Differences between the AF and WSM

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syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
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Jan 2 2007 02:15

Chuck: "Increasingly this is not true anymore. In the food service industry there are a handful of companies, Aramark, Sodexho, Compass, McDonalds, and Host that collectively have over 2 million employees just across the US.

Regional companies, like Let Us Entertain and Levy's are being bought up by these Multi-National companies. A national union is needed and is being set up Service Workers United (SWU)."

Who is organizing it? And how is it going to be structured?
What is the organizing strategy?

t.

throwhen
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Jan 3 2007 00:34
syndicalistcat wrote:
Chuck: "Increasingly this is not true anymore. In the food service industry there are a handful of companies, Aramark, Sodexho, Compass, McDonalds, and Host that collectively have over 2 million employees just across the US.

Regional companies, like Let Us Entertain and Levy's are being bought up by these Multi-National companies. A national union is needed and is being set up Service Workers United (SWU)."

Who is organizing it? And how is it going to be structured?
What is the organizing strategy?

t.

http://www.serviceworkersunited.org/

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syndicalistcat
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Jan 3 2007 06:39

Okay, so it's a joint project of UNITE HERE and SEIU? 5,500 member national "local". Does this mean it has no concept of an autonomous local industrial organization run by its members? Structured maybe like, say, United Healthcare Workers West (a statewide "local")? I don't know, but i can guess.

This is not my idea of a new restaurant workers union. I prefer, say, a federation of autonomous metro-area-wide locals, with no receivership powers in the national federation.

t.

throwhen
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Jan 3 2007 13:53
syndicalistcat wrote:
Okay, so it's a joint project of UNITE HERE and SEIU? 5,500 member national "local". Does this mean it has no concept of an autonomous local industrial organization run by its members? Structured maybe like, say, United Healthcare Workers West (a statewide "local")? I don't know, but i can guess.

This is not my idea of a new restaurant workers union. I prefer, say, a federation of autonomous metro-area-wide locals, with no receivership powers in the national federation.

t.

well then clarify what you said.

It is currently 5,500 workers all organized in the last year and mostly in the food service industry for the national and international chains. It's focus is those small shops that folks complain unions don't organize.

In Chicago it organized a stadium of seasonal workers, 200 workers. Two colleges of about 50 each, and food workers at various (about two dozen) bank and corporate sites, mostly with between 8 and 15 workers per site.

Is this not new organizing? Done on a large scale against small shops. Isn't this one of the things lefty's have been complaining about mainstream unions about for years.

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Jan 3 2007 17:28

Chuck, I'm not saying it is a bad thing this union exists. If it can make gains for people, it is worth it. But i think that ultimately a top-down, staff-driven type of union can't become a real social movement, and that unionism won't revive on a large scale or be able to make more fundamental shifts unless it can become a genuine social movement. And it can't work to change society in the direction of working class liberation unless it is a movement controlled by its worker members.

t.

throwhen
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Jan 6 2007 00:01
syndicalistcat wrote:
Chuck, I'm not saying it is a bad thing this union exists. If it can make gains for people, it is worth it. But i think that ultimately a top-down, staff-driven type of union can't become a real social movement, and that unionism won't revive on a large scale or be able to make more fundamental shifts unless it can become a genuine social movement. And it can't work to change society in the direction of working class liberation unless it is a movement controlled by its worker members.

t.

ok. we disagree.

I think unions like this are controlled by the members.

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Jan 6 2007 00:55

I take it mean that the activists are involved in particular mass struggles, campaigns, mass organizations. I take it that the idea is to build an actual social base for our politics/ideas.

t.

throwhen
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Jan 6 2007 05:28

activists are involved.
the organizational structure is a union committee of workplace leaders made up for different groups of workers.
fights involve large numbers acting as a group.
workplace leaders are involved in the running of campaigns.
workplace leaders are expected to become larger union wide leaders.
union leaders are expectd to become community leaders.
workplace leaders are expected and trained to run the union in their shop.
from there they are trained to run the union outside of their shop or to come on union leave.
workplace leaders are expected to become the staff of the union, or if not able to after union leaves to become better leaders in their shops or in the overall union.

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Jan 6 2007 06:20

a bit vague. i take it that by "leader" you mean someone who holds some position. is a "workplace leader" like a shop steward? are they elected? by "union wide leaders" do mean members of the executive committee? the word "leader" i find ambiguous. You say "workplace leaders are trained to run the union in their shop", this sounds like there is just one person running a union in a workplace. i gather the idea is that union staff are supposed to be recruited from "workplace leaders." But doesn't this lead to a career path out of the working class, so to speak?

t.

throwhen
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Jan 6 2007 15:10

leader is someone who leads someone else

workplace leader could be a shop steward, union committee member or someone that leads other workers but is not on the union program.

shop stewards are elected in SWU shops; it is an official position that requires contract maintaince, grievance handling, negotiating committee etc.

union committee members are leaders of workers, that are not elected but take part in the running of the union at work.

union wide leaders could be Executive board members, or members who come on leave of absense to run the union in other shops or areas. they could be on the political committee that makes decisions about the political future of the union. or the immigration committee or our Media committee.

workplace leaders run the union in the shop: that means that they and the rest of the committee/steward structure in their shop runs that run. they are either the elected or unelected leadership strucutre for the workforce. that handles grievances, disciplines, runs campaigns, signs up members, gets invovled in politics and the community. etc.
Leadership doesn't mean one person, in the 60 person cocktail department at one casino, I have 3 shop stewards, 1 committee person, and 1 leader that hasn't joined the committee yet. Any union decision that has to be made will be made by the 3 stewards and the committee person, and me.

