Overtime (was Re: happy autoworkers)

MScoleman at aol.com MScoleman at aol.com
Sun Jul 12 19:00:40 PDT 1998

Michael E. responds to my saying there are two primary forms of unionism: << Actually there are more than two and many hybrids in between them. Company

unionism (welfare capitalism, etc.) is a long-standing tradition of worker

organization (albeit a dysfunctional one from the point of view of the

left). >> Well sure there are more than the afl and cio, but this is email and i made it very, very clear that this was a generalized, BRIEF history. I gave a couple of references so people could read more. ARe you saying that the traditions of the AFL and CIO are NOT the kinds of unions that represented the MOST people? As to company unions -- I don't consider them to be unions, and the law doesn't consider them to be unions, and most unions don't consider them to be unions -- why do you consider them to be unions?????????

Michael E:
>>So is associational unionism as typified by the NEA and ANA and

hundreds or thousands of public employee and professional associations that

moved into collective bargaining. >> true, and if i were writing a complete history of unionism i would include these things -- I don't see how including or not including more and more bits of information change my arguments one little iota. Are you trying to have a pissing contest with me here by showing off more knowledge -- if so, i must warn you that you're pissing by yourself, I have to sit down.

Michael E:
>>Gangster unionism has also been a

continuing form in American labor history. >> mea culpa for not including the gangsters -- now this is truly a nice reactionary touch, feeding into most people's most backwards perceptions of unionism. You must have Mayor Giuliani whispering in your ear NOT to forget the gangstas.

Michael E:

>>Beneficial unionism played an

important early role that filled social welfare and cultural needs of

workers who had no legal right to organize and who lacked the political

power to extract support from the state, and its influences continue today

within the service model of business unionism that is so common. Staughton

Lynd and others have also written extensively on social movement and

community forms of unionism, based on solidaristic traditions. (Take a look

at Robert Hoxie's *Trade Unionism in the U.S.* and Simeon Larsen & Bruce

Nissen (eds.) *Theories of the Labor Movement*; also work by Galenson &

Lipset for some useful typologies.) >>

Aha, I don't see these boys (and they are almost all boys) out there organizing anyone AND I don't see you or them addressing the gender and race issues I raised.

Michael quoting maggie: < The AFL tradition was to organize skilled

>trades or crafts which were not part of assembly line work.

Michael's response:
> Actually, the AFL contained a number of traditions, among which the craft

model you describe was dominant but not exclusive. Recall that the UMWA was

also an AFL union, and once Wagner was passed, AFL unions actually organized

as many or more industrial workers than did the CIO (which helps explain how

the AFL came to dictate the terms of the merger in 1955).>>

Maggie's response -- 1. yes, of ALL the afl unions, the UMWA did some cio type organizing AFTER THE CIO HAD BEEN IN EXISTENCE FOR 30 YEARS. At the beginning, the CIO formed because all other existing AFL unions were ignoring assembly line work. 2) the tuel, Trade Union Education League which was all WOMEN organizers, organized more people (males and females) into unions in the 1950s than either the AFL or the CIO -- but I notice that the thought of including women in your history is anathema to you. I find it really fucking insulting that you want to add more details without ever addressing my basic argument, and you absolutely miss the main point -- women began and were continually in the movement and are the fastest growing portion of unions today AND YOU STILL ACT AS IF THESE ARE MALE ONLY OPERATIONS. On the other hand, this explains your patronizing attitude of adding to my history without stooping and taking your MANLY time to debate the fucking issues I raised.

Michael E:
>> Community or social movement unionism can be traced back to the Knights of

Labor (or earlier), which collapsed as the AFL was coming into its own. But

is it fair to characterize all CIO unions as practitioners of broad social

issue unionism? >>

Community and social movement unionism began long before the knights of labor -- it began with all those women who were active in the earliest unions predating any male unionism by a good couple of decades -- but I suppose you've never bothered to read those pages. I DID not assign social unionism to just the CIO. If you had actually read what I said, I said that social unionism broadened in the twentieth century with the entry of socialists and communists -- meaning into the cio, the afl, the wobblies, etc. The end of social unionism in BOTH the afl, cio AND IN MOST OF THE OTHER SMALLER PIECES OF THE UNION MOVEMENT you added to the list, ended with WWII and the McCarthy era. As to OSHA -- the growth of osha was as much due to social movements outside unions in the 1960s as it was due to unions. The whole point of this is to try and find out why unions are failing and to turn them back into fighting machines., If we don't critically assess where the union movement was right and where it was wrong, we don't know how to move forward. Your kind of rosy glow recitation of cleaned up histories helps not one whit.

