[lbo-talk] Boots Riley on Occupy the Hood

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Sat Dec 17 17:28:57 PST 2011

I am always delighted when I can fully agree with a post from SA. This is fine!


-----Original Message----- From: lbo-talk-bounces at lbo-talk.org [mailto:lbo-talk-bounces at lbo-talk.org] On Behalf Of SA Sent: Saturday, December 17, 2011 5:16 PM To: lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org Subject: Re: [lbo-talk] Boots Riley on Occupy the Hood

On 12/17/2011 5:55 PM, lasko wrote:

> This and the KPFA discussion is very interesting. Every time I read an
> article about OWS and labor the admittedly half-formed thought pops
> into my head that OWS is a union.

No, I don't think so. A union is a group of workers with a common employer who agree to withhold their labor unless the employer meets certain terms. A union ideally should be much more than that, but it can't be any less and still be called a union.

> What Boots might discover, when approaching a traditional union with
> the proposition that they fight for a $15/hour wage for Walmart
> workers, is that he will be listened to politely and then the
> organizers will start trying to manage down his expectations.

I think the first step would be talking to the workers, rather than talking to a union.

> The KPFA segment on OWS as means of bypassing legal and contractual
> limits on strikes and secondary boycotts by having a non-union entity
> do the organizing

I have an editorial in Jacobin imminently about to appear, but written a while ago, putting this idea forward. Glad to see it being discussed.

> omitted to mention that these type of organizations pre-date OWS.
> There are labor-aligned non-profits that actively seek to circumvent
> the restrictions on unions by organizing actions by union members
> outside the formal hierarchy of the unions they belong to.

Most of the time those community-partnership groups don't organize workplaces -- much less in ways that break the law. But even when they do, the most important thing is that in the past they haven't had enough people involved. OWS has the potential to change that -- not so much as an "entity," but as a spirit of the times.

I think Boots' idea is fantastic and I was really heartened to see it this morning!

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