the Beach'”
Julie Kushner with Kitty Weiss Krupat
There are progressive trade unionists (from the AFL-CIO down to the shop floor) who are engaged in debate about the future of the labor movement—a movement that is struggling to regain its power to defend the rights of workers against the overwhelming force of capital and corporate dominance. For over forty years, I have been part of those debates, as has Mark Dudzic. I began reading his article, “The AFL-CIO ‘On the Beach’” but almost stopped dead after his opening gambit, an apocalyptic vision from the film On the Beach as a metaphor for the AFL-CIO— all washed up and “awaiting its own demise . . .” But I read on and found myself in agreement with Dudzic on several points. That said, I think, in the main, his conclusions are unbalanced or unfair, dismissing too freely the complexities and contradictions inherent in any organization structured as a federation with voluntary membership.
His narrative begins in 1955, with another metaphor of sorts—the establishment of the AFL- CIO in a building overlooking the White House. What emerges is a picture of the AFL-CIO as a disembodied structure—an imposing marble building with a professional staff and a “marriage” of convenience with the Democratic Party. Largely absent from this picture are unions and the workers they represent. From this limited perspective, Dudzic places the burden of survival on the AFL-CIO, without fully considering the role of its affiliates or examining the policies, prac- tices, and actual campaigns carried out by individual unions and their members. I believe this is a common weakness in labor analysis.
Rightly, Dudzic warns against the danger of divisions within the AFL-CIO on ideological or political grounds, but he overlooks the impor- tant role the Federation plays in bringing unions together to support one another’s organizing or collective bargaining campaigns. He does not mention the enormous resources provided by the Federation, including statewide Leadership Institutes that bring union leaders together across jurisdictional lines to debate critical labor issues. He urges labor activists to “escape from their silos and engage with a broad range of working-class concerns” without reference to Working America, a community affiliate of the Federation that gives non-union workers opportunities to organize around such issues as health care, education, and housing.
We have to wait until the final paragraphs of “On the Beach” to learn something about the important work going on at state federations and central labor councils. Dudzic leaves the impres- sion that these labor bodies are somehow separate from the AFL-CIO. In fact, they are directly char- tered by the AFL-CIO, and many are financed by the Federation in the form of “Solidarity Grants.” These grants help to support the development of labor–community alliances around the country that have resulted in such campaigns as the Fight for $15. In his discussion of alt-labor groups, he points to the Taxi Workers Alliance as a prime example, failing to note that the Alliance is a char- tered member of the AFL-CIO, the first “non-tra- ditional” union of independent contractors in the Federation.
I share Dudzic’s desire for labor unity around a progressive social and political agenda, and I think his critique of the alliance between labor and government is a cogent one. But I also think it is unrealistic to suggest that we ignore the main- stream political arena. Dudzic carefully explains how the alliance has led labor into the neoliberal establishment, but he sidesteps the issue that immediate and constant pressure to save members’ jobs has often driven individual unions into the conservative camp on particular issues such as the environment or trade. I wish Dudzic had spent more time contemplating long-term solutions to that problem, rather than condemning unions for their failures to unite around a left political agenda. I also wish he had noted unions, such as the Utility Workers, who are committed to job creation through Blue-Green alliances and investments in infrastructure development as well as in education and training to help workers transition from old jobs to new ones. Dudzic’s failure to recognize the significant accomplishments of labor through the Working Families Party is also a serious omission.
I do not want to whitewash the weaknesses in labor’s political work. We have failed to convince union members to vote in their own interests, and that is a bottom line. Nevertheless, political action is a necessary part of our work, which can result in important benefits for workers. The 2016 Verizon strike is a good example. Because of its relation- ship to the Democratic Party, labor was able to call upon then Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to facilitate a settlement that added 1,300 new jobs and created the first contracts at several Verizon stores—all without concessions on job security and flexibility. The appointment of a pro-labor National Labor Relations Board during the Obama administration allowed university workers to regain rights to organize they had lost in the Bush era.
