This is somewhat laughable. The "experts" lecturing working people on labor solidarity. I cannot do a disservice to the rank and file of our movement and let this pass without comment for history's sake
By what measure is David Bacon a leader of the Labor Movement? David Bacon was a delegate to the same Central Labor Council as myself for years here in Alameda County and was a trusted and most loyal supporter of the labor leadership at the highest levels. I was one of the few elected rank and file delegates and not an employee of a Union. I was also one of those not looking to become an employee of a Union.
He was a delegate from the Molders Union at first and if my memory serves me correctly he then shifted to HERE. Maybe he was a molder or waitperson by trade but I doubt it. I am sure the rank and file of either Local had no input in to his delegate status as he was brought on from above. I used to meet with rank and file members in HERE getting their asses kicked by their leadership as Bacon ingratiated himself with them.
He was drawn to Ignacio De La Fuente, the Molders representative and at that time one of the more militant union officials here in the Bay Area. He was the darling of liberals like David Bacon for a while until his foray in to big business politics and an association with Oakland's mayor Jerry Brown. The leadership of the labor council bears a certain amount of responsibility for this as Ignacio initially came to the labor movement the first time he ran for office and instead they supported, as they always do, the Democrat. Ignacio learned from this and found a base elswhere, the business community.
Obviously we pick our battles and don't launch in to tirades against policy at every opportunity purely for the sake of it. If the labor bureaucracy takes a step forward we should support it. But in all that time I was a delegate I never once heard David Bacon have any public disagreement with the labor hierarchy whatsoever; he was indistinguishable from them in his views. He sat through betrayed strike after betrayed strike and said not one word. He was allowed to play a leading role in the Anti-Apartheid movement as long as he didn't raise that workers ourselves should take action by refusing to handle South African goods or criticize the labor leadership for failing to wage a fight for workers here at home. I am almost certain he was also present when I tried (eventually successfully) to get a young P9 worker from the Hormel strike to speak in 1986. He was denied initially as the UFCW bureaucracy had pulled sanction from P9 and left them to the mercy of the employers.
After the international pulled its support all the delegates in the CLC fell in to line, including Bacon and made no public criticism of this betrayal of these heroic workers and their families. I will never forget to this day all the left sitting there like bumps on a log saying nothing, or if anything at all, covering for the bureaucracy as I tried to get this young worker in to speak. It was a baptism of fire for me and a lesson in how liberal bureaucrats like David Bacon function in the labor movement.
This is the role David Bacon and others like him played in my CLC; they acted as a left cover for the bureaucracy and in return they got a Union credential making it appear as if they have some connection to the average Union member, that they were "working class".
To call this leading the labor movement is an insult to the shop stewards, the rank and file leaders of Locals and other dues paying members of Unions who fight day to day on the shop floor, where the "rubber meets the road" but are left isolated by the labor leadership whose behavior is covered up by liberals like David Bacon and Bill Fletcher. It is an insult to those who have walked picket lines for months on end and lost their homes in defense of our living standards as the official "leaders" earned $150,000 a year and more negotiating away their wages and benefits without a public condemnation from great intellectuals and writers like David Bacon, Bill Fletcher and other "Labor educators".
They played this role through years of defeated strikes and refusals of the trade union leadership to mobilize the potential of the membership to fight the employers and their Democratic Party allies.
I am less familiar with Bill Fletcher but I understand he is a former AFL-CIO staffer. After being part of the AFL-CIO leadership club, the membership of which requires destroying labor solidarity, he is now offering to teach workers how to build solidarity. In order for this to have any credibility he would first have to publicly recognize his mistake, that he joined the bureaucracy with no real base among the rank and file based on a fighting program and strategy for labor; that he hid his politics in order to get a position in the hierarchy. He was brought in from above, with their consent and approval. You have to be trusted for this to happen. We all make mistakes and this should be recognized by former AFL-CIO officials like Bill Fletcher who now claim to represent a force for change as opposed to a force that suppressed any opposition form developing within the ranks of organized labor.
If I am wrong and Bill Fletcher waged a war from a rank and file base to get in based on opposition to the collaborationsist policies of the Labor leadership and was then removed by the forces opposing him I am sure he has much documentation to show us that. Personally, through years of defeats and setbacks, made possible by the support of the AFL-CIO leadership, many of those years when he was in their camp, I never saw or heard anything from Bill Fletcher. Had he been fighting a major war on behalf on the ranks of labor there's no doubt those of us in the trenches would have heard about it.
One way to build solidarity is to raise concrete demands that will unite workers such as a $15 per hour minimum wage, a shorter workweek to increase leisure time and create jobs , free health care, decent housing and education as well as other social demands. Demands along these lines should be taken in to our communities and would be a way of linking organized labor with the unnorganized and the working class as a whole.
Relying on the strength and independent power of organized labor and all working people to win such demands through direct action, stopping production, occupations, and the building of an independent worker's political alternative to the Democratic Party in other words, returning to the methods of the 1930's that built the Unions in the first place, must be counterposed to electing this or that friendly Democrat to office and getting a good lawyer.
What do these "labor experts" think about such an approach? And if they oppose it, what is their alternative to the present collaborative role of the leaders of Organized Labor in the US?
As I say, we make mistakes and can change our minds about things, but we have to recognize it and be honest with those who have been harmed by our actions or who we now claim to want to help, maybe that's the case here but I think not.
Perhaps I was asleep for 15 years and missed the incredible battle that Bill Fletcher had with his former employers, the AFL-CIO heads, and missed his public appeals to the ranks of Labor and the wider working class to join him and help build a movement that can take on the Union bureaucracy and the offensive of the employers that they support but I don't thinks so. If I am wrong I am sure Bill Fletcher can show me that and I will have to recognize it.
DAVID BACON and BILL FLETCHER TO SPEAK ON LABOR SOLIDARITY
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