Organizers are part of the working class, not outside of it.

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Jan 6 2007 20:26

chuck: "leader is someone who leads someone else."

Circular definitions are not helpful. The word "leader" is ambiguous. Suppose there is an active member who often comes up with good ideas in union meetings, who volunteers to do stuff, and so on. He or she may hold no position but still is "playing a leading role" in the union. Ideally one wants as many members as possible to have "leadership skills" in this sense. But not everyone is equally interested in being so active in the union. But one should always be looking to encourage as many as possible to be active. Concentrating decisions into the hands of some committee apart from the members doesn't really help that process.

If someone takes on responsbilities thru election such as a shop steward or treasurer, that is a different meaning of "leader." And then there is the more authoritarian meaning, as when I say that "management are the leaders of the production process." I think Hoffa is "leader" of the IBT in this authoritarian sense, as well as of course being elected into that position.

Chuck: "workplace leader could be a shop steward, union committee member or someone that leads other workers but is not on the union program."

Again, what it is "to lead others" is not defined. see above.

Chuck: "shop stewards are elected in SWU shops; it is an official position that requires contract maintaince, grievance handling, negotiating committee etc."

That's good. In UNITE HERE Local 2 here in San Francisco they haven't had elected stewards for quite some time, according to a hotel bellman i know.

Chuck: "union committee members are leaders of workers, that are not elected but take part in the running of the union at work."

Appointed from above then?

Chuck: "union wide leaders could be Executive board members, or members who come on leave of absense to run the union in other shops or areas. they could be on the political committee that makes decisions about the political future of the union. or the immigration committee or our Media committee."

How do people get on these committees? Appointed from above?

Chuck: "workplace leaders run the union in the shop: that means that they and the rest of the committee/steward structure in their shop runs that run. they are either the elected or unelected leadership strucutre for the workforce. that handles grievances, disciplines, runs campaigns, signs up members, gets invovled in politics and the community. etc. Leadership doesn't mean one person, in the 60 person cocktail department at one casino, I have 3 shop stewards, 1 committee person, and 1 leader that hasn't joined the committee yet. Any union decision that has to be made will be made by the 3 stewards and the committee person, and me."

well, it's good that a majority of the committee is elected but I would rather see more general membership meetings to make more decisions. When i was a shop steward, we held periodic general meetings of all my coworkers.

Chuck: "Organizers are part of the working class, not outside of it."

Maybe. But I said career path. I don't think the national executive board members of UNITE HERE or SEIU are members of the working class, nor are presidents of locals making $150,000+. A person who is appointed supervisor in a department is in a contradictory position -- they may sincerely want to do right by colleagues and may have even taken the position to prevent someone worse, but they have to worry about management directives they are expected to carry out. And management provides a career path, a ladder up the hierarchy. And so too in AFL or CtW unions. A path into the professional/managerial class.

t.

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Jan 10 2007 01:10

A leader is someone who other people follow (or are strongly swayed by), by either what the leader says or does. That doesn't mean the leader has good ideas or that they're active or participate in the union. That's the goal, though. If they're opposed, then that's a problem. Most workplaces have existing leaders. Over time in organizing new leaders can emerge/be created as the relationships in the shop start to change.

Issues of democracy, election vs appointment are issues of officers. Issues of (fighting) hierarchy, creating inclusing and accountability involve leadership. The two are related - leaders and officers - but not identical. Leaders aren't the same thing as officers, who have a formal function and, in some cases, formal decision making power. If officers aren't leaders, that can be a problem. If officers and leaders conflict, that's a bigger problem.

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Jan 10 2007 02:30

But, Nate, people are often called "leaders" simply in virtue of holding an official position. Informal influence, the ability to sway others, is one meaning of "leader" but not the only meaning. It's not that people are mistaken in calling people who hold an office a "leader." It's rather that this is just one of the meanings of the word. The meanings of words is simply determined by how people use those words, the features they use them to track. If people use the word "leader" to refer to people who hold office, that becomes one of the meanings of "leader."

We can also speak of "leadership traits." Some of these traits can be developed in people, they can be taught or nurtured, like learning how to be an effective public speaker. There are reasons why people are able to sway others. This shouldn't be simply taken for granted. Sometimes a person is listened to because he or she is well-informed. In our society there is a tendency for those with less education to defer to those with more, though this is not always the case. A person could be a strong personality who speaks out a lot. But not all aspects of "informal leadership" are due to things like personality or talent.

There is a classic argument of Marxists against anarchists, that we allegedly are not in favor of leaders being accountable through election. This is based on the idea that, according to anarchists, the only relevant form of leadership is that of informal influence. But there is no point to an election to determine who will have informal influence, clearly the marxists who make this argument are talking about leadership positions.

If we take a slogan such as "We Are All Leaders," the title of an anthology edited by Staughon Lynd -- a slogan of IWW origin -- what does this slogan mean? What were the wobs who said it trying to say?

t.