Friday, January 1, 2016

Merry Collective Bargaining And Happy New Solidarity!

The first and foremost job of any union is to look out for the best interest of its members, whether the issue is pay, benefits or working conditions.  This is true for public or private sector unions. This is true whether the issue is across the board or regarding one individual.

When a problems is not handled satisfactorily, all the union members join their voices together - whether it be through the courts or through direct actions, such a rally or even a strike.  Ideally, the other unions join in to show their support to the aggrieved union.

That is called solidarity and is what gives unions their strength.

This is also why unions have been under attack across the nation, including in Wisconsin, for the past several years.  It's much harder for the wealthy to exploit their workers if the workers are organized.  Hence, we have seen the likes of Act 10, the passage of the so called Right to Work law, and attacks on prevailing wages.

But even though the unions were left reeling after this incessant war on workers rights, they are coming back, they are fighting and they are winning.

This was evidenced just this year when the good men and women of ATU 998, Milwaukee County bus drivers and mechanics, had a three-day work stoppage and were about to go on strike again when Milwaukee County Emperor Chris "Boss" Abele realized that a strike by the bus drivers would not play well for his reelection chances and agreed to settle with the union.

Another example was the recent strike by the workers at Kohler, who had gone on strike for over a month.  It wasn't until the big holiday shopping season started and the Kohler family's wallets were affected did the company agree to bargain fairly with the members of UAW Local 833, resulting in a mutually beneficial contract.

In each of these cases, other unions stood with the aggrieved unions, making their voices even louder and expediting satisfactory conclusions.  The other unions joined on the picket lines, they provided financial and material aid.  Heck, there was even a toy drive for the children of the striking Kohler workers so that the kids wouldn't have to suffer for the Kohler family's greed.

Sadly, right wingers like Scott Walker and his sidekick, Abele, have learned to exploit the unions' main purpose and have become rather adept at creating divide and conquer scenarios.  A prime example of this is the recent explosion of proposed land developments in downtown Milwaukee.

Abele and his wealthy friends have repeatedly created a division between the building trades unions and other unions, like the SEIU, who represent workers such as waiters, etc.

In a nutshell, the building trades are afraid that if the land developers are forced to pay the janitors a living wage, the development won't happen and their members would miss out on several thousand good paying jobs.  At the same time, SEIU and other service unions are opposed to any development where there is no guarantee that their own members won't be able to also benefit from the building boom.

This allows the wealthy developers and their friends to pit the building trades unions against the service trades.  By weakening the solidarity, these wealthy tycoons are able to further their exploitation of all of the workers.

To stop Walker, Abele and their wealthy friends and masters from doing the divide and conquer routine, it is imperative for the leaders of the trades unions and the service unions to come together and develop a strategy together to counter the conservatives' divisive attacks.  The unions need to figure out a proposal that would be beneficial to both the building trades as well as the service trades and yet will be attractive enough to the land developers that they would accept it.

Most importantly, all the unions have to present a unified front - that whole solidarity thing again.  If the building trades get scared and sell out the services trades, they will benefit in the short run to the detriment of the service trades and to the community in general.  Likewise, if the service trades unions are unwilling to budge on things, nothing will progress and not only will they hurt themselves but the community as a whole.

As Thomas Donahue said, "The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor."

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