There is a real problem with our unions today. On the one hand there is a systematic oppression of class-oriented voices in some unions who are tightly controlled by the Democrats. On the other hand there is a growth of frustration and reaction to the lack of democracy in our unions sometimes resulting in the ascendance of privileged wannabe labor leaders who are in many ways no better than the Democrat stooges currently in charge. Both forces are a consequence of the complete lack of class-oriented trade unionists, the very same who built the C.I.O. and who possessed great clarity and maturity.
The lack of class-oriented trade unionists stems from the corporation led McCarthyite purges of our unions after WWII. In the vacuum left by the purges was a terrible swarm of charlatans, the mob, and reactionary elements who descended on our unions and did everything they could to make sure that American labor would not regain the strength it once had. With no strong guidance our unions floundered and have decayed culminating in the absolutely pitiful representation of 10.8% of American workers. A figure which is nearly the same as the period of American labor history before the creation of the National Labor Relations Board. This low figure is not from a lack of interest in union representation, but from an inability to achieve it. Meaning that the momentous achievement of union representation having federal legislation and being recognized as a constitutionally protected activity has been all but neutered.
Unfortunately, as unions gained federal recognition, this also meant increasingly stronger federal oversight and interference in unions. It’s not a coincidence that as unions were federally recognized and the NLRB passed that the State Department began to clean house by supporting right-wing candidates for union leadership ultimately resulting in the expulsion of class-oriented trade unionists from the AFL and CIO right after WWII and prevented US labor from affiliating with the WFTU. The bosses were forced to recognize our unions but they still control the government and in the long run they knew they would take control of them away from class-oriented workers and render them toothless.
And today, it is again no coincidence that with such close connections between the AFL-CIO, US State Department and the Department of Labor that many “leaders” of labor were quick to announce support for the fascist government of Ukraine. The US State Department is using our unions to give a veneer of union backing to those thugs, but the rank-and-file see through that bullshit. It is widely known that US involvement in Ukraine is a grift.
Tragically many groups in the labor movement today who claim to be trying to win back our unions from the entrenched and corrupt leadership that is primarily only supported by the US State Department parrot the same language of the State Department. As reactionaries took leadership of unions, the government cultivated “left” groups who they knew would promote instability and confusion in the labor movement through operation COINTELPRO.
The effect of COINTELPRO is still felt today. Many of these “left” groups are just reactionaries turned inside out. Two sides of the same coin. They promote sectarianism, a holier than thou attitude and a general disdain for discipline, organization, and the working class generally. They often end up being useful tools for the bosses, such as the “Reform Caucus” in ALU who sued their own union with frivolous accusations and now Amazon is using their lawsuit to file another against ALU in order to invalidate the election at JFK8. The difference between the right-wing shills working with the State Department and the “left-wing radicals” is the right-wing shills are getting paid for their treachery. The “left-wing” fools are wrecking the labor movement pro-bono.
It is up to all honest hard working people to approach the current situation with class-oriented trade unionism. Don’t let the “left-wing” sectarians gossip and weaken our unions, and don’t let the right wing stifle democracy either. Now is a time of reflection, of learning, and growth for all of us to find the pathway to bringing a class-orientation back to our unions. It all starts with getting back to the basics, to the fundamentals of why we have unions in the first place, and then fighting for the burning issues of labor today.