I said:

>The high point of unions and community involvement came

>with the passage of social legislation during the FDR era: social security,

>welfare, etc. This also coincided with the highest percentage unionization in

>this country, right around 30%.

To which Michael E responds:
>> Actually, this is just plain wrong. The highest percentage of union

was achieved in the 1950s (about 34%) on the eve of the merger of the AFL

and CIO. >>

Aha, so 34% is really a huge difference from "around 30%." oh my oh my oh my.

Michael E:
>>The New Deal saw the most rapid rise in the rate of unionization,

especially between 1936 and 1939, followed by a drop until the U.S. entered

the war. >>

Well, if you want to quibble about small percentages, according to Gutman in "Who Built America" the largest percentage of workers unionized in the USA was during the period leading up to the Civil War. No unions survived the Civil War in tact, then there was another large surge in unionization during the 1870s. A much more fruitful discussion would center around what creates surges and drops in union membership -- ah, but you're having too much fun creating nonarguments.

I say:

> While unions worked in a tradition of community involvement,

>their records on race issues were mixed at best and their records on gender

>were almost universally abysmal.

To which Michael E. responds:

>>Again, on the issue of race, I think you may have a strong point but

overstate it. CIO unions helped break the color lines in hiring and

organizing in many workplaces. They suffered many of the expressions of

racism that was indemic in society, but they certainly should not be brushed

aside as either uninvolved in struggling against racism in hiring and

promotion, or being actively exclusionsary in barring Blacks from

membership. On the gender issue, you have a stronger point, given that the

CIO and AFL both collaborated with the government in pushing women workers

out of the workplace and back into the kitchens, but here again, the record

is mixed. Dorothy Sue Cobble has documented the organization of unions

composed largely of women (waitresses, for example) that continued to

operate with substantial female membership throughout this period. Black

women generally never left the workplace, although the forms of work

available to them changed, and unions offered minimal relief to them as a group.>>>

Overstate what? That other than the earliest cio drives blacks and other minorities have routinely been kept out of unions positions -- especially those who work out of hiring halls. I'm **impressed** that you manage to mention gender, but to tell me I'm overstating is also a smack in the face. The fact is THERE ARE NO NATIONAL UNIONS -- with the exception of teaching unions and some public service unions -- WHO ARE RUN BY ANYTHING BUT CAUCASIAN MALES WHO BEND OVER BACKWARDS TO PROTECT THEIR PRIVLEGED POSITIONS. how the hell can one overstate issues of race and gender in this case?????????

I said:

>Briefly: 1) the focus on economic issues cost the unions vital community

>support -- support which union leadership to this day does not recognize as

>important. 2) the focus on economic issues made the primary agenda of those

>in power staying in power, so most leaders scrambled to consolidate their

>positions making their agendas radically different than that of their rank and

>file members. 3) with only economic issues of their immediate members on the

>agenda, unions became exclusive clubs which kept out members not 'in the

>family' and which saw opening their doors as a threat to exclusive positions.

>(there can be many more points here, but you get the idea).

Michael E. says:
>>I think it is misleading to suggest that unions ever had anything but a

primary focus on economic issues. The difference has been in how those

issues were understood ideologically and what relationship struggles around

them had to broader concerns of working class communities. As for staying

in power, can you name a labor leader who has not been preoccupied with

reelection? If you look at Hoxie, who wrote in the early part of this

century, you will see that differences in the interests of union hierarchies

and their members did not appear as a new phenomenon after WWII. Business

unionism is a long-standing problem in the U.S. labor movement. (See *Making

of the Labor Bureaucrat* by Van Tine.) An examination of the histories

either the UAW or USWA as examples of CIO unions will show that battles for

and to retain leadership were intensely important factors throughout their

history. All labor leaders, without exception, are concerned with issues of

control over the terms and conditions of their own existence and

perpetuating their power, influence, and status, and the perks that derive

therefrom. The differences come with respect to what role and capacity the

rank and file have to hold their leaders to account, to monitor their

activities, to participate in decisions affecting the organization and its

strategies, etc.>>>

So, you think it's just fine and dandy for union leaders to spend their lives protecting their positions. And I guess you like the idea that union membership is at an all time low too. Aside from all this blather, which simply promotes unionism as it exists, what would you suggest to actually HELP the situation????????????

