Rank and File labor activists protest at the Western Regional AFL-CIO conference April 9th 2011.
by Charles Rachlis 4/22/11
Member: CAPS(California Association of Professional Scientists), CA Department Of Public Health
Rank and File labor activists including: SF City painters, ILWU longshoreman, EBay Mud workers, state workers from SEIU, AFSCME, and CAPS gathered to protest the dead end strategy of the union leaderships which ties labor to the Democratic party while it administers the austerity while conducting 3 possibly 4 wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya). The AFL-CIO Western Conference held their meeting but did not have a point on the agenda to discuss the issue of General Strike let alone the role of the Democratic Party in promoting imperialist wars.
In the wake of the April 4th “day of action” sponsored by the AFL-CIO with “no business as usual” as the slogan , which only the ILWU local 10 took to heart by shutting the port of Oakland; rank and file workers rallied outside the conference demanding that workers’ independent political action including General Strike and breaking with the Democrats be put on labors agenda.
Workers explained how union leaders ignore democratic process, fake elections, raise dues without member’s approval, violate union by-laws and act in the interest of the bureaucracy not the membership. Workers explained how their union dues are used for lobbyists and lawyers whose dead end strategy has resulting reduction of real wages by 18% over the last 10 years for lack of COLAs. The lack of democracy in the unions was highlighted as part an parcel of how the labor tops keep the members separated, demobilized, demoralized, ignorant of labor history and carrying water for the Democratic Party every election cycle.
Upon conclusion of a spirited rally the activists marched into the hall where the AFL-CIO was holding its conference chanting “GENERAL STRIKE….GENERAL STRIKE…GENERAL STRIKE”. Quite to the amusement of the activists some of the staffers at tables in the lobby joined in, chanting along. The AFL-CIO leaders quickly closed the doors to the conference keeping the activists in the lobby, which had great acoustics so the workers chants resounded through the conference hall. San Francisco Labor Council executive director Tim Paulson was dispatched to address the protesters but not before the police was called on the rank and file.
The AFL-CIO tops were exposed for their role of keeping the workers movement tied to the bosses political party, they were exposed for not having a fight back strategy and for not even considering job actions let alone a General Strike. And they were challenged for not allowing the ILWU local 10, the only union in the country to take strike action on April 4th, from speaking at either the Oakland or San Francisco union sponsored Wisconsin support rallies. Today the ILWU faces punitive charges from their employer group the PMA for defending public workers in a political strike action and the AFL-CIO tops stand exposed for denying these heroic workers their rightful place on the platform of the Wisconsin public workers support demonstration. Their exemplary action should be heralded by labor but today labor leaders run from strikes like the scarecrow runs from fire.
The lessons of the action on April 9th is that the AFL-CIO leaderships and other labor fakers like the Change to loose leadership are vulnerable, present no leadership for workers looking to preserve their standard of living or win back losses. A leadership which can not defend workers gains in the first place can not fathom what it will take to win back the concessions they gave away. 1) These scoundrels must be swept from power; 2) Workers self organization and democracy must replace the entrenched bureaucracies; 3) Workers need our own political party willing to use working class struggle methods to resolve the economic crisis in the historic interests the majority-the working class.