Unions Fail Their Members: Toothless Giants

In many parts of the world, organized labor is a force to be reckoned with in the streets and at the polls.  Not in the US.  Union leaders spend more time campaigning for candidates than defending worker’s rights.

The AFL-CIO embraced President Barack Obama and they celebrated Labor Day together, a scene unimaginable for the majority of union leaders and members of Europe. The closeness of major US labor union to the Democratic Party has co-opted many of them into ineffectiveness.

The protests in Wisconsin and Ohio and soon in other states are blatant examples of a toothless union.  These protests are grassroot events, not officially sanctioned by the labor unions.  In fact, labor unions are asking their members to return to work, rather than defend their rights long fought for.  The truth is if you want something different that what has been going on these past 30 years, then you have to move in a different direction rather than rolling with the dominant part.  Unions will more or less turn out the votes, give major donations but aren’t able to demand things they want.  Their members are left out in the cold.

Now the American worker is in the street. The biggest crises with unions in American now is the inability to organize workers because labor laws make it easy to fire or penalize workers for unionizing. Unions must be detached from politicians, yet be involved in policy to represent their workers.  Unions no longer fight for their workers.

Unions are dead as an influential force in workers rights. They have outlived their usefulness, or just simply lost their way.  Unions collect dues, spend $50 million of it dues and deploy 150,000 workers to support Obama with the hope that politicians will deliver workers rights.  Workers say that unions have failed to deliver on their promises, but in truth the unions never promised them anything.  Politicians did.  Now union members in the unenviable position of defending their rights.

Only now is the Obama administration beginning to send statements that they are in agreement with union members protecting in Wisconsin and Ohio.  But it begs the question….Are they doing this because they truly believe or simply appeasing the union membership to retain their votes in 2012?

We can all argue that state governments are making every effort to bust unions?  It is true.  This is a time for leaders of Labor unions need to join the fight with their workers.  Fight for the rights they have now, and future improvements. Union membership has been declining for years, because people understand union leadership hold workers rights as a sideshow.

Grassroots movement is showing the future of the labor movement in two ways: One is the importance of fighting on the basis of workplace issues and making sure that people at the grassroots, the rank and file level, have a voice in those unions. Second: the importance of social unions, social movement unionism, one that sees not just the interests of workers at a particular workplace as the only thing that unions should defend, but realizing the ties and connections that bring together the interests not only of the workplace.

Wisconsin and Ohio may be our “Egypt.”  If it true, that would mean clean out the Union Leadership house.  Unions of the past are dead.  It is up to the membership to fight.  They probably will lose, but they must fight.

Protests and civil disobedience is a healthy sign in this country, but to win, we must take our government back.

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