Verizon: union win

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Tue Aug 22 07:18:59 PDT 2000

On Tue, 22 Aug 2000, Doug Henwood wrote:

> What's with all this either-or stuff? The kids are out in the
> streets, and so were the workers. Sometimes they're even out
> together. I don't think it's a coincidence.

But there is always an either/or in analysis, in that individuals have to devote their own limited time and attention to different strategies. And the question is whether all the time being spent organizing street demos and then running legal defense would be better spent doing labor support. For every Verizon strike, there are hundreds of smaller efforts that could use the energy devoted to Philly or LA (or DC or Seattle).

I am all for the street protests - obviously having been on the barricade in DC - but I have to ultimately ask what is the plan, what is the point, what is the strategy of these rolling city disruptions? Or as Naomi Klein put it, what makes them more than an anarchist road show following trade bureucrats like the Grateful Dead? Because a few mass actions are good does not mean than more are better. Often, mass actions become an end int themselves that detract from the day-to-day organizing that is less spectacular but is more crucial to ultimate success.

On the trade issue itself, there are clear interim goals - even if contradictory ones - of either shutting down the WTO or adding labor and environmental standards. But it's not clear how a lot of folks want to get from A to B. Spectacles are nice and even necessary to jolt the public, but a lot of the effort is going to require the dirty business of politics - whether corralling the votes to withdraw from the institution or to force through new regulations. Running Nader may even help put pressure as part of that effort, but it is not sufficient by itself.

Like a contract settlement, real struggle takes engagement and ultimate compromise in the short-term, taking what can be gotten with present strength while building for bigger victories in the future.

There is no doubt that a lot of the energy of Seattle/DC/Philly/LA will spill back into those day-to-day struggles, but part of the pragmatism of UPS, Boeing, the LA Janitors, and Verizon struggles also have to spill over into the globalization mass action movements if they are to become a real mass struggle for change.

-- Nathan Newman

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