September 13, 2013

Time for labour offensive

Striking CAW workers in the airline industry
People's Voice Editorial

"Great minds think alike," as the old saying goes, or perhaps "necessity is the mother of invention." Difficult circumstances sometimes compel individuals or movements to take decisive action. The AFL-CIO is looking at new ways to help unorganized U.S. workers and community groups to join the "house of labour". This decision comes just after Canada's new Unifor union adopted a constitution and organizing strategies to establish "community chapters".

We recall another watershed moment in the annals of the North American labour movement. In 1935, in the depths of the worst economic crisis in capitalist history, embattled trade unions faced a choice: stick with traditional "craft union" tactics aimed at appeasing employers to protect a shrinking membership base, or launch militant struggles to organize millions of industrial workers. The latter option led to the emergence of the CIO in the U.S. and similar campaigns in Canada. Thanks in part to sweeping advances for socialism in Europe, this strategy led to major victories for working people within a generation.

There is no guarantee that similar gains will be achieved by Unifor and the AFL-CIO. It will take a massive fightback for workers to resist the corporate assault, including in Canada. But after a long period of primarily defensive and isolated struggles, the labour movement is trying out creative ways to turn the tables on big capital. Bringing new sections of working people into the labour movement will puncture the vicious corporate media lie that trade unionists are living the easy life at the expense of unorganized workers.

This strategy will help unite all working people - organized and unorganized, public and private sector, employed and unemployed, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, young and old, from all national origins and genders - into a powerful coalition to fight for their common interests. This is an idea whose time has come - let's help make it happen!

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