Verizon: union win

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Tue Aug 22 14:16:33 PDT 2000

On Tue, 22 Aug 2000, Chuck0 wrote:

> I'd just like to see labor activists and union organizers start thinking
> outside the box. They should take a page or two from Reclaim the
> Streets, Earth First!, the student anti-sweatshop movement, and so on.

Many union struggles I have seen have wide ranging creativity in tactics, but the reality is that "thinking outside the box", namely the legal box of American labor law has much more severe penalties for unions than for loose anarchist groups.

Not that unions shouldn't defy the law anyways and take the risks and absorb the legal fines as part of the cost of struggle, but it's a high-risk strategy not to be done lightly. A good example is the Pittson strike where a local judge levied over $50 million in fines against the United Mine Workers back in the late 1980s strike because the membership engaged in mass civil disobediance. Because the union won the struggle, they were able to negotiate their way out of those fines, but if they had lost, the Mineworkers would have ceased to exist economically under the weight of those fines.

One point worth emphasizing- non-union organizations can do many things that are completely legal for them which would be illegal for a union. For example, workers at a subcontractor are prohibited from picketing at the workplace of the main employer who hires their contractor boss - a severe problem for all sorts of workers in the contingent economy. However, a nonunion group of lefties unaffiliated and unfunded by labor could legally picket at such a place without any bad legal consequences for the union. A number of sweatshop organizations have gone out of their way to avoid being classed as unions just to maintain their ability to do such picketing.

So there is plenty of room for creative out-of-the-box labor support that non-union activists can do that legally the unions cannot do themselves. So it's not just a question of creative thinking but of creative action by those not encumbered by the legal restrictions on unions under our repressive laws.

-- Nathan Newman

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