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Mark Brenner, "Open-Shop America: Bracing for the Trump Era"

Started by Monthy Review, November 18, 2016, 11:00:42 pm

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Monthy Review

Mark Brenner, "Open-Shop America: Bracing for the Trump Era"

MRZineNear the top of labor's to-do list is preparing for the real possibility that the whole country may be right-to-work before the snow melts. . . . What's needed is not a better sales pitch, but getting back to basics.  Members will stick with a union that's visible and vocal in the workplace, one that uses collective action as a shield and a stick against management's abuses.  No one is riding to our rescue.  Members will have to do this for themselves.  And union leaders who want to inspire more rank and filers to step up to the task have to mean it when they say "you are the union." . . . But simple self-preservation isn't the only reason union members need to reclaim the driver's seat.  It's also the only way unions can identify, recruit, and train enough leaders for the fights ahead. . . . Drawing in exponentially more leaders will require a shared understanding of how we got into this mess -- something labor can no longer sidestep after this election.  Exit polls show that 51 percent of voters in union households voted for Hillary Clinton, the lowest percentage for a Democratic nominee since 1980.  The numbers were even worse in white working-class communities across the Midwest, where over the last 15 years millions of factory jobs have disappeared.  After voting for the nation's first Black president by large margins in 2008 and 2012, how could so many union members pull the lever for Trump, a candidate who nakedly stoked racial resentments and blamed Mexican immigrants and Muslim refugees for the country's problems?  Figuring that out will require frank conversations with our co-workers -- uncomfortable but essential.  Unions are one of the few places where Trump supporters and those on the receiving end of the backlash are in the same room.  And there's no stronger anchor for the fight against Trump's racial divide-and-conquer than labor's principles of solidarity. . . . An injury to one is an injury to all.  We can put that principle to work by defending the people Trump is attacking, starting with our own members.  For instance, many unions have negotiated contract protections for immigrant workers when employers challenge their legal status or Immigration and Customs Enforcement demands audits.  Given Trump's promise to deport 3 million immigrants once he's sworn in, we need to extend such contract protections everywhere -- including to workplaces with no immigrant workers, as a declaration of solidarity and an organizing opportunity.  The same goes for ensuring Muslim workers' right to religious expression -- the issue that laid the foundation for the very first Fight for $15 campaign, the one at the Seattle airport, which kicked off a national movement.  In health care, education, and much of the public sector, we have more points of connection -- it's easy to make the case for defending our patients, students, and clients too.  And starting within our ranks can lay the groundwork for unions to take the next step and help defend targeted communities, the way the Electrical Workers (UE) and the Chicago Workers Collaborative did in 2007 when they developed a citywide rapid-response network.  Through pickets and direct action, the network helped hundreds of immigrant workers keep their jobs.  And in 2008 it mobilized union members and community activists to serve as a buffer between police and the Republic Windows and Doors workers who occupied their factory.  To reverse the rightward momentum that brought Trump to power, we'll need thousands more of these experiments in community solidarity.

Source: Mark Brenner, "Open-Shop America: Bracing for the Trump Era"