Defend Democracy in the Labor Movement
- By Cal Winslow, CounterPunch
Now is the Hour! Stand Up for UHW!
Stern, however, sees the strike as archaic, counterproductive: “It’s not good for America when people fight,” he told the wall Street Journal. Interviewed on National Public Radio, he confessed, “I don’t think anymore the power of unions comes from its ability to strike.” “I think it comes from its ability to participate in the political process and to change America in issues that we’ve been talking about, like healthcare.” The full irony of this position became apparent in Chicago in December. Just as the workers at Republic Windows and Doors emerged triumphant from their magnificent sit-in strike, facing down, among others, the Bank of America, SEIU was revealed to be in bed with the disgraced Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. The political process indeed!
Similarly, Stern and his supporters belittle the very idea of union democracy, above all workplace democracy. Hence, SEIU’s policy, just now being set in place across the country, of “call centers” as an alternative to shop stewards – that is, a system of centralized phone centers, where professional problem solvers handle workers’ grievances. Again, in contrast, UHW prides itself in workplace organization and member involvement. The structure of the union is thoroughly democratic – from its universal system of shop stewards, stewards’ councils, divisional bodies to its executive committee that is numerically dominated by working members. UHW, interestingly, will hold, if allowed, elections in February, of all officers, including Rosselli. Under trusteeship there will be no elections.