Dudzic suggests that low union density in Wisconsin and Indiana was the enabling factor in allowing state governments to dismantle organiz- ing and bargaining rights in the public sector. I do not think density can be isolated as the factor in that or any other labor struggle. We have to give the Koch brothers some credit. The AFL-CIO and its affiliates poured money and resources into the Wisconsin fight. Unions from around the country came together in the greatest show of labor soli- darity in recent memory. But the combined power of the national labor movement was no match for the power of accumulated capital in the hands of the Koch brothers.
Ultimately—and I am sure Mark Dudzic would agree—we need to encourage and stand with those of our members who are ready to persist and resist. More challenging and more difficult, we need to develop effective ways to engage with, and change the minds of, those members who allow race, gender, homophobia, and fear of difference to divide us. I certainly agree with him that wide-ranging debate is a necessary first step in that direction.
Julie Kushner is the director of UAW-9A, a region that encompasses New England, parts of New York, and Puerto Rico. In this capacity, she is a member of the International UAW Executive Board.
Kitty Weiss Krupat, a union organizer and labor educator, recently retired as an associate director of the Murphy Institute. Her publications include Out at Work: Building a Gay-Labor Alliance, co-authored with Patrick McCreery.
Mark Dudzic Respondes
Julie Kushner rightfully stresses the many impor- tant things that individual unions are doing to “defend the rights of workers against the over- whelming force of capital.” However, the intent of my essay was to focus on the prospects for the future of the AFL-CIO in light of the continuing decline of the collective bargaining regime and the growing differences among the national unions that make up the federation (her reference to the Utility Workers’ excellent work in promot- ing a Blue-Green Alliance in contrast to more conservative approaches taken by other unions exposes one of those fault lines).
Kushner agrees that the AFL-CIO has diffi- culty functioning as a unified working-class voice because of its federation structure, mak- ing it ill-suited to lead at a time when the con- tradictions with capital have intensified. This structure holds the AFL-CIO hostage to the effective veto of any action by any one of its affiliates. These limitations have convinced union leaders like Larry Cohen, former presi- dent of the Communications Workers of America, that “Too often a particular union’s stance may reflect a private employer’s growth plans, not the general good for working people” and that we should “. . . not necessarily focus on [labor] unity about political strategy.”1
Recent layoffs and reductions in programs at the AFL-CIO are indicative of the precarious- ness of its financial situation and are probably just the beginning of a painful process of finan- cial retrenchment. This situation creates its own death spiral. Will the affiliates continue to prop up the AFL-CIO as it sheds programs and services and is increasingly unable to rise to the challenge of opposing a sustained and concerted attack on the foundational rights to organize and bargain?
Moreover, the Federation has been unable to resolve the tension that Kushner identifies between transactional and transformative politics. The relentless drive toward the lowest common denominator means that the long-term interests of the working class—precisely what a national labor organization should, in theory, be consti- tuted to promote—are often sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. At a time when right-wing populism poses an existential threat to the principles and values of an independent labor movement, these compromises can prove disastrous.
I agree with Kushner that perhaps the most important raison d’être of the AFL-CIO is the nur-turing of solidarity, discussion, and labor unity at the local and regional level. Like Kushner, I am not ready to give up on the promise of a unified and activist national labor movement and believe that the institutional labor movement continues to be the source of the resources, organizing capacity, and constituency without which any progressive change is inconceivable.
But time is truly running short. And we are not well served by any perspective that seeks to minimize the extent of the crisis or paper over the internal differences. We must begin by rigorous self-examination and debate led by leaders and activists who actually have a stake in the outcome. In the end, a newly revitalized labor movement in the United States may look very different than today’s AFL-CIO.
1. David Moberg, “This Is What Progressives—Especially Labor—Can Learn from Bernie Sanders’ Campaign,” In These Times, July 27,2016, available at http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/19330/this_is_what_progressives_especially_labor_can_learn_from_bernie_sanderss_c.
Volume 26 Issue 2, Spring 2017
From the Editorial Team
Under the Radar
By Sarah Jaffe
Unreported and under-reported news and views that matter.
On the Contrary
The AFL-CIO “On the Beach”
By Mark Dudzic
Response to Mark Dudzic’s “The AFL-CIO ‘On the Beach’”
By Julie Kushner (and Kitty Weiss Krupat)
Mark Dudzic Replies
Over the Rainbow: The Uncertain Future of U.S. Politics
The World Turned Upside Down: ‘Our Revolution’, Trump Triumphant, and the Remaking of the Democratic Party
By Micah Uetricht
What is the role of ‘Our Revolution’ in the struggle against Trump?
White Working-Class Voters and the Future of Progressive Politics
By Michael Zweig
What should progressives make of the fact that large sections of the white working-class voted for Trump?
A Listening Tour with Labor’s Trump Voters: Post-Election Union Strategy
By Gordon Lafer
Why did organized labor’s sway over union voters decline and what must be done?
Measuring the Rainbow: A Response to Richard Alba’s The Likely Persistence of a White Majority
By G. Cristina Mora and Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz
Why Richard Alba’s expansive definition of whiteness seems inaccurate and counterproductive.
How Census Data Mislead Us about Ethno-Racial Change in the U.S.: A Response to G. Cristina Mora and Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz
By Richard Alba
What’s wrong with the majority-minority Census Bureau projection and why it’s so important to get it right.
Recognize, Reduce, Redistribute Unpaid Care Work: How to Close the Gender Gap
By Diane Elson
Why the gender gap stopped closing and what to do about it.
IT is Watching: Workplace Surveillance and Worker Resistance
By Dan Clawson and Mary Ann Clawson
How electronic spies permeate and intimidate the workplace.
The Ebbing Pink Tide: An Autopsy of Left-Wing Regimes in Latin America
By René Rojas
Did right-wing assaults or internal weaknesses doom the Latin American revolutions?
Disabled Workers and the Unattainable Promise of Information Technology
By Andrew Ross and Sunaura Taylor
What explains increased unemployment and poverty among the disabled in the information age?
A Home Care Worker Battles Cancer and Helps Pass Overtime Protection
By Emma Yang with Kressent Pottenger
Earth to Labor: Dispatches from the Climate Battleground
Why Clinton’s Embrace of the U.S. as an Energy Superpower Should Matter to Those Seeking to Reform the Democratic Party
By Sean Sweeney
Roots of Rebellion: A Guide to Insurgencies from Coast to Coast
Building a Multiracial Working-Class Movement Through Civics Unionism and Potluck Dinners
By Mariya Strauss
Organized Money: What Is Corporate America Thinking?
Billable Hours Up, Labor Law Down
By Max Fraser
Books and the Arts
Life After the Great Industrial Extinction
Remaking the Rust Belt: The Postindustrial Transformation of North America
By Tracy Neumann
From Steel to Slots: Casino Capitalism in the Postindustrial City
By Chloe Taft
Reviewed by Lily Geismer
The Winner-Take-All Economy
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization
By Richard Baldwin
The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War
By Robert J. Gordon
Reviewed by Andrew Elrod
In Our Hands Is Placed the Power
The Fight for $15: The Right Wage for a Working America
By David Rolf
No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power
By Jane F. McAlevey
Reviewed by Samir Sonti
Out of the Mainstream: Books and Films You May Have Missed
By Matt Witt
The Border: A Double Sonnet
By Alberto Ríos
Ah summer! Time for conferencing, submitting and gathering for organizers, activists, and left-leaning academics. New Labor Forum has done the hard work of curating some of the more important upcoming events on our radar that we think you’ll be interested in. We’re not ranking by order of importance, and would love to see the events we missed that you think ought to be mentioned.
Here’s a roundup of recent union statements regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The AFL-CIO proclaims “Dakota Access Pipeline Provides High-Quality Jobs” and offers its full support of pipeline construction as it is “ part of a comprehensive energy policy that creates jobs, makes the United States more competitive and addresses the threat of climate change. Pipelines are less costly, more reliable and less energy intensive than other forms of transporting fuels, and pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers.”
