Solidarity Forever

The Wobblies have organised a Starbucks store in Manhattan!

"Starbucks workers here have organized a union with the Industrial Workers of the World IU/660 and have submitted union cards today to the NLRB for a certification election. The workers are poised to become the first Starbucks Baristas union certified in the country. Starbucks Baristas at the 36th and Madison location in Midtown Manhattan have come together in an effort to raise themselves out of poverty as well as to achieve respect and dignity on the job ...

“Behind the green aprons and smiles are individuals living in serious poverty,” said Daniel Gross, a worker at the store. “Baristas are the cornerstone of a Starbucks coffee shop, we just deserve better. Starbucks cashes in on a community friendly image but it certainly doesn’t extend to their workers or coffee farmers. That’s why we went Union.”

Love them anarcho-syndicalists! Make mine a grande.

May 18, 2004 in Unions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Unions Play Their Allotted Role

After three long years of Thatcherite retrenchment -- combined with what is rapidly becoming a neo-con signature: the ability to turn a budget surplus into a huge deficit by slashing the taxes of those most able to pay -- the Gordon Campbell regime that presides over the fate of British Columbia attempted a vicious hatchet job on the contract for ancillary health care workers.

When collective bargaining between the Union and the government-financed-and-controlled employers' negotiating body failed due to the employers' intransigence, the power-crazed Campbellites tore up the very notion of free bargaining, passing a law ordering the workers back on the job. That's not particularly unusual in these post-Third Way years. But Campbell went a step beyond. He imposed a contract on the union that reduced wages by 15% and allowed the employer to contract out 100% of union jobs whenever it chose.

Without waiting to hear the views of the leadership, the furious membership denounced the sweetheart deal, pledging to stay at the picket lines in flagrant disregard of the law. As if that wasn't bad enough, other major unions began poilitical strikes in support of the health care workers. Suddenly, the hospitals were still shut down, and province-wide services such as the ferry system, public transit and the schools were threatened with closure and major disruptions.

"Members of the [Teachers' Federation] were poised to shut down schools had the general strike gone forward. Like the HEU, they had seen “our agreement ripped up”, said [Teachers' president Neil] Worboys. “We mobilized 42,000 teachers over the weekend, not an easy thing to do, and were prepared to protest if there was no agreement acceptable to the HEU.”
Talk of General Strike spread rapidly. But then, as The Tyee puts it:
"It was as if someone pulled the emergency brake on a fast moving train."
Union leadership, both at the Health Employees Union (HEU) and the BC Federation of Labour, realized that the membership was driving ahead without them. To avert this unholy possibility, the leadership went cap in hand to the government. Both sides were willing to talk -- the government didn't want a summer full of labout stoppages, and the labour leadership didn't want to lose control to their more militant memberships. And thus a sell out deal was struck. The 15% pay cut stayed in place, those workers already layed off remain fired, the employers maintained their right to contract out, just over a longer period. The leadership said that was good enough and ordered the members back to work. Job action was cancelled, and the HEU and BC Fed leadership told the other unions to back off.
"Basically, everybody feels they’ve been screwed by the union, and that’s putting it lightly,” Karen Ferraro, a nutrition aide for 20 years, told The Tyee at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Monday ... Helen Chan, who works in health records at the hospital, echoed Ferraro and many fellow workers, saying she was feeling “upset, betrayed, disappointed, helpless, and angry at both the union and the government.”
So say the workers. The union leadership has another story, of course:
"Labour stepped up to the plate,” and made the best deal under the circumstances, Sinclair said. “This was about stopping the bleeding so that you can be there the next time to fight.”
In other words, screw the workers today so that the Union can maintain its position tomorrow. The political wing of the BC Labour movement, the centrist New Democratic Party, added its weight to the sellout:
"“My hope is that people will direct their anger where it needs to be directed – towards Gordon Campbell and the Liberals,” NDP Leader Carole James told The Tyee ... “My hope is that people will get involved in community groups, continue to protest even though action is ended, support other groups, and encourage people to join the party."
Just don't do anything to really rock the boat, right?

Yet again the unions and their social-democratic poodle party have shown themselves for what they really are -- handmaidens to capitalism, the sugar that helps the medicine go down, valium for the masses, class traitors. The unions were created by the elites and have been used by the elites throughout their existence. As the Wobblies rightly claim, ANY labour-management contract is, by definition, a diminution of the worker's right to withdraw labour. The unions are there simply to facilitate that diminution of labour power and to ensure that the basic buttresses of capitalism are never shaken.

I hope that the leadership of HEU and the BC Fed get fat bonuses from the employers this year; they deserve it.

May 6, 2004 in B.C., Capitalism, Unions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack