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Friday, August 26, 2005

Labor Pains

What happens when House Niggas fight Field Niggas? Massa wins. Somebody needs to explain that basic concept to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers who are taking a broomstick to the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (who apparently started the fight in 1998). Has nobody in Labor ever heard the Willie Lynch story? Divide and conquor. There's a reason why the motto of Labor is SOLIDARITY! Can there be any wonder why nobody takes Labor seriously any more? When you have unions overtly putting the screws to other unions? Unions collaborating with the corporation in order to screw over another union? And not a peep from the AFL-CIO?

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times - Andy Stern was right to leave the AFL-CIO and any union that wants to survive the next decade better join him. But why should Black folks care about any of this? Well, the numbers don't lie (the AFL-CIO is good for something, albeit somewhat dated):
Union Membership rises among women -- especially African-American women
Despite the overall decline in union membership, the number of women who belong to unions grew by more than 150,000 last year. Women now account for 41 percent of union ranks, up from 37 percent as recently as 1990. The big story last year was the extent to which membership gains among women were concentrated among African-American women. Of the total 150,000 increase in women union members, a full 92,000 – 61 percent – were African-American women. African-American women were the only major demographic group to show an increase in union density last year, rising to 15.4 percent from 14.4 percent in 1999.

African-American men remain the most heavily-unionized population group, although union density for this group declined from 20.5 percent in 1999 to 19.1 percent in 2000.
And those afore-mentioned numbers:

U.S. Union Membership




1999
2000



Number
(000's)
Density
(%)
Number
(000's)
Change
(000's)
Density
(%)
Total:

16,477
13.9
16,258
- 219
13.5
By Sex:






Male

9,949
16.1
9,578
- 371
15.2
Female

6,528
11.4
6,680
+ 152
11.5

By Racial/Ethnic Group & Sex:








White



13,349
13.5
13,094
- 255
13.0
Men

8,246
15.7
7,911
- 335
14.9
Women

5,103
10.9
5,183
+ 80
10.9
African-American

2,463
17.2
2,489
+ 26
17.1
Men

1,348
20.5
1,282
- 66
19.1
Women

1,116
14.4
1,208
+ 92
15.4
Hispanic

1,525
11.9
1,554
+ 29
11.4
Men

966
13.0
972
+ 6
12.3
Women

559
10.4
582
+ 23
10.2

What's more, if you know your history, it was those good-paying union jobs that brought many of our ancestors up out of Mississippi, Alabama & Georgia to the unionized and industrialized North where they established a flourishing - if segregated and marginalized - Black Middle Class. There has been a one-to-one relationship between the well-being of Labor and the well-being of Black folks, and we ignore Labor at our own peril.

The truth of the matter is that we only have two real options - a successful Labor Movement or an economy where Wal*Mart is the prototype for corporation-employee relationships, a relationship that is known as Coprorate Serfdom. We are heading straight into Capitalistic Feudalism and the only way to avoid that end is the re-emergence of a vibrant Labor Movement - anyone who works for someone else in any capacity has a vital interest in seeing Labor succeed. Solidarity has to extend to everyone who earns a paycheck - carpenters and engineers and accountants and programmers and bankers and telemarketers and nurses and plumbers - we all need Labor to succeed, and right now the only hope that Labor has is for Andy Stern to take the fight to the multinational corporations and for everyone who earns a paycheck to get with him, beginning with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers...

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 8:00 AM

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The way it's discussed in politics, "labor" does leave out a lot of job categories.

What if the labor movement was to address the insecurities of a larger segment of the employed?

Why do we presume that you must be "unionized" to participate in the labor movement?

Posted by Blogger Quintus Jett @ Friday, August 26, 2005 10:12:00 AM #
 

Unionization is simply workers bonding together so that corporations have to deal with the labor pool as a whole instead of dealing with each worker individually. Individually, none of us has the power to withstand the will of any corporation, but united we can - at a bare minimum - negotiate from a more strengthened position. Naturally, whenever the demand for jobs greatly exceeds the supply of jobs Solidarity will be hard to maintain, but the notion of divide and conquer applies most of all to the labor pool and it is in the best interests of all laborers to resist corporate attempts to keep us divided, isolated from each other in our financial dealings with our corporate master. Laborers - anyone who earns a paycheck instead of earning dividends - need to either unite or accept our role in society as serfs. As for me, I'm with Patrick Henry: Give me liberty or give me death!

Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Friday, August 26, 2005 10:34:00 AM #
 

I guess I'm saying that the notion of "union membership" might be too limiting.

I think they could do more by enlisting the participation of others in the employement worlds who aren't "members."

I don't mean activists. I mean all those employees out there who don't work in union settings and who are motivated to help for their own self-interest, but wouldn't stand to be dictated to by a distant union boss.

I think people would participate in a movement to improve work benefits and environments, but they don't want to "unionized." What unions haven't addressed is how they have become as corporatized as the interests they are fighting. That's my view from the outside, anyway.

The labor needs another defining strategy, something that doesn't involve collective bargaining and becoming "unionized."

Posted by Blogger Quintus Jett @ Friday, August 26, 2005 11:34:00 AM #
 

Without collective bargaining there is no Labor Movement. When corporations have the unabridged right to hire and fire whomever whenever they like (subject to EEOC & Whistleblower protections) then employees have absolutely no say in the labor market. Corporations can easily dry up the labor market and then dictate prices (wages, benefits & conditions). Without collective bargaining we're left with Zellephant's spit wads against the corporate tanks.

And it is also true that power corrupts - or more accurately, power allows the content of one's character to manifest itself in many ways, and we are all corrupt to some extent. Power lets us demonstrate just how corrupt we are. This is true in the corporate world and it is true in the Labor world a well - and pretty much any other world you can think of. Even so, if we throw out the baby with the bathwater then we might as well start singing those old workin' on da fahm songs, because our corporate masters will be dictating terms of our financial well-being - we'll be totally dependent upon them for the financial security of our families.

Financial Independence. There is no other option, and to get from here to there we need Labor to check the MNCs, and check them hard.

Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Friday, August 26, 2005 12:33:00 PM #
 

I think my point has been missed, but I won't belabor it (no pun attended) after this last post.

If collective bargaining (which requires formal membership in an union organization) is the only major defining characteristic of labor, I think it is doomed.

Even powerful corporations must respond occasionally to a changing world, if not new competitors, which force them to try new things or re-invent themselves in radical ways in order to survive.

If this incarnation of the labor movement is incapable of that (which I don't believe), better to sit back. Because if they don't innovate, they will die. I don't think increasing irrelevance to today's employee or an inability to develop new ways should be a source of pride for the unions.

All of us who work for a living deserve bettter.

Posted by Blogger Quintus Jett @ Friday, August 26, 2005 1:09:00 PM #
 

It's a matter of leverage. Corporations do only that which benefits the bottom line (and the upper eschelon of management). Employees are merely human resources to be acquired or disposed of in order to serve that purpose. As such, employees have precious little say about the nature of the environment in which they work or the security of their financial well-being. Without organizing employees will never be able to affect the decisions that are made - decsisions that don't have their well-being as the primary objective. Corporations aren't interested in being "fair" to their employees, they're looking to maximize employee productivity - most work for the least cost.

The point is this: Labor can come up with some of the greatest possible ideas for making the lives of all workers better, but without a means to force corporations to adopt them then those ideas are nothing more than a clanging cymbal. I guess the counter question would be this: short of collective bargaining and becoming "unionized" how could Labor force corporations to do that which they feel to be contrary to the corporations' best interests, i.e. maximum profits for stockholders and obscene paychecks for upper management?

Posted by Blogger Athanasius @ Friday, August 26, 2005 2:48:00 PM #
 

I think I see where both of you are coming from.

I think Quintus is saying that there needs to be more options than trade in an old master (corporate boss) for a new one (union boss).

I think Oscar is saying united we stand divided we fall.

It doesn't have to be mutually exclusive.

A formalized "union" in traditional sense, or collective bargaining in the traditional sense may not be best option in every situation- but does that mean there can be no efforts to improve working conditions in those situations?

I'm sure there are plenty of office workers who would love to be able to band together for better working conditions, but that doesn't mean they necessarily have to be "unionized" in the traditional sense.

Who would want to give up their right to negotiate their own salary, benefits, etc.? It's like trading your freedom for security.

Wwhat if Milton from "Office Space" decided to organize instead of burning down the office? Yeeah, that would be greeeaaaaaat.

Posted by Blogger AAFD @ Friday, August 26, 2005 2:51:00 PM #
 
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