Problems With The Labor Movement

This column was prompted by an exchange on the ConcernedForDCPS list-serve. I’m going to quote a bit here:

(1) RN wrote: “Things are looking worse for Black male high school dropouts.”

http://www.atlantadailyworld.com/201304014925/Business/unemployment-rate-over-50-percent-for-black-male-high-school-dropouts-report#.UVm39xe6AjU.email

(2) RL responded: “so what do you suggest?”

(3) HT responded, in part, and in his usual nearly-inscrutable prose:  

“RN,  There’s nothing to stop you from posting here, and regularly, on the efforts and increases in efforts to find more effective ones, by the metro-area labor council and of individual unions, all to make a bigger difference. Just as Rhee and Henderson, squat is what I see. (Let’s call it as it is, after Easter.) “

Me again:

To continue the digestive analogy, the only way to produce something worth “squat” is to have a “movement” — and in our case, the “movement” needs to be one in which there are LOTS of people who feel strongly enough about to join and march on the streets and go to meetings and boycott and donate and go on strike. And such a movement also needs a leadership willing to devote essentially all their time to it, to the detriment of the rest of their lives.

(It’s quite different if you ‘devote’ your life to the Dark Side: you can easily make 6 figures for showing up in business wear, attending well-catered meetings in comfort, manipulating suspect “data” on spreadsheets, and writing inane drivel using whatever the latest corporate jargon is required this week.  If you join the Dark Side, the side of the one-hundredth-of -one-percent, the side of the billionaires and the Global Corporate Edu DEformers like Michael Milken, Bill Gates, and Rupert Murdoch,  you can look forward to 7-, 8-, or 9-figure salaries even if you aren’t the most TV-pleasing face out there. But you will be rich, as Michelle Rhee once told me and my fellow-teachers from my school who came to see her to complain about our local situation, “Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams”. And she said it like it was the last line in a fairy-tale come true… )

And it was the last line of the meeting before we teachers were dismissed (to a towed car, in one case).

I just wish I had done enough research on her shady history in Baltimore at the time to call her on it at the meeting.

One of the big problems is that we keep getting sold out by our own union leadership, over and over. We here in DC’s WTU local have had a horrible experience for decades now: one disastrous leader, then another, then a thieving crook, then a complete and utter traitor, followed by a nice enough guy who doesn’t seem to quite have enough fire under him.

I hope he’s not a disaster, a crook, or a traitor, but when does the public ever find out about that stuff? When it’s too late and the wrong type of smelly ‘movement’ hits the fan! Obviously I’m not a very good judge of character, because I never thought that any of those @#$%^’s would go that far, and I feel like I’m utterly inept as a leader of anything larger than a classroom of math students (and not always even then).

We also have a national WTU leader who has never, ever taught in a classroom.  Despite her occasional militant rhetoric, she trained as a lawyer. She was instrumental in shepherding in the “cage-busting” contract between Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Local 6 of the WTU, which directly led to the current whirlwind of labor givebacks and union-busting all over the country, along with condemning millions of inner-city kids to a stupid year-long regime of test prep for stupid tests that don’t help anybody except the corporations who print and score them and make tons of cash. Weingarten also has co-sponsored a number of things with, and sits on boards with, people like Rhee and Gates…

This sort of sell-out, criminal leadership that doesn’t share the interests of the rank-and-file, or of the public, is not new in the labor movement. Look it up in any history thereof. But there have been others who were great and who never sold out and achieved great success. They and the millions who marched with them directly or indirectly bequeathed us the Weekend and the 40-hour week; Medicare, Social Security, integrated work places, unions, pensions, integrated schools, Worker’s Comp,  Unemployment Benefits and OSHA… and an end to Jim Crow, and eliminated child labor… mostly. All of which are under attack today.

Guy Brandenburg, Washington, DC

Published in: on April 1, 2013 at 4:21 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Guy, Please take a look at two resources you can put to use. They are both out-of-the- box creative. They are an emotional approach, that connects with people in a way that the usual discourse does not.
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    I understand that some of these will be used in the Washington gathering later this week.
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    Like


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