Thursday, February 12, 2015

Communists & Trade Unions

1998 article.

.... Not a `propaganda nucleus'
One of the main themes of all the meetings was captured by Joel Britton, an OCAW member from Chicago, when he explained, "We are a component of a larger vanguard of the working class with responsibilities to fighters. What we do can do damage to fellow fighters unless we are competent, careful, and disciplined." He stressed that this is very different from being "a propaganda nucleus" in the unions. That's not what is meant by doing "mass work," he said.

Britton said this means that when there's a strike in the area, "we should be getting to know the strikers and introducing them to other union fighters." When this is done effectively, he said, workers will continue to be in touch with each other following the strikes. "If we go through a strike without getting to know fellow fighters and keeping in contact with them, we aren't doing what we should." One of the consequences of effectively participating in union struggles is that worker-bolsheviks will have broader political discussions and will find people interested in the socialist press and other literature.

During a public forum on labor resistance in Chicago, Rich Stuart, who was attending the UTU meeting from Birmingham, Alabama, described two trips he made with other union activists to Spring Hill, Tennessee, where 5,000 Saturn workers overwhelmingly voted in favor of strike authorization on July 19. On the first trip, he said, the group from Birmingham and Atlanta got into discussions with many workers and learned how their illusion of having it made as Saturn workers is being shattered by worsening conditions. "We got to know some people," Stuart said, "and during the next week we contacted one of the workers. The next weekend we arranged to meet her and we got to know each other better." As a result of engaging in this solidarity effort, he said, information was obtained for articles in the Militant and several dozen copies of the paper were sold, including a six- month subscription.

Two Caterpillar workers from Peoria, Illinois, who spoke on the panel at the forum welcomed Stuart's suggestion that they get to Spring Hill too to share the experience of their long struggle against their employer.

Many local fights were described at the seven meetings. Dan Fein, a meatpacker in Atlanta, described a slowdown at work one Saturday when the bosses attempted to squeeze eight hours' production out of workers in six hours.

Maggie Trowe, who works at a packinghouse in Marshalltown, Iowa, reported that workers had forced the company to provide a bus from Des Moines to the plant. More recently, however, the bosses are trying to get rid of the bus, and the workers have been protesting this through the union.

Greg McCartan, a garment worker in Boston, described how workers at Sterlingwear, a factory that produces coats for the U.S. military, were inspired by the transit workers strike in Philadelphia and organized to send a message and a financial contribution to the strikers.

Gale Shangold a garment worker in Los Angeles, reported that workers at Hollander Home Fashions joined a protest by meatpacking workers at a nearby plant who are fighting to be organized into the UFCW.

Shangold also reported on several struggles of textile workers in the South, including organizing victories at Tultex in North Carolina and two Levi-Strauss plants in Texas and Kentucky. The National Labor Relations Board has called for a new vote at the giant Fieldcrest-Cannon textile complex in Kannapolis, North Carolina. In response to these developments the meeting of socialist workers in UNITE decided to help organize a team to North Carolina to meet some of the fighters and reestablish contact with unionists there who communists knew when there was a branch of the Socialist Workers Party in Greensboro....

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