June 12, 2012
After so many words have been written about Wisconsin, why we had to fight, why "we" lost and what this means for the future of public sector unions and labor organizing in general - it seems almost ridiculous to add to that pile; but we must.
It is really important to fully read the following article from Andy Kroll, on Alternet - who has a fuller grasp of the actual dynamics of how the energy we saw in Madison last February ended in a solid defeat for the Democrats, in the recall election. Let's remember - it was once again a fairly lackluster Democratic machine candidate - Tom Barret - who did beat a much more progressive Labor candidate - Kathleen Falk - in the earlier primary election. Would Kathleen, or anybody for that matter, have made a difference? Hard to say in hindsight - but certainly - re-running a race with the same machine candidate from just two years earlier totally changed the focus of the original movement - and this is something we see every single day in the difficult alliance between big labor and the Democratic Party.
Workers rights and dignity on the job should not be just a one party issue, but when you narrow the focus down to a red versus blue debate and pick candidates with a well worn history of inter-party battles - it is hard not to expect the well-oiled money machine the current GOP has become to find a relatively easy target to exploit through their carpet-bombing of the electoral TV air waves.
Read the article:https://www.freespeech.org/text/how-wisconsin-uprising-went-wrong
I think all of labor, activists, progressives, organized and fighting to get organized - we all need to really think hard about how we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. We had a hugely motivated group of folks, signed ove a million recall supporters, but then, as Andy Kroll suggests, we played the whole game on the other team's turf by their obscenely rigged rules. This is the definition of stupid.
We need to change how we think about organizing, unions, who belongs, how they belong. We need to keep it simple - we need to acknowledge that folks will pay union dues if they see a real reason - this has been proven by the NY Taxi Workers Alliance. It is not easy - it takes lots of sweat and many hours - but there is no longer a shortcut. We must go back to having organizers get out to workplaces and shop floors and collect the dues - let them do it electronically but let them be there in person! Let them look into the eyes of their union brothers and sisters and tell them why dues are the lifeblood of a union.
And I've said it before - but will do so again at this moment when union-busting thug governors think they have the upper hand. LABOR RIGHTS MUST BE CIVIL RIGHTS! Plain and simple. Let every single group of workers, no matter how large or small, no matter where they work, who they work for, what they do - they can organize if they vote to do so - even if a majority don't want it now - the minority can still be organized for purposes of collective bargaining. Civil Rights Laws have guts and ignoring them costs the company plenty that makes the mistake.
This is not an easy path, nor a short path, but we must attempt this new path in order of having any chance at all of long term survival and relevance.
Those are the lessons of Wisconsin - LABOR RIGHTS ARE CIVIL RIGHTS and paying dues must be by choice, collected by an organizer who really gets to know the workers and because the worker feels engaged. If we had these things as gospel, we might really turn worker's future lives around and not have to make alliances with a political party who's top guy is just too darn busy to support our fight. We'd be our own strength; our own boss.