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Dissidency or Loyalist
Source Dan Mariscal, SEIU 347
Date 09/05/02/18:32

THE LABOR MOVEMENT IN modern America was once a huge machine bonded with the common belief that the best way to improve the lives and standard of living, for workers, was through organization. Like every creative idea, there were mixed blessings of successes and failures, but movement, nonetheless. The efforts of the labor movement to navigate the fluctuating American economy, gave rise to different approaches on ways to best serve the labor movement. But, like all organizations with goals, there's the forest of opinions on how best to achieve those goals. The evolutionary process "kicks in" and the labor movement becomes a sea of flotillas, with every kind of "vessel" that will carry cargo. Then comes the inevitable.....the pirates.
Although, the vast majority of American workers are non-union workers, it requires a great deal more time, effort and money for a union to organize the unorganized. Having equated more members with more money and more money with more power, leaders have focused on growth of their membership to the point that, in some instances, leaders have lost sight of the original goals of the labor movement. The focus on this growth has lead union factions to consider the unthinkable....union cannibalism. After all, it's cheaper and quicker, to steal someone else's "flock" than to spend your time and money trying to "herd cats", right? If your union is engaging in or supporting this reprehensible cannibalism, are you disloyal if you speak out against it?
This "modern" approach now redefines what a "loyal" union member is. Leaders of the labor movement have now instituted their own definition of what loyalty is and what dissidence is. If a member advocates union democracy, can he be considered disloyal by his leadership or is he/she a dissident? What if that same member, tells other members, that they shouldn't be paying dues to a union that isn't democratic? Let's go one step further; what if the same member advocates getting rid of their current non-democratic union and advocates joining a democratic union? Is he/she, now, being disloyal? If you're the leader of this members' union, probably, and I'm sure the "appropriate action" would be taken.
But, at what point are you a dissident of your union, and at what point are you disloyal to your union? Who or what are you loyal to? Can you be loyal to the labor movement, and still be disloyal to your union? Is it now a "friend or foe" mentality, as in; "you're either with us, or against us"? If you don't support your union, then you must be supporting the employer, right?
This "modern" approach to unionism has now "muddied the waters" that members must now navigate. No one wants to be labeled a "disloyal" member, but no member wants to be considered a "mindless sheep", either. What was once a steady and straight path to a raised standard of living, has evolved into a moving target, on a slippery slope.
What happened to the days when you voted-in your union leadership, voted-in your Constitution and By-laws and went back to work, trusting that you and your co-workers would be in "good hands"? Apparently, they went the same way the "ethics in business" went. The bottom line took over. After what happened to our economy, using money to attract the "best and the brightest", wasn't the best idea. Instead of attracting the "best and the brightest", we wound up with the greediest. College degrees don't come with integrity, you learn that at home.
So, where do we go from here?
Back to the basics, brothers and sisters. Back to the basics.
But, instead of relying solely on "professional organizers", we need to remember that WE are the union and WE are the employers, and must act accordingly. Organize, but scrutinize. Trust, but verify (I know, I know...Reagan said it. But, even a broken clock is right twice a day!) Follow our leaders, but tell them where we want to go. Think of them as Taxi drivers, but make sure you can easily "unlock the door" when you need to, and when they make a wrong turn, give'm hell.
So, who or what should workers be loyal to? Let's try the American Labor Movement and..... each other.
I've been at the same job for twenty years and I would trust my co-workers a lot more than someone hiding in an office building, who only shows his/her face when they want something from me.
As for dissidence, there can be no democracy without it. Henry Bauer said it best; "What's right with America is a willingness to discuss what's wrong with America".

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