Thursday, June 25, 2009

The effectiveness of strikes in difficult economic times

Here is an interesting article in today's Guardian:

The most recent walkouts have naturally focused on jobs, as insecurity grips the labour market. But they also show that, as one leading trade unionist puts it, "it isn't inevitable that employers have the whip hand, even during a recession, and collective action can deliver results" – while passivity guarantees that jobs, pay and conditions are culled, squeezed and slashed.

Second, they underline the irrelevance of anti-union legislation when workers are determined and well-organised. Every single one of the walkouts at Lindsey and at dozens of other power stations and refineries has been illegal under what Tony Blair boasted were "the most restrictive union laws in the western world". But so far no employer has even hinted at a visit to the courts, so counter-productive would that be in the real industrial world.

It's now become obvious that only by defying or ignoring the anti-democratic legislation bequeathed by Margaret Thatcher – which outlaws, for example, all solidarity action – will there ever be the political will to ditch or replace it with something more reasonable.

This is precisely what should be occurring in the United States. American workers need to be organising and striking. And even more importantly, they need to be aiming for political power. Had American labor not relinquished claims to political power eons ago, the social, economic, and political texture of the country would be radically different today. As it is, American labor gets into a one-night stand with the Democratic Party at election time -- a party that is indistinguishable from the Republicans in its obeisance and fealty to capital.

American capitalism is unequivocally demonstrating that it does not work -- except for an insignificant minority of capitalist. Yet without insistent countervailing pressure from labor, absolutely nothing will change. We can already see this clearly. And conditions for American labor -- and by implication the mass of American people -- are continuing to steadily deteriorate.

1 comment:

Red Frog said...

Nice. David Moberg notes that Trumka of the Mineworkers is running to replace the dreadful Sweeney of the AFL-CIO. Trumka helped lead the Pittson coal strike in the 80s.

I recall arguing with people dropping away from the Labor Party that Sweeney would not do anything to reverse the collapse of the union movement. A former SWP'er as I recall. Many years later, history has rendered a verdict on Sweeney. "Over-matched by his times." While Trumka has spent some time working with Sweeney, we should not that Trumka lead the Mineworkers to join the Labor Party. The LP was a party that was going to represent the working class independently at the polls - but no one had the guts to actually do it. The talk was good - the action was abysmal.

Trumka is to Sweeney's left, and there is 'some' hope that he will revive a fighting labor federation - not one dependent on Democratic Party handouts and legalisms.