Richard Trumka, head of the labor movement in the US (the AFL-CIO) has put out an extremely weak (at best) statement on Trump’s victory. “The AFL-CIO accepts the outcome of this election and offers our congratulations to President-elect Trump,” he says. “We hope to work with President-elect Trump to help him carry out this solemn responsibility (to protect and preserve our democracy).”
There is not the slightest note of defiance, the slightest hint of a struggle against this racist, xenophobic, anti-worker bigot.
This is 100% in keeping with their entire role over decades.
Where was the union leadership in all the protests against the murder of Michael Brown? They were in hiding, that’s where. One UAW member in Ferguson told this writer that the head of his union local had told him “this is not our battle.”
Where has the union leadership been in the whole struggle against the crime wave of the police?
Maybe it’s just as well that they have been absent, considering their position on the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which they want built!
Occasionally, one or another union leader will support some of the protests against the police crime wave… But then they turn around and support the exact same politicians who are helping cover up for that crime wave! Meanwhile, what are they telling their membership in both words and deeds?
The building trades union leadership is shopping around a professional union busting lawyer, Mark Breslin. They trot him out to union conventions and “leadership training” seminars to preach his anti-union message as a strategy for the unions: “To survive in the 21st century construction industry, individual union workers must change, adapt, and be the “fittest” of all workers,” he says. In other words, the union leadership is preaching “survival of the fittest”, that union workers have to out-compete non-union workers. It’s no different in any of the other unions. The UFCW brings in employers to preach the same message to their stewards, for example.
“You are no use to me!”
And their words are matched by their deeds. In general, the union leadership is so absent from the work place that most members don’t even think about the union, even if they get in trouble with the boss. But let a member try to rely on the union to help out and they will be disappointed many times. A clerk at a unionized supermarket reports, for example, on having a conflict with her supervisor. The union rep came in, spent a half hour talking with the supe and then told the worker that the supe was right. “I told her (the union rep) ‘you are no use to me!’”
That about sums it up – “you are no use to me.”
Effect on Consciousness
Is it any wonder, then, that the idea of a united, working class struggle against the bosses has been so weakened? Is it any wonder that the union leaders’ repression of class consciousness has opened the door to the most reactionary thinking among some workers?
Then there are the comments of Donald Williams, head of the United Auto Workers (UAW). He says that Trump’s “position on trade is right-on.” What he’s doing here is stirring up anti-foreign worker attitudes. “Let the auto workers of Mexico, Canada, or Korea be unemployed. The hell with them,” is what he’s communicating.
“Build that wall”?
Meanwhile, you can be sure that the building trades leadership is at best in a quandary about Trump’s plan to build the Wall. It will mean jobs, you see. (This reminds this writer about an exchange he had with his Carpenters Union business agent years ago, in which he told the BA “if they were going to build a prison to put all union members in, you guys would support it if it were going to be built union.” The BA had to think for a couple of seconds before he denied it!) And if the building trades leaders (and members) think that Trump’s talk about infrastructure spending will be a blessing, they’d better think twice: It is nearly certain that they will use any such funding to try to break the Davis Bacon Act and get federal funding for non-union construction projects.
This has been a disaster, first and foremost for the consciousness of union members. According to Williams, for example, an estimated 32% of union members voted for Trump.
The clear lesson of these elections is that union members can no longer afford to just sit back and wait or hope that things will change. We have to organize opposition groups inside the unions.
- Organize to make the unions fight for the members, both on a daily basis and when contracts roll around!
- Fight to make the unions mobilize and join in all the protests against Donald Trump!
- Fight to make the unions build real internationalism, in deeds not just words, including international strike action. Workers can start this by making direct links with their counterparts throughout the world.
- This includes leading up to January 20, inauguration day. For a general shut-down of America on inauguration day!
- Fight to make the unions break completely with the other corporate-controlled party – the Democratic Party.
- For the unions to join with the community groups, the groups fighting the police crime wave, the protests against environmental destruction, including at Standing Rock, and build a mass, radical class struggle working class political party!