Not much of anything is wrong with American labor. Hardly anything. If you tuned in to any of the American-labor-produced MayDay events, you must have been awed by their progressive declarations of militancy and international solidarity. They said things like “We have to go beyond the National Labor Relations Act,” and “We need a new organizing model.” Great stuff! Hardly anything wrong. Just a little bit. Maybe a smattering.
Okay, here’s what I think is lacking: they really do need a new organizing model and I think they know it, but they haven’t come up with one. Or, if they have, they haven’t announced it.
New Model Already Exists
For a couple of decades, the AFL-CIO has had “Working America.” https://www.workingamerica.org/. Everyone can join on-line for free with one single click. Everyone should. The AFL-CIO’s on-line organization came about just when MoveOn was showing overwhelming success. Unlike MoveOn, though, Working America wasn’t just a handful of extremely talented techies. They were the great American labor movement on-line.
Also unlike MoveOn, Working America never really did anything. While MoveOn ran major campaigns and established regional centers across the country and began having a profound effect, Working America languished. They became a for-hire nonprofit that will join a campaign for a price. Same thing ACORN was, more or less.
ACORN, as you know, imploded after an internal scandal and a vigorous persecution backed by the powers-that-be. MoveOn dropped its national organizing model to the mystification of all. The local versions of MoveOn in my area were taking up every radical cause that came along, much like the Occupy Movement, and exhausted themselves running every whichaway. They didn’t have a plan. Eventually, they fragmented away. I guess the best of them are in one or more of the Bernie Sanders groups now.
The Bernie supporters do have a plan. Their plan is to take over the Democratic Party. If anybody ever could accomplish that takeover, it’s Bernie Sanders and his many supporters. I hope they succeed, but I don’t think they will. Since the 1890’s, lots of people have tried and failed.
The labor movement is the strongest framework for building a massive political movement in America. If the labor movement employed the tactics that MoveOn pioneered, they would be unstoppable.
So that’s my criticism of the American labor movement today. They haven’t fully employed Working America. They could. It’s right there. I hope they will.
I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They podcast the radio program and “Workers Beat Extra” additional interviews and comments. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site