Let him who wants peace prepare for war.
Vegetius, 4th Century AD
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters recently released a special report in the Teamsters entitled “Stopping the War on Workers,” in the April/May edition. It’s a very militant sounding title and has an attitude that is extremely laudable given the present dire situation facing millions of workers across the country.
Workers have been under attack for years, based on underlying changes in the economic system (capitalism). International competition from globalization, and the resultant offshoring of American jobs to cheap labor countries have undermined the position of workers in America. Needless to say, the unions have been hard hit by the effects of global economic competition. Those that are slