If I were a worker in a factory, the first thing I would do would be to join a union. - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that is waging war, and we're winning. - Warren Buffett, Billionaire
John P. Smeekens
We Need A New Strategy
Hello Sisters and Brothers,
Having attended a few rallies fighting for America’s postal service as well as for Walmart workers to get a living wage I was hopeful as I always am that the cause for which so many braved the chilly temps would prevail. The local press has been kind to us all, and as such I was hopeful that this might resonate with the average American citizen and as such turn itself into grass roots support for our cause and then the local populace would join us a partners defending what is theirs. I was very happy at the show of solidarity by all those in attendance on 11-14-14 out in front of the Royal Oak Main PO, nearly 100 + from far too many unions to count braved the cold weather to support our cause and whether it was on 11-14-14 in Royal Oak as we tried yet again to save the USPS from itself or on 11-28-14 out in front of a Walmart as we joined others to fight for a living wage. I congratulate and thank each person who came out for their leadership as well as their clear understanding of the peril we are all in.
It pains me to say that I have lost confidence that Congress will help us in our efforts to save this centuries old service, I now ponder the future with a dread that often comes before having a filling done.
My skull has that dull ache that comes with knowing we are on the verge of changes that will forever alter the landscape of the postal service and will do nothing except erode the public’s confidence in us as an agency that despite weathering horrific mismanagement, a coopted and corrupt leadership, still manages with regularity to get the job done for the American people. The bargaining unit is the heart and soul of an organization that is destroying itself from within.
I spent the Thanksgiving weekend reading various articles from across the nation opining as to the state of organized labor here in the USA. One specific article suggests that current model that is organized labor may well have run its course.
Watching accomplished leaders like the AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka give commentary looking for the bright spot in Novembers collapse makes me wonder at times as to the reality he is living in and to that end if the author Thomas Geoghegan maybe on to something. As for what happened in early November there is no bright spot, there is no silver lining, all there is a political landscape that has been hijacked by the big money donors that are hell bent to make certain theirs is the only voice heard in the workplace and in Congress.
I will have to begin question President Trumpka’s leadership if he does not sit quietly down with the other national leaders in organized labor and consider if as a movement we do not need to make fundamental structural changes in how we market ourselves the masses. The GOP was not selling an idea – the were selling apathy and encouraging people to disengage from the process. Whether its shifting voting rules to deny people their right to vote, or whether its overtly lying about the damage they have done to this economy and job market people seemed to buy into it. When I see that in our own state the Nerd got another term after he pretty much in plain view shoved the tax burden of this state onto to me and you as well as retirees while giving those NON JOB CREATORS a tax break, well my head is still spinning and all I can do to maintain my sanity is begin to prepare for the next national election that is now just 23 months away.
The article below scratches the surface of where I believe we need to begin. It mentions that a series of one day strikes can be used as a means to disrupt unruly employers and shame politicians into supporting a pro labor agenda.
I recall in the 1970’s how the “strike” was a powerful tool against an employer who refused to bargain. I watched as working people held a line and risked their lives to keep others from crossing it. Well in the last 40 years not only the times but the laws as well as people's resolve and commitment to their fellow middle class brothers and sisters has changed. Any extended walk out usually results in the employer hiring scab labor that seems all too willing to cross a picket line and take the scraps or crap the employer is offering.
This is not by chance – it’s the result of anti-labor money and anti-labor politicians stacking the deck against the middle class over the course of the last 5-6-7 decades. We need a new strategy and I believe the author below is on to something. Imagine if you will a series of one day strikes all across this nation in different sectors at different times against different employers. What if the entire employee complement at every department store in Michigan took the day after Thanksgiving off, just one massive sick out. Think of the message that would send.
Do not buy into the message that the minimum wage is an entry level wage that only young people earn, come to one of those rallies to raise the minimum wage and see who is actually getting paid, the agenda in a right to work state is to drive down wages and increase profits, it is no more complicated than that. There are other thought provoking items in the article below and at the risk of spoiling it for you all I will end with one quote, thank you for reading this far and ask you continue just a bit further into Inthesetimes.com reporter Jeremy Gantz's piece on Tom Geoghegan's book - Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why Our Country Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement.
