Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day 2012: State of the Unions, or Can Labor Recover from Rightwing Assaults?

(Note: this is a guest blog published at writers request.)

By Pancho Valdez

"When the working class unites, there will a lot of jobless labor leaders"
-Eugene Debs, 1905

Eugene Debs a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, socialist and presidential candidate knew from experience the betrayal of business unionism. Business unionism is supported by labor "leaders" who are paid six figured incomes, who mistakenly believe that the interests of capitalism and labor are identical and who go out of their way to to avoid doing anything controversial like speak out against war, giving workers a true voice in their unions or who support the idea of a general strike, like what was needed last year in Wisconsin. 
As a result of business unionism, the percentage of  private sector union members is at an anemic 6.5 - 7%. Public sector worker unions represent 30-35% of public sector jobs and will soon have less if labor doesn't do a quick about face and get into fighting mode. By that I mean ending the fatal dependency on the Democratic Party, use of the NLRB, the electoral system and judicial system. Our history began in the streets and on the work sites, but it is on it's way to end in the elections/political patronage, administrative hearings and in the courts. Such practices and places are alien to us just as land is alien to fish!`These practices/places are good only when we have workers in control of the electoral process, the administrative process and the court systems.This can only come about through viable people's political parties.

To clarify what I am saying let's look at the recent situation in Wisconsin. Last year many public workers such as nurses, firefighters, school teachers, librarians, and others were pushing for a general strike in opposition to Governor Scott Walker's blatantly anti-labor legislation and his corrupt ties to the fascist minded Koch brothers, Charles G. and David H. Instead of utilizing the general strike, public worker union leaders defused the situation and began the ill fated recall campaign against Walker. While they were successful in obtaining more than enough signatures for the recall, workers depended on the Democratic Party for support and learned the hard way of why depending on politicians and corporate funded political parties is not a wise decision. The Democrats went through the motion of running Tom Barrett against Walker. Critics in Wisconsin cite the poor participation of the democratic leadership and the failure of President  Obama to travel to Wisconsin and lend support to the recall campaign.  The moral of the story is is NEVER trust politicians to fight our battles. There support can be good, usually when forced to do it. To put all our eggs in one basket proved disastrous.
On the local labor scene UNITE HERE continues it's organizing of hotel and restaurant workers on the Riverwalk. While the struggle has been long, both union staff and rank & file members feel confident that victory is inevitable. At present a campaign has begun at the Grand Hyatt as hotel bosses are resorting to stealing tips earned and intended for wait staff, kitchen and  housekeeping staff. One example is when the Dallas Cowboy, NFL team stayed at the Grand Hyatt, they were charged a 22% "service charge." The players were under the impression that the $3,000 on the bill was going to the housekeepers who kept their rooms immaculate and tidy. (Football players are not the neatest people)

Instead Hyatt management pocketed the money and not one single rank & file workers received not even a dime from that tip! UNITE HERE will be pressing the San Antonio City Council to enact and enforce a local city ordinance to address this ugly version of wage theft.
At the C.H. Guenther aka Pioneer Flour Mill, members of Teamsters Local 657 go into their 19th month of strike. While the strikers persist, there appears to be a lack of community and other moral support . There also appears to be no plan to end this bitter  struggle without significantly losing the strike. Attempts to secure much needed international labor support does not appear to have succeeded as production continues uninterrupted by scabs, thus the company is not feeling much if any economic pressure to return to the bargaining table. I will say that I  wholeheartedly respect the gallant effort and persistence of these dedicated men and women  and I will request from my Creator intervention and guidance to successfully end this battle.

Closely connected to the organzing campaign of hospitality workers is the effort of local taxi drivers, pedicab drivers, riverbarge and horse carriage drivers to organize as well. What makes this drive unique is that some in this targeted areas are considered to be independent contractors while others are considered to be traditional employees. Whether or not a significant number are willing to unite and fight for better pay and working conditions, remains to be seen.
Nationally organized labor is in a serious crisis as it continues to be attacked and weakend by the right. In Indiana the reactionaries succeded in securing so called right to work legislation. Similar legislation has been introduced but not passed in Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio. Desspite these vicous attacks far too many labor leaders remain of the mindset that labor's interests are the same as the corporation's interests. In my humble opinion based on 40 plus years of labor activism, the American labor movement must move left to go forward. This means revitalizing the use of the strike, boycotts and if needed civil disobedience, civil disobedience is a useful weapon against the increasing use of lock outs that employers find convenient to us. When union officials know about an upcoming lockout, workers must be prepared to occupy the factory, hotel, etc and do the old sit in. Current labor laws are set up to control and hinder us, not help us.

One important factor to be considered; had the minimum wage kept up with the pay that CEOs receive, we would have a national minimum wage of around $23 per hour! The current $7.25 per hour is a very low amount given today's outrageously expensive cost of living.
While some are excited about the so called Affordable Healthcare Act, the fact is most of the provisions don't go into effect until 2014. The only saving factor of this legislation was the prohibition of denying consumers coverage for pre-existing conditions. We need Medicare for All/Single Payer Healthcare something over 400 U.S. labor organizations petitioned for and were conveniently ignored by both Richard Trumka and Barack Obama.
Labor must also get serious and join in a nationwide effort to organize and build a genuine people's party free of corporate influence. Reforming the Democrataic Party is futile and foolish as evidenced by more that 75 years of attempting to do so. 
Prior to any revival of  old and needed labor values, trade unionists must demand that their leadership cease and desist with all ties to the The American Center for Labor Solidarity, a front of the CIA. Until this  occurs our labor movement will remain weak, continue to lose ground and never explore viable political alternatives. much less oppose current and future wars of imperialism and or cease relations with the pro-zionist AIPAC.We must all come to realize that the role of the ACLS is a dirty one and has severely hampered growth of the American labor movement.

-Pancho Valdez is a veteran of 47 years of civil rights, labor and peace activism. He can be reached at 210-422-8000 or