The popular uprisings in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia, and later Bahrain (where all-out force has been employed to put down the revolt with the assist of the medieval Saudi mafia), Yemen, Algeria, and even Syria, have shown that the people’s cause is ill-served by a lack of effective, well-coordinated leadership. At home, the complacent politics of American syndicalist leaders have often resulted in a type of “business unionism” (an apt term) that inevitably results in the short-changing of the working people’s interests and outright collaboration with the corporate power structure and its various political instruments, especially the treacherous Democratic Party. Below we offer a roundup of analysis and opinion on the topic, from diverse voices spanning the liberal-left / hard left spectrum.
Sellout Of Working Class In Wisconsin
By “Gary” | April 2nd, 2011 It seems to me that the American labor movement is trying to defend itself by turning to the legal system and depending on the Democratic Party. This seems to be the case in both Wisconsin and Ohio. The Democrats are a weak crutch to depend upon. The Democrats do not depend on labor for most of its funds. Labor provides foot soldiers to do the campaign leg work for the Democratic Party. Otherwise they are an insignificant factor in Democratic policy making and get short shrift in the long term political maneuverings of the Democrats. Don’t get me wrong, short shrift with the Democrats is better than getting shit on by the Republicans, but it is still no great bargain. Below we see the liberal Democratic approach taken by the Workers Independent News and The Nation and a more radical one taken by the World Socialists where class interests are highlighted with union bureaucrats coming out smelling like sellouts.
This has led some ultra leftist friends of mine to take an entirely anti-union position, seeing them as impediments to the workers struggle for self management and a social revolution. I take a position in between, I believe in the need for unions, but fighting unions without entrenched bureaucrats, more along the lines of the IWW, although I have problems with them also, mostly that they have become more of a social club than a union. But at least they have a structure that precludes the development of a gangster like hierarchy as the Teamsters famously developed in the days of Jimmy Hoffa.
However workers organize, it is key that they do not let themselves be sold out by leaderships more interested in feathering their own nests, or on the other hand exhaust themselves in lost causes. Most workers are smart enough to know the difference, even if many so called leaders, are not.
Right now it seems the fate of the State workers in Wisconsin has devolved into the hands of the lawyers and politicians again, heaven help them. No what they need is a mass movement ready to go out on strike and stay there until their demands are met. This takes some fortitude and planning and a lot of solidarity. It can be done, but the willingness has to be there, it seems we saw plenty of willingness over the last couple of months in Wisconsin, now all that is needed is a little leadership that isn’t going to sell out.
From Workers Independent News
Wisconsin Judge Re-Affirms That Collective Bargaining Law Is “Not In Effect”- 04/01/11
By Doug Cunningham
In Wisconsin a Dane County judge reaffirmed Thursday that her order against the bill gutting collective bargaining for public workers blocks implementation of the law. Republican Governor Scott Walker’s regime has defied the order by going ahead with implementation of the law. But Thursday state Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said implementation was suspended based on Judge Maryann Sumi’s order. Legal challenges to the anti-union bill by the mayor of Madison, the county executive of Dane County and by the firefighters and other unions have at least temporarily blocked the bill from becoming law.
Walker’s administration began to implement the law after it was published by the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau, which is required to publish laws when they pass the legislature. But even the head of that bureau says the law doesn’t actually go into effect until Wisconsin’s Secretary of State publishes the law. The judge has blocked that. Judge Sumi declared on Thursday that this bill gutting collective bargaining is “not in effect”.
From World Socialist Website
Behind the sellout of the struggle in Wisconsin
By Tom Eley | 25 March 2011
The executives who run Wisconsin’s public sector unions have responded to the passage of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-worker bill by rushing to put in place contracts that impose all of the bill’s demands for financial concessions on the state’s 375,000 teachers, nurses, city workers and other public employees.
The officials are doing so because contracts that begin before the law goes into effect are exempt from the requirement that public sector unions hold annual recertification elections and the elimination of automatic dues deduction from workers’ paychecks.
In other words, the union executives are moving swiftly to protect their own financial sustenance, while imposing draconian pay and benefit cuts inspired by the Walker bill. These include a sharp increase in worker contributions to insurance and retirement contributions, which amounts to a $4,000 cut in annual take home pay for the average public employee.
This reveals the fundamentally opposed interests of workers, on the one side, and the union apparatus and entire political establishment on the other.