AFL-CIO acknowledged the concern of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the following terms. Exerpt:
“We believe that community involvement in decisions about constructing and locating pipelines is important and necessary, particularly in sensitive situations like those involving places of significance to Native Americans. However, once these processes have been completed, it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay. The Dakota Access Pipeline is providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs.”
Read the full AFL-CIO statement here.
LIUNA also released a statement of support for the pipeline construction project and included some angry words at other unions who have chosen to release statements of solidarity with the protestors.
Delegates unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attacks on the livelihoods of LIUNA members working on the Dakota Access Pipeline by the Communication Workers of America (CWA), National Nurses United (NNU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), and American Postal Workers Union (APWU) who have come out publicly against the pipeline. The resolution stated in this exerpt,
“These four unions have no equity in this pipeline, it will not put a single one of their members to work yet they choose to take food off of our members’ tables. A central tenet of the labor movement has always been that when it comes to a project in which you have no equity at stake, you either support it or remain silent. We look forward to reciprocating the “solidarity” shown to LIUNA members by these unions.”
Read the full LIUNA statement here.
No DAPL Statements
The Service Employees International Union issued the following statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from disturbing their sacred lands and burial grounds and to avoid the threat of contaminating the Missouri River which provides the Tribes’ drinking water. Exerpt:
“Historical disregard for low income communities and communities of color, including those where many SEIU members live and work, has subjected them to toxic air pollution and contaminated waterways for decades. In these communities, asthma and other respiratory ailments caused by toxic air and poisonous toxins such as lead in the water supply, affect our children’s health and ability to thrive. As the nation’s largest healthcare union, we stand with the growing movement of environmental organizations, businesses, students, parents and others demanding cleaner air and water and to address the growing threat of climate change for the health and safety of our families and communities. As a union of service employees deeply committed to making sure all work is valued and respected, we know that workers employed by the fossil fuel industry are caught in the middle. SEIU members recognize the importance of these jobs for these workers and their families and we demand that our government protect all workers whose lives and livelihoods are impacted by a shift away from fossil fuels. Our government must make the needed investments into building a new clean economy, including a just transition of workers from the fossil fuel workforce, by investing in clean energy and rebuilding and repairing much of our nations aging infrastructure, including existing pipelines which are in great need of repair. We will fight for an economy and democracy in which working families can live and work in a clean environment with good jobs for all.”
Read the full SEIU statement here.
National Nurses United has released a statement in support of the federal government’s construction halt and called for a permanent end to the project. Exerpt:
“We commend the leaders and members of the Standing Rock Sioux, the many First Nation allies who have joined them, and the environmentalists and other supporters who have participated in the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline. The decision of the Departments of Justice, Army and Interior is a direct result of the efforts of the pipeline opponents who have taken this courageous stand on behalf of all of us,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.
Read the full NNU statement here.
And the CWA Committee on Human Rights also released a statement of support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Exerpt:
“CWA, through our Committee on Human Rights, stands with working people and against corporate greed, whether we’re fighting for clean water in Flint, Mich., against bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would hurt U.S. jobs and communities, or the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to safeguard their community.
The labor movement is rooted in the simple and powerful idea of solidarity with all struggles for dignity, justice and respect. CWA will continue to fight against the interests of the 1% and corporate greed and firmly stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the environmental and cultural degradation of their community.”
Read the full CWA statement here.
It also should be noted that the AFL-CIO constituency group, the Labor Coalition for Community Action, has released a statement in support of #NoDAPL. Exerpt:
“We remain committed to fighting the corporate interests that back this project and name this pipeline “a pipeline of corporate greed.” We challenge the labor movement to strategize on how to better engage and include Native people and other marginalized populations into the labor movement as a whole. Lastly, we applaud the many labor unions working to create a new economy with good green jobs and more sustainable employment opportunities for all. We also encourage key stakeholders — labor unions including the building trades, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others who would be impacted — to come together to discuss a collective resolution.”
The Labor Coalition for Community Action includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work. You can read the full LCCA statement here.