Social media clues to an AFL-CIO shift

First the labor organization’s official account tweeted out a joke about dealing with an adverse employer, Delta, by way of a guillotine, though it later deleted the tweet as not consistent with its values. But then days later it ran in all apparent seriousness a video of a “Marxist, roofer” narrator urging viewers to seize the means of production (“Means TV” describes itself as “the first anti-capitalist worker-owned streaming platform”). This is not your mom’s or dad’s AFL-CIO [Christian Britschgi, Reason; Noah Rothman, Commentary] Time for some member unions to begin thinking of disaffiliating?

9 Comments

  • I am no fan of socialists, whether claiming to be “democratic” or not. But it is worth noting that today’s capitalists behave differently toward trade unions than in the time of Dwight Eisenhower and George Meany. The Cold War alliance of capital and labor unions had started to fray as early as the 1980s.

  • One thought—isn’t there some federal requirement that companies bargain in good faith? That requirement seems problematic in the context of such calumny. Additionally, what about the First Amendment rights of workers? Can union shop employees be forced to fork money over to unions that use such tactics?

  • It takes alot to get the proletariats to revolt. In the Tsarist era, it took centuries. In the end, it was the ruling class’s inability to provide for the working class that led to popular support for a revolt. And, even then, it took years for a “working” government to emerge. That government was not a panacea by any means and could only be held together by a string of iron-fisted leaders.

    What should be clear is that revolutions don’t just spontaneously come into existence. I think that the US was very lucky that it did not happen at the end of the 20th century. It was instead allowed to morph itself into a bourgening society. The same thing seems to have happened in England, where there were periodic social revolutions that ended up making life better for the working class.

    The ruling class needs to make sure that the working/middle class is taken care of. When that happens, the revolutionaries cannot reach the critical mass necessary to effect a radical change.

    I can understand the need to condemn advocacy of violent societal change. But it is more necessary to address the underlying concerns to reach a societal compromise. As communist governments have shown us, there will always be a ruling class and economic disparity. The only question is how the ruling class is composed.

    • “The ruling class needs to make sure that the working/middle class is taken care of. When that happens, the revolutionaries cannot reach the critical mass necessary to effect a radical change.”

      Bismarckian.

      • I had never thought of it that way. I think you make a good point. (Preferable, I would think, to Marxist).

  • Overlawyered is a site that consistently argues for legislative and judicial actions against trade unions. Even if you agree with Walter’s arguments against Davis-Bacon, Jones Act, closed shops, aggressive actions against union recognition etc. being unconstitutional etc., you shouldn’t be surprised that when one side changes the political consensus that was reached by the end of World War II regarding labor management relations, the other side no longer sees a need to continue to support its end of what was the status quo.

    Walter, just which unions do you think would consider disaffiliating from the AFL-CIO based on a more aggressive left wing posture by them?

    • The broken-postwar-compact theory, I guess, is that one side blocks new schemes for card check recognition, secures opt-out rights for public employees, resists an expansion of joint-employer liability, and persuades a few more states to pass Right to Work, and the other begins tweeting about guillotines. One side talks about (but never actually succeeds in passing) some rollback of Davis-Bacon, the Jones Act, and the most ridiculously outdated elements of the FLSA, and the other decides that Marxism should be on the agenda again. Sounds sane to me!

      Historically, the chief bulwarks against Marxism in the trade union movement were the skilled trades, and I would expect those to lead the way again. I’d be really curious to see what the Fraternal Order of Police has to say, too.

      • Walter,

        People will stick with the status quo, unless you give them a compelling reason to choose another path. Inertia, if you will.

        One side talks about union busting, prevents unions from talking to workers, and retaliates against workers who want to unionize. That side wants to take advantage (exploit, if you will) of workers. Yep, that would lead to Marxism.

        Let’s make a deal. Capitalists do the managing and stay out of the workers’ choice to unionize and Unions stay out of managing. Wait, you say? It is a management duty to lord over workers. Well, then, don’t be surprised if workers want a say in how management does it.

        I will agree that the skilled trades have been a bulwark. But aggressive management tactics are fraying the skilled workers at the seams. Look, for example, at the pilots’ and teachers’ unions. If all unions could get the benefits that the police and firefighter unions get, I don’t think there would be talk of Marxism, revolution, or gullotines.

        So, how about US manufacturers do workers a solid. Maybe they could insist on other countries improving the conditions of their workers (which will, of course, cost money). As labor costs rise abroad, it will increasingly become more economical to manufacture in the US.

  • The Marxist tweets might recall your grandfather’s CIO (but not AFL). The CIO had a substantial communist element until they were squeezed out in 1945-46 by Walter Reuther and others who saw Harry Truman as an ally.

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