“We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Justice Louis Brandeis
I hope you find it as thought provoking as I did.
Let Old Labor Die
With union membership declining, Tom Geoghegan has a radical prescription for labor.
By Jeremy Gantz
It is not difficult to imagine the United States without a labor movement. Less than 7 percent of the country’s private-sector workforce is unionized. Twenty-four states have enacted “right to work” laws that sap union treasuries by allowing workers to benefit from union contracts without paying dues. Even Michigan became right-to-work in 2012.
Is labor’s decline terminal? Long-time labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan says yes—unless we redesign the legal system upon which the modern labor movement was built.
The title of Geoghegan’s new book, Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why Our Country Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement (The New Press), signals a manifesto. Geoghegan methodically builds his case around two arguments. First, for labor to make a comeback, American workers must be less beholden to hidebound unions and the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency that referees union elections and mediates labor disputes. Workers must have the opportunity to more directly control their lives through workplace democracy.
Geoghegan’s second argument is that a new kind of movement can only be born through new laws—which means the Democratic Party must return to its labor roots. Geoghegan pleads with Democrats to do more than tinker with the minimum wage and tout college diplomas. Given that most jobs being created in the United States do not require a four-year degree, he argues, Democrats must foster a new and stronger labor movement to combat rampant inequality.
Only One Thing Can Save Us is vintage Geoghegan: erudite, witty, autobiographical and compulsively tangential. (He’s not shy about his love for John Dewey and John Maynard Keynes.) There’s also some guilt. While running for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s old Illinois congressional seat in a 2009 special election, Geoghegan barely mentioned organized labor. He got clobbered (his word) in the primary and now gives us this “act of expiation.”
Geoghegan churns out a book every three or four years, all while representing embattled workers and unions (including the Chicago Teachers Union). He was bound to return to the fate of the U.S. labor movement, having started there in 1991 with his first book, Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back.
Now labor’s back seems to be broken, and Geoghegan is tired of losing. The ambivalence about unions (not to be confused with workers’ rights) that animated Which Side Are You On? has become 11th-hour desperation. Outmatched by union-busting employers in court and hobbled by the bottleneck of the NLRB, organized labor’s last best hope is to conduct “political strikes” that force deep change, he argues.
“To go up against employers with the idea of bringing labor back is futile,” Geoghegan writes. “Yet if the real target is the Democratic Party and not the employers, enough disruption, made up of little hit-and-run strikes, might change the world.”
He advocates one-day strikes, concluded before employers can legally replace workers, as a way to disrupt business-as-usual for employers and to shame Democrats into pushing a pro-labor agenda. An example of the approach is the SEIU-backed Fight for 15 campaign’s fast-food worker strikes, which seem to have pushed a minimum wage increase onto the Democratic agenda this year.
But Geoghegan is after more than wage boosts. “The goal is to build up to a 1968-style political fight to force the Democratic Party to sign on to a revamping of corporate law,” he writes. The revamp would substitute a “stake-holder” corporate model for our current one. In other words, follow the lead of Germany, where labor power is baked into company operations through “co-determined” boards of directors featuring elected employees and “works councils” unaffiliated with any union that help manage local working conditions. He explored such themes in his last book, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life, which declared his love for Germany’s labor relations and well-guarded industrial base.
Yet Geoghegan’s push for the stake-holder model has an air of unreality, and not just because it’s nigh impossible to imagine Democrats altering the DNA of American-style corporate capitalism. Importing the German labor-management model would also change unions. Under current labor law, only an elected union representing all workers can negotiate working conditions.
Geoghegan thinks this model alienates Americans who are looking for control rather than solidarity—like “a guy in Alabama who deep down is waiting for a labor movement that won’t be imposed on him.” So unions must surrender some control, he writes, in a passage sure to anger some union officials:
Sounds great. But why would unions flex what little muscle they have left to push for changes that undermine their own power—especially given what appears to be long-term GOP control of the House and the Senate filibuster. (The filibuster, Geoghegan notes acidly, “has always existed in part to ensure a pool of either slave or low-wage labor.”) Mindful of Washington’s perpetual gridlock, he suggests that state governments might first experiment with amending the corporate model to boost workers’ power. For example, they could give tax breaks to any company that allows employees to elect half of its board of directors.
