By All Means
A response to Stephen Lerner's "Reviving Unions"Lynn Williams
I applaud Lerner's eloquent call for mobilizing a broadly-based, well-financed, strategically-conceived, mass organizing campaign across the regions, industries, businesses, and occupations of the American economy. There is nothing of more importance for the success of our economy, the revitalization of our democracy, the re-creation of a civic society, and, most importantly, the needs of all who must work for a living.
Within that framework the movement must do what it must do. If circumstances
call for civil disobedience as the effective and necessary means of achieving
justice and recognition -- which was the case in the sit-down strikes of the
1930s -- then we must pursue that approach.
In an industry such as steel, to fail to use the power of collective bargaining to assert workers' rights to an effective voice in determining that there will be a surviving, well-managed, competitive industry with good, safe, union jobs would be to fail utterly in one of our most fundamental responsibilities.
Similarly, it would be to fail in another of our most fundamental responsibilities if we did not work to change American labor law -- now a travesty of what it was intended to be, in terms of providing workers a free and democratic opportunity to join unions and participate in collective bargaining. What workers in America are required to face, in the way of employer intimidation and coercion, merely to vote to have a union, is an unconscionable disgrace, condemned by the democratic principles for which the nation stands. And it is an experience virtually unknown in any other advanced country.
This time of downsizing, declining real wages, stagnant family incomes, massive under- and unemployment, endemic poverty, and social dysfunction cries out for unionization. The labor movement must respond to this cry with every resource it can bring to bear and with every approach available to it that enables workers to organize and bargain effectively with their employers.
Click here to get to Stephen Lerner's essay, Reviving