Naiveté Will Get Us All Killed
While I have been more directly familiar with sell out Labor bosses than has been healthy for me, to suggest that a faction from the study group which is the honorable but powerless IWW leading the way out of Hades reminds me of those who were sure we would establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in a couple weeks, once two-thirds of the subcommittee recommended the plan.
The tough and principled but disparate voices of labor still have the capacity but not the program to communicate with and connect EFFECTIVELY in action at the grass roots level with the increasingly disaffected, beat up and broke working class. The good and bad news is that there's a void of national and regional leadership waiting to be filled, and progressive labor could be at the core of our way out of Dodge. But while EFCA is likely to become as much a cruel joke as "universal health care," there's still plenty we can do to either bypass or minimize the NLRB in organizing (J4J, PLAs, Community Benefit Agreements...), and at least get a bone thrown our way from DC in lieu of a real EFCA by demanding a reallignment of the Board nationally and at the Regional Director level, with some executive intent statements and directives which could produce some workable progress in the broader fight.
As for uniongrrl, she has clearly never dealt in any real way with the NLRB, or she would know that they're "constrained" more by being bureaucratic hacks, many appointed by the GOP, than by weak labor law they have routinely allowed to be perverted to the bosses’ advantage. Having just been purged from a once good union gone nuts, no need to convice me that these are crucial battles that must be fought and won. But let's not repeat the Board's own excuse--"we're just following the law"-- for remaining inert and useless in the face of actionable evidence. The examples from just my organizing experience are too numerous to list, but just one recent campaign illustrates the point:
Staff at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego first hurdled unprotected for a year by the Board's failure to charge the employer with blatant ULPs and voted in SEIU in 2004. Management, through their Union busting attorneys, did not move an inch at the table for 2 years and were again blatantly guilty but uncharged for not bargaining in good faith. The bosses then stirred up the discontent they created and orchestrated 2 decerts—both of which they lost as the workers again ran the gauntlet through uncharged ULPs of coercion, intimidation, and a lavishly funded and staffed anti-Union campaign to reaffirm their decision to have a Union.
Finally, while yet another decert (this would be the 4th vote, filed for just before the workers ratified their first contract) was looming, the Board filed a 5 part complaint—11 months after we yet again documented how these workers’ rights had been grotesquely and repeatedly violated. This first and only Board action came 4 years after the workers had the bad manners to first advocate for the Union, and hope and stamina was being lost by even the most ardent Union supporters. This is, of course, the object of this well documented and routinely repeated sequence of moves—to strangle the Union by whatever means necessary, including in this case the disgusting diversion of millions that should have been be used directly to save kids’ lives, and improve their chances for survival and good health by treating their caregivers and support staff with dignity and respect—instead of into an unethical and illegal campaign to deny workers their most basic rights.
The last dagger demonstrates the point unequivocally: As we were preparing for the trial where the NLRB was to take the role of our advocate and prosecute the employer—where the bosses, their consultants and goons would have to stand in the dock and finally be held accountable by the workers’ testimony, and consequently blow the doors off their wall of lies to the staff, their donors, and the whole community—a deal got cut behind our backs by our “advocates” and the boss. No trial, no accountability, but yet another gift: the case was resolved completely by an agreement for a goddamn posting in 3 places in the Hospital in which management would acknowledge that they would at last honor the contract they signed, would “allow” Union staff access—up to that time denied—to represent and even talk to workers in the Hospital, would not intimidate or coerce workers for Union activity, and specifically would assure that security would not rip Union leaflets from workers’ hands (I am not making this up). THEY DID NOT EVEN HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE ANY GUILT IN THE DEAL.
The coups de gras for the campaign was the International putting UHW under trusteeship, back channeling to the rat scab boss attorneys, and then selling out the workers completely by ignoring then walking out on those who had bled by then for 6 long years to have a Union, by disclaiming interest in the 4th election—THE FOURTH ELECTION IN 6 YEARS—that these weary workers should never have had to face if the damn Board had done their job in any of the years before the Trusteeship, and a Union was in place long before Andy Stern done lost his mind.
The Board has, in fact, wide discretion in filing complaints, dismissing bullshit stalling maneuvers, and prosecuting the guilty. It’s just that they require videotape of the aggrieved workers being horsewhipped by the man before they’ll get their head out of their ass and act like their job is supposed to include protecting workers’ rights. Organizers everywhere know this, and while nobody on the port side disputes that the laws themselves are deeply flawed and responsible for much of this stupidity—neither is it in reasonable dispute that too many of the bureaucrats that run this machinery could find an excuse not to find their own ass even if it had a bell on it. If we're to be sold short again on what would be true justice right now, we should at least be able to get the trash taken out while we keep moving on our own.