Perspectives Approved by the Emergency Labor Meeting

Emergency Labor Network

Cleveland, Ohio

  1. As they are doing throughout most countries, the corporate class is using the financial crisis orchestrated by them to launch unprecedented attacks on the job security, living standards, working conditions and useful public services once enjoyed by the working class in the United States. This cold-blooded offensive threatens the very existence of our unions.
  2. Labor movement unity in action — public and private sector, the two federations and the independent unions — is indispensable to success in stopping and reversing this assault.
  3. As recent events in Wisconsin have reaffirmed, the key to an effective fight-back is mobilization of the union ranks. We envision a strategy that includes both actions in the workplace and in the streets.
  4. We must go to the streets to defend trade union and democratic rights, as public sector workers are now doing. The right to collective bargaining is a right enshrined in universally recognized Conventions 87 and 98 of the UN-based International Labor Organization (ILO); it is also a human right codified in the UN Charter. In fact, the United States is on trial before world public opinion for violating basic labor rights at home. The ILO ruled recently that the state of North Carolina was out of compliance with international labor standards for denying collective-bargaining rights for public sector workers, and the ILO called on North Carolina and the U.S. government to repeal this ban on collective-bargaining rights.
  5. We must also go to the streets to oppose the concessions demanded by the bosses and the government. There is plenty of money available without demanding givebacks from public employees, but this requires changing our nation’s priorities to raise taxes on the rich, redirect war dollars to meet human needs, and more — all demands that we must place on the federal government. We can no longer effectively deal with such crucial issues as health care and retirement through collective bargaining alone.
  6. We not only defend the social insurance model — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc. — but demand that these programs be strengthened and improved. And it is high time we follow the example won by our Canadian sisters and brothers decades ago by extending Medicare to all.
  7. Nor can contract negotiations create the 27 million full-time jobs urgently needed today. Since the private sector has failed to do this (in fact, the corporations continue to off-shore good full-time jobs in their continued drive to lower labor costs), we need a public sector that can put America back to work rebuilding our neglected and crumbling infrastructure, revitalizing mass transit, and promoting a sustainable economy. The public sector and public services provide the basic core safety net for human rights.
  8. In fighting for such independent solutions to our country’s crises we would return to what once was the bedrock of trade unionism — our unions champion the needs of the entire working class, including the unemployed, not just our dues-paying members. That approach was what enabled the historic labor victories during the depths of the Great Depression. This is not only the right thing to do; with union density at near record lows we cannot win the big struggles just on our own.
  9. To cement working class unity we reject every attempt to divide us by race, skin color, gender, immigration status, religion, or sexual orientation. This means not only politically correct resolutions but active support to all targets of such pernicious discrimination.
  10. A unified, energized working class could reach out for even wider alliances. There are millions of students, mom-and-pop businesses, family farmers, and others who are being squeezed by the corporate class. Seeking to partner with the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America, however, can only lead to failure for labor and its allies.
  11. Our goals cannot be met while American blood and vast amounts of our tax dollars are being consumed by unjust wars to advance the global corporate agenda. We say end the wars, bring all of our troops home now — and put the war budget to work for human needs.
  12. Instead of supporting wars of intervention, the labor movement should embrace international worker solidarity. The mutual declarations of support between protesters in Madison and insurgent independent unions in Egypt are a proud example that deserve wide emulation.
  13. Since many of the attacks we face today have bipartisan support, labor must act independently of these two parties. To the extent that the labor movement subordinates its demands to agreements with these parties in the name of “shared sacrifice,” it will not be able to defend effectively the interests of its members and of the working-class majority.
  14. The call to protect the right to collective bargaining must include the demand to repeal all laws that prevent workers, such as those in the U.S. South, from having the right to bargain collectively and arrive at enforceable contracts. All laws, such as the Taft-Hartley Act, that prevent the consolidation of strong unions in the Southeast and other regions of the country must be repealed.
  15. We must view organizing the South as fundamental to rebuilding a strong national labor movement in this country.

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