A partial analysis of union financial filings with the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor demonstrates the class chasm separating workers-who earn an average $51,000 a year-from the union officials who purport to represent them.
In reviewing the figures one should keep in mind that the listed salaries are augmented by thousands, if not tens of thousands, more in expense accountants, perks, salaries of spouses and other family members also on the union payroll and compensation from other positions on union, corporate or government bodies.
* Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin Public Employees Union (WPEU), took home nearly $162,000 in 2008, the last year for which documents are available. At least five other WPEU executives made upwards of $100,000.
* The state American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees management boasts 19 members who made more than $100,000 in 2009, including chief executive Rick Badger, who made $133,000.
* Gerald McEntee, the national president of AFSCME pocketed almost $480,000 in 2009, according the Center for Public Integrity.
* Mary Bell’s Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) union distributed the most to its non-elected staff. Bell took home $173,466 in 2008, according to the WEAC’s IRS 990 form. She was second among union management. Chief Executive Dan Burkahlter was paid $242,807, four other executives were paid nearly $190,000, and another was given $165,112.
* WEAC’s parent organization, the National Education Association, has 31 headquarters officers and employees who earn more than $200,000 in pay and benefits. The president, Dennis Van Roekel, received $397,721 in salary and benefits.
* Rose Ann De Moro, the executive director of National Nurses United, who was brought to Wisconsin to promote “progressive” unionism-and who has been heavily promoted by the pseudo-left International Socialist Organization- makes $293,000 per year. Her family income totals $435,000 if you add the salary of her husband, Robert, a “researcher” for the same organization.
* AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made at least $283,340 last year; American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten made $620,000 from two jobs in the same union. There are literally thousands of union officials who make over $100,000 per year, and, as of 2008, almost 100 who took home more than $400,000.
These are the corporate managers of the unions whose businesses and personal finances are doing quite well even as their dues-paying “members” suffer devastating wage and pay cuts that will result in personal bankruptcies, broken families and home foreclosures.
This layer of the well-heeled upper middle class and wealthy individuals constitutes a major component of the Democratic Party, which is itself carrying out enormous cuts to the pay and benefits of public sector workers at the federal level under Obama and in states like Illinois, California, and New York.
The difference is that the Democrats rely on the unions to force the cuts on workers, while the Republicans would discard the unions altogether. The Democrats protect the unions’ financial interests-not those of the workers they nominally represent-and in turn the unions suppress working class opposition to austerity measures and funnel the Democrats millions in worker dues and “get out the vote” campaigns every two and four years.
To draw the point out more clearly, it is necessary to briefly review what took place in Wisconsin.
Walker’s reactionary piece of legislation had triggered, beginning in the last two weeks of February, one of the largest-scale struggles of the American working class in decades. Tens of thousands of teachers from across the state engaged in a “sick-out,” a de facto strike wave that shut down scores of schools. Dozens of high schools and colleges were hit by student walkouts. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Madison over the period, and growing numbers of workers were demanding a general strike.
Soon after the Senate’s passage of the bill on March 9 courtesy of legally dubious legislative maneuvering, the state’s union executives immediately demanded that workers stay on the job. Put your faith in the recall campaign against a handful of Republican senators, workers and youth were told. To justify calling off the struggle, they pointed to the Democratic senators who had slowed passage of the law by fleeing to Illinois-but who were about to capitulate prior to Walker’s maneuver, their own e-mails reveal.
Instead of calling forward the massive working class opposition that existed, the unions began a mad rush to impose all the financial concessions Walker was demanding-and more-before the law went into effect. This period has been extended by the temporary restraining order on the law put in place by a Dane County judge.
On March 12, the union “representing” Madison teachers imposed a two-year wage freeze and pension contribution increases equivalent to about a $3,200 pay cut this year alone for the average teacher, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. On March 15, Local 60 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) agreed to a deal with the city of Madison imposing $2.8 million in cuts on workers it nominally represents, including increases in pension contributions in line with Walker’s demands.
According to an Associated Press article, “Wisconsin unions rush deals ahead of bargaining law,” within two days of passage of the law as many as 100 unions concluded concessions deals with local school districts, negotiations having begun for most in late February when Walker first introduced his bill. “The vast majority of the [new contracts] include benefit concessions consistent with what Walker proposed under the new collective bargaining law,” said Bob Butler, an attorney for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Why have the unions rushed through the concessions demanded by the Walker bill after the bitter struggle in Madison, and even before the law goes into effect?
