Overtime (was Re: happy autoworkers)

Michael Eisenscher meisenscher at igc.apc.org
Mon Jul 13 00:22:42 PDT 1998

At 10:00 PM 7/12/98 EDT, MScoleman at aol.com wrote:
>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?????????

Maggie, you spoke of two traditions in the labor movement. I tried to point out that this left a lot out. Without at least acknowledging that the picture is more complex than you present and noting how, the conclusions you drew on the basis of this bipolar world you present suffer. There were a number of errors of fact on which you based your conclusions or drew characterizations. Offering a disclaimer about depth and detail does not excuse you from presenting accurate information. As for including the example of company unions, I tried to make it clear that this was one among a number of trends in the history of our labor movement, pointing to Welfare Capitalism as an example, and added gangster unionism, which I also do not consider legitimate unionism, but nonetheless is an historical fact of life that we can acknowledge without embracing.

>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.

I'll try to aim higher next time. Are you pissed off (if I may borrow the metaphor) because I offered extraneous "facts" for their own sake or because I pointed out differences with or what I saw as errors in your argument?

>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.

It seems I have touched a tender nerve if you feel compelled to question my class allegiance for have the audacity to differ with you. Sorry if I stepped on your ego.

>Michael E:
> 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.

Are you suggesting that because I cited male scholars I am obviously a sexist who is unwilling to struggle with gender and race issues within the labor movement? I'm having a little trouble following your argument (if indeed this is an argument and not just an ad hominem slur). .....
> 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
>beginning, the CIO formed because all other existing AFL unions were ignoring
>assembly line work.

There were industrial unions within the AFL prior to the split. The CIO formed on the basis of those AFL unions that were committed to an industrial form of organization and to organizing among the mass production workers that the craft unions refused to organize. Lewis was at the helm of the CIO from its inception and the UMWA funded the organizing of steel and auto.

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 differed with your assertions and offered another point of view. Does that obligate me to respond with a complete history. I did suggest some references on which I relied. I am not sure what your point its about the TUEL in the **1950s**. If you have a source you'd like to recommend, I'd grateful for the opportunity to educate myself.

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
>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.

Is all that invective designed to invite a discussion? I apologize for my insenstivity. I don't recall making any claim that women were not part of the labor movement or that only male unionists are real unionists. I do recall offering some data on female union membership.

> 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

Then I misunderstood your point, but I did read it. Thanks for correcting me.

-- 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.

You might aim higher as well.

>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
> >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.

No, it is your timing that is off by at least a decade. Density did not break 30% until 1943, not as a result of New Deal social movement union organizing, but as a result of wartime hiring and maintenance of membership secured in return for the no-strike pledge. It's important because that marks the turn to which you point -- the abandonment of the CIO's original vision and social consciousness.

>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
>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.

I apologize.

>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
>hell can one overstate issues of race and gender in this case?????????

Again, I may have misunderstood. I did not recognize from your comment that you were talking about the General Executive Council of the AFL-CIO or national officers of unions; I thought the reference was to union membership. As for your characterization of the present male leadership, I have no argument.

>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
> >file members. 3) with only economic issues of their immediate members on
> >agenda, unions became exclusive clubs which kept out members not 'in the
> >family' and which saw opening their doors as a threat to exclusive
> >(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.

Did I say I approve? I observed what is, not what I would like. Don't put words into my mouth, I have enough trouble with those I put there myself.

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????????????

Yea, I celebrate nightly. If you really care what I think about that, I'll send you an article that lays it out.

>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
>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.

If that's so, how do you explain the growth in female union membership over the course of the last 40 years? Were they all organized by the TUEL in the 1950s? By female-led unions, which you observe with a few exceptions don't exist? I agreed with your point that unions have failed to respond to changes workforce demographics and structural and other changes in their environment and said so. I just said workforce demographis is not all there is. I also agree that women leadership in most unions are systematically under-valued and prevented from attaining top leadership positions.

>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?)

Not at this point. I ran out of piss five paragraphs back. Rereading what I said, I agree that the way I expressed myself was condescending, for which I apologize. But then I suppose at this point you would not accept an apology as sincere from a bone head.

>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.

I can't account for how you feel about yourself, but I don't consider you either. I was not disagreeing. I was offering some additional information and suggesting how the composition of that increase occurred. Should I assume that when you post something to the list, you don't want any contrary opinions, or for that matter, even ones that expand on your points?

>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.

No agrument there either. Glad we could at least end with an agreement.

Still in solidarity, Michael E.

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