We need to think about how we need to change our own movement
so that we are better positioned to win.
Virtually every Labor Day there is less and less discussion
of workers and unions than the previous year. Many
of us who have been deeply involved in the labor union
movement bemoan this situation, sometimes complaining
to the mainstream media about the lack of attention.
While it is true that the mainstream media largely ignores
workers and unions, none of this will change in the
absence of a change in the labor movement. It is analogous
to those who complain about the lack of education
in the public schools about unions. Why should this
be a surprise? In the absence of a vibrant movement
combined with right-wingers taking over school boards,
this is precisely what one should expect.
Greater attention will not come to workers and unions through
an expanded labor press or even a labor television
network, though both of these would certainly help.
The reality is that there is no quick fix because
what is really needed is a reconfigured/reformed labor
movement. Labor gets attention when it is in action.
And this goes beyond a particular demonstration or
picket line. It means sustained action.
In 1969 there was a major strike in Charleston,
South Carolina. It was the famous Hospital Workers Strike that represented
an unusual alliance between the hospital workers (members
of Local1199/Drug, Hospital and Healthcare Workers
Union) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
It was a fight for justice and addressed both issues
of economic justice and racial justice. This became
a defining moment for Charleston.
There was energy.
What is really needed is a reconfigured/reformed labor movement.
Too many activities by today’s labor movement lack the sense
of…a movement. That does not mean that there is an
absence of struggle. Rather, what the Charleston Hospital
Workers strike and what the labor upsurge of the 1930s
- 1940s captured was a broader vision of economic
justice. You know when you are in such a moment. There
is a way that people who are not necessarily directly
involved or directly affected choose sides and, frequently,
get involved the best that they can.
On Labor Day, activists in labor unions, worker centers, independent
worker organizations, and labor studies programs (at
colleges and universities) need to take the moment
for thinking about vision and strategy. Rather than
focusing on how we are ignored, we need to think about
how we need to change our own movement so that we
are better positioned to win.
God knows, workers in this country need to start winning,
regardless of who comes out on top on November 6,
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member
and Columnist, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past
president of TransAfricaForum
and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines
the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.