A more straightforward way to bolster the labor movement would be to amend the Civil Rights Act to include the right to join a union. This would allow individuals to bypass cumbersome NLRB procedures and sue anti-union employers in federal court. Geoghegan is so confident that a civil right to unionize would grow the movement that he proposes—if the filibuster isn’t abolished!—stomaching a national right-to-work law in exchange for the amendment.
It is a troubling paradox that his vision for a new kind of movement—less hierarchical and dependent on NLRB-certified elections and contracts—is so predicated on government action. A New Deal Democrat, Geoghegan sees the modern labor movement as a glorified federal policy project gone off the rails. It began with Washington elites arming workers with legal tools, which have since rusted into uselessness.
Apparently, then, the one thing that can really save us is a new kind of Democratic Party. But as implausible as Geoghegan’s vision for labor—and the Democratic Party—may be, its premise is right: Unions can only survive by fighting—and evolving.
Hello Everyone and Happy Thanksgiving!
I want to thank all those who came out to the rally in Royal Oak on 11-14-14. We had well over 100 people from too many unions to count. APWU NBA James Stevenson came to town to support us and I want to thank him personally for that. Rick Blocker President of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO was there and I thank him as well – NALC Branch Pres. Paul Roznowski was there and again – if I try to thank everyone individually I will forget someone so I want to thank all those who braved the chilly weather and helped us raise public awareness of the attack on America’s Postal Service.
I am happy to report that as of Friday November 14th, 2014 – all the Democrats in the Michigan congressional delegation stand with us in supporting a moratorium on these destructive delivery standard changes as well as the remaining plant closures, no word on if and or when the GOP may get on the right side of this issue. In keeping with the idea that an injury to one is an injury to all I am asking that we all make it to the Walmart store located at 44575 Mound Road in Sterling Hts. MI. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This rally will be just one of hundreds taking place all across the United States. I am asking that we show up and support these workers like they showed up Friday and supported us.
Read the entire story on the ThinkProgress site.
I hope we can count on your attendance to this very important Black Friday event.
It is with deep sadness that we must report the passing of former 480 481 Area Local President Donna Ratkos-Mercier.
Donna was a mainstay of this union and this local, her hard work still impacts the employees of this local and will for years to come.
Not a second was spent in her time as a member, steward and officer where she was not trying to help her fellow union brothers and sisters or this union.
Donna truly believed an injury to one was an injury to all.
Our thoughts our prayers and our deepest sympathies go out to her family and her friends.
In addition cards and condolences can be sent to the 480-481 Area Local at: 810 Livernois St. Ferndale, MI 48220, we will make sure her husband Mike and her family get them.
E-Mail links are intended for questions of a general nature and are not for formal administration of the grievance procedure. Individuals with specific questions and or problems must contact their steward within 14 days in order to protect grievance time limits.
The 480-481 Area Local maintains offices at 810 Livernois in Ferndale, Michigan 48220 and represents all APWU members in the following USPS installations: Almont, Allen Park, Anchorville, Belleville, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Brighton, Carleton, Chelsea, Clarkston, Clawson, Davisburg, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Fair Haven, Flat Rock, Garden City, Grosse Ile, Hartland, Hazel Park, Highland, Keego Harbor, Lake Orion, Marine City, Marysville, Michigan Call Center, Michigan Metroplex, Milan, Milford, Mt. Clemens, New Baltimore, New Boston, New Haven, New Hudson, Novi, Oxford, Pickney, Plymouth, Pontiac, Port Huron, Richmond, Rochester, Rockwood, Romeo, Romulus, Royal Oak, South Lyon, South Rockwood, St. Clair, Sterling Heights, Trenton, Union Lake, Utica, Walled Lake, Warren, Washington, Waterford, Wayne, Westland, Willis, Wixom, Wyandotte and Yale.
The Union office is normally open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday through Friday and the telephone numbers are (248) 543-3262/3263/3264. The 24 hour number is (248) 543-3262. FAX: (248) 543-2750.