As the union executives made clear again and again, they agreed to all the financial demands being made of workers. “I remind you that weeks ago we accepted the financial concessions the governor asked for to help solve our state’s budget crisis,” Wisconsin Education Association Council head Mary Bell wrote in a March 14 article for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
What the union executives opposed was the bill’s attack on their financial sustenance in its abolition of the automatic dues-check off. But Walker’s law cannot override contracts already in place. Hence the rush to put in place new union contracts before the law goes into effect.
This underscores the fact that workers are not just pitted against Walker and the Republicans, but the unions and the Democrats.
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From The Nation
Wisconsin Senators Sell Out to Corporate Interests as DC Crowds Chant: `Recall!’
John Nichols | March 17, 2011
Wisconsin Republican state Senators, fresh from passing draconian anti-labor and privatization legislation, jetted into Washington, DC, Wednesday night to collect tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from the one constituency group that approves of what Governor Scott Walker and his GOP allies are doing: corporate lobbyists.
Outside the offices of the BGR Group—the “B” stands for Barbour, as in Mississippi Governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Haley—as many as 1,000 workers, students, union activists and allies filled the streets of downtown Washington. Many surged into the building where the senators met with lobbyists who paid as much a $5,000 to “host” the gathering to thank the Wisconsin Republicans.
The DC protesters chanted many of the same union slogans that have been heard at mass protests in Wisconsin. And they picked up a political slogan as well: “Recall!”
Across Wisconsin, citizens are gathering petition signatures to force recall elections that could remove as many as eight GOP senators who backed the governor’s anti-union bill. If just three seats (including Darling’s) flip to the Democrats, Fitzgerald will no longer be majority leader and Walker’s agenda will suddenly face serious legislative hurdles.
Mocking the Tea Party rhetoric about gunplay and “Second Amendment Solutions,” one protester in DC held a sign that read: “We Don’t Reload, We Recall!”
The fact that Fitzgerald has made the linkage between the Senate vote for Walker’s bill and his party’s corporate benefactors, was not lost of those who gathered outside the BGR offices.
Jonathan Backer, who came to Washington from Kenosha, Wisconsin, hailed the protests in DC, saying, “It’s such a good representation of what’s wrong with our democracy right now. There’s so much corporate power in our democracy where literally seconds after one of the worst anti-labor decisions that’s ever happened in the Midwest, you’ve got a big fundraiser going on here, right here in DC. What we’re doing here is all about trying to fight for unions so there is a way to combat this corporate power going on in democracy right now.”
Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold was more blunt:
“Today, Wednesday March 16th, Republican state senators from Wisconsin are in Washington, DC, attending a big fundraiser at the headquarters of a corporate lobbying firm. That’s less than one week after Republicans rammed through an anti-worker bill that polls showed was heavily opposed by Wisconsinites—but was heavily favored by corporate lobbyists,” said Feingold. “If your senator is Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Glenn Grothman of West Bend or Alberta Darling of River Hills, your senator is at the fundraiser. But no matter where you are in Wisconsin, your interests just got sold out to big corporate interests.
Workers Independent News
Is A Statewide Referendum Next Stage In Battle Over Ohio Collective Bargaining Rights?- 04/01/11 3/31/2011
Resistance – maybe even a statewide referendum – will continue in Ohio against a new law that strips away collective bargaining rights for public workers. Jesse Russell reports. The next step for SB5 in Ohio could be a citizen’s referendum that would block the implementation of the law. In the buckeye state if legislation is put on the ballot via a citizen’s referendum the law can not go into effect. Opponents of the legislation now have 90 days to collect more than 230,000 signatures in order to get the measure on the ballot for November 2011. The law strips collective bargaining rights from 350,000 public sector employees.
Speaking on the floor of the Ohio House Wednesday Representative Alicia Reece compared the fight over Senate Bill 5 to David vs. Goliath. [Reece1]: The nurses, the teachers, the janitors, the custodians…Little Davids…the police officers, the firefighters corrections officers, the bus drivers…Little Davids…the social workers, the sanitation workers… Reece closed her speech on the floor by saying the “Little Davids” would take the fight to the ballot box. [Reece2]: I will tell you that the Little Davids are in this fight `til the end. And there will be a time when we take this to the ballot that the government, Goliath, will be challenged.