World Labor

Thoughts from the Sidelines

By Staughton Lynd

1. All praise to the struggle of Soldiers Of Solidarity! But: the problem encountered by the resistance to Delphi and GM is the employers’ use of individual buyouts. It is the ultmate solidarity-destroying strategy. We need an answer.

2. I very much support the proposal for cross-union solidarity, but very much oppose “union democracy” as the unifying theme. How would union democracy counter the strategy of individual buyouts? How would a democratic Steelworkers or Auto Workers union prevent plant closings and the export of jobs to low-wage countries overseas? As long as unions concede to employers the no-strike and management prerogative clauses in the contract, it hardly matters how unions govern themselves. Moreover, union democracy has been the strategy of Miners for Democracy, the Sadlowski campaign, TDU and Labor Notes for the past quarter century, and despite the valiant efforts of so many, the union movement has dwindled in numbers and divided.

3. I think rank-and-file labor activists need to bite the bullet on two traditional themes of the Left that recent efforts at labor reform have sought to sidestep. First, there must be complete freedom for rank-and-file shopfloor direct action at all times (no no-strike clause). Second, in the long run there will be no way to stand up to plant closings until the labor movement together with its allies in the community is prepared to take over the plants and run them itself (no management prerogatives clause).

4. A new movement must be equally clear about immigration and overseas workers. This past May 1 Hispanic workers recaptured May Day for all of us. But that seed cannot grow until we repudiate, for example, the position of the rank-and-file candidate in the Teamsters union (Tom Leedham) that Hoffa should do more to keep Mexican truck drivers out of the United States. That position is nothing more than Gompers’ support for Chinese exclusion warmed over. The beginning of all wisdom is to recognize that the center of gravity of the international workers’ movement is now in Latin America and other areas outside the United States. We in the imperialist heartland cannot win alone. We must take whatever small steps we can to begin to be part of something broader than our own country. In the words of Tom Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, and Albert Parsons: My country is the world, my countrymen are all mankind.