I said:

> The result of this change led to an inability of the unions to

>respond to the faces of the new workforce. By maintaining an exclusively

>male, primarily white membership, the unions did not recognize the value of

>organizing the new workforce which was increasingly female and nonwhite and

>immigrant. By 1955, women hada higher labor force participation rate than

>they had at the height of WWII. In the last 25 years, the vast majority of

>new jobs have been in areas traditionally populated by women. Increases in

>other service sector jobs, especially low pay, low benefit jobs, have also

>meant an increase in minority and immigrant employment: restaurants, hotels,

>illegal garment shops, and a growth in the 'off the books' market.

Michael E:

>>The reality of the postwar era is that unions were not committed to

organizing anyone -- white, Black, male or female. Between the 1950s and

1990, the number of union elections plummeted by 40%, while the number of

employer unfair labor practices rose by more than 550%. The size of

workplaces involved in those elections that occurred also dropped, with the

number of units over 500 falling precipitously. "Operation Dixie" was a

bust, as was the Houston project. Unions moved from strategic organizing to

opportunistic "hot shop" campaigns, while some unions dismantled their

organizing departments altogether or kept them on but used "organizers" as

patronage positions or to have henchmen for whatever regime was in power.

Growth in union membership that did occur was derivative of growth in the

economy -- in those sectors and businesses that were already organized --

and in the public sector. It is also true that unions failed to note

changes in the demographics of the labor market, ignoring sectors where

women were largely employed, and in the changing structure of workplaces.

Having forfeited control over the production process to managerial

prerogatives and rights that became enshrined in their contracts, and having

accepted compulsory arbitration rather than direct action as the means for

resolving grievances, unions disarmed themselves in dealing with

technological change, corporate restructuring, plant location and relocation

issues, and a host of other concerns that affect the welfare of workers.>>>>

You really don't get it do you. THE POINT was that unions were incapable of responding to the new gender/racialization of the workplace.

I said:
> Finally getting back to point 1, the ideology of afl/cio unions

>coupled with organizational forms has led to a complete lack of new

>organizing. While women are THE ONLY GROWING SECTOR of unionism in the USA --

Michael says:
>> Not so, union membership among Latinos and other immigrants has been a

growth area, and Black workers are more likely to vote for a union than

nearly any other group of workers.>>

Well, dear Mr. condescendingly "let's get this right" the fact is that blacks have always been unionized to a greater percentage than white workers -- to whit rail workers, hotel workers, janitors, etc. Of the new minority workers being unionized, MOST OF THOSE MINORITIES ARE WOMEN (hmmm if I called you a bone head here would you get REALLY pissed off?)

Michael says:
>> Women membership has grown in no small

part as a consequence of the growth of public sector unionism and education,

not because unions are organizing lots of women in the service sectors. >>

No shit, tell me something I don't know. One reason women have become union members in public sector and education is because there are more women in leadership of those unions and those unions don't discriminate against women the way private sector unions do. Michael says:
>> In

1995, women were 39% of union members, compared to 34% in 1985. Female

union membership rose by 12% over that period. During the same period,

union membership among minorities other than Blacks increased by 62%, while

Black membership increased 3% (largely because they tended to be employed in

unionized sectors most affected by corporate restructuring, down-sizing, and

plant closures, and least likely to recover union-represented employment).

(I am adding emphasis here) ****All of the increase among Black workers was among Black women. *****

I fail to see how this disagrees with my statements about gender -- but maybe that's because I'm a dumb broad.

disgustedly, maggie coleman mscoleman at aol.com

p.s. I didn't print out your comments about part time work because they were as nit picky and not to the point as the rest -- HOWEVER, I would point out that United States unions are light years behind European and Scandanavian unions in fighting for benefits for part time workers.

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