The "Leadership" Battle In The AFL-CIO?
And The Silence On The Termination Of Pensions
by Steve Zeltzer
WHAT IS EXTREMELY illuminating about the present "battle" for leadership of the AFL-CIO is the striking silence by all sides in the struggle over what do to with termination of union pension plans by a judge at UAL. This termination as most know will be used not only to eliminate pensions for all unionized airline workers but will likely spread to the auto industry and other industries as well.
It will also be used to tear up contracts with employers and rewrite them to destroy all the gains that unionized workers have in the "legacy" industry.
Despite this dagger that is aimed at the heart of one of the most unionized sectors in the United States, Andy Stern and his cohorts as well as John Sweeney and his backers are strangely silent on what organized labor should do about this direct economic and political attack.
Why this issue is again so strange is that the same Andy Stern has been arguing that the failure of the AFL-CIO is to spend enough money to organize Wal-Mart. One has to ask Andy Stern and his supporters how they can talk about organizing any new workers in America when they and the rest of organized labor cannot even protect the most unionized and powerful transportation sector in the United States. These workers have the power to bring down all these union busters and force the government and the Congress to address their issues. They should organize to shutdown the airline system and tell Bush and the Congress to bring back the National Guard from Iraq if they need security against workers in this country who begin to take power in their own hands. In fact under the present situation, these national guard troops are probably so angry with Bush and the Congress for sending them to Iraq and keeping there that they will likely have no part at aiming their guns at US airline workers whose pensions are being liquidated and stolen by the airline bosses.
The gauntlet has been laid down against not only the UAL workers but all unionized workers in the United States. Your union defined pension will be violated by a judges order and in the case of the airline workers you will not be allowed to go on strike to protest this action because this will violate labor laws. The bosses with the support of the government will re-open contracts and make unilateral changes to destroy any union rights.
How would John Lewis and other leaders such as Harry Bridges of the ILWU in the 1930's likely handle this?
Probably they would have joined with the airline workers and announce that they would stand by any and all action of airline workers to defend their pensions. They would back a call for a national airline strike to shutdown the entire industry and force the bosses, Bush and the pro-regulatory Congress to stop these attacks on pensions.
This of course would be a "real" challenge to all the Wal-Marts of the worlds. They would back it up by telling all their members to join the airline workers on the picket lines at the airports and do what they have to to close all these union busters down.
Instead, what we are seeing in front of our eyes is a strange "silence" about this critical battle. All AFL-CIO members from every union have to ask why these so called "leaders" have no plan of action or even a statement of solidarity with all airline workers.
No statement of warning and alarm has gone out that these attacks are a threat to every unionized worker in the United States.
Could it be that their internal game playing for power is more important than protecting and defending the over 120,000 unionized airline workers in the US?
Only they will be able to answer that question.