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December 02, 2002


For anyone who cares about the labor movement -- and that should mean anyone who cares about the broader progressive movement-- this Labor Notes article is required reading. Written by SEIU's Director of their Justice for Janitors organizing campaign, it has the numbers, the history and the challenge facing unions across the country.

Read it.

Posted by Nathan at December 2, 2002 07:02 PM

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This is an important article. Thanks for the link -- I've forwarded it widely.

It makes for depressing reading tho, when I think of my own experience working for the AFL-CIO. Not, as you might think, because "The Building" is so resistant to these kinds of ideas. The opposite: virtually everything he describes is (was?) being actively pursued ... with not much to show for it.

A friend worked for a while on a joint UAW-USWA-IAM organizing project in Wisconsin, supposed to be a dry run for the big merger. *All* the locals there cared about was competititon with each other. if the Machinists were assigned a shop with 100 workers, both the others better get one just as big, or they were out of there.

Posted by: JW Mason at December 4, 2002 11:41 AM

Which is why the article says unions have to consolidate and stop trying to be little locals and little unions trying to collaborate fitfully. The issue is merger and consolidation on sectoral lines, just as it was merger along industrial lines back in the 1930s.

SEIU has been splitting up locals by jurisdiction, then consolidating them into regional and even statewide locals with real heft. HERE is beginning to force their locals into national groups, even looking towards national bargaining with hotels for the first time in a generation.

Other unions like the metal trades are barely organizing, so until they drop real money on large-scale strategies, it doesn't matter much what they do as far as real mergers or fucking around.

The issue is not the will to do stuff- which is admittedly important, but when the union movement starts dropping billions, rather than millions, of dollars per year on organizing. It's grow or die time.

Some unions recognize this and the Darwinian reality is that those that don't will lose membership and votes, so power in the union movement will inevitably shift to the organizing unions.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at December 4, 2002 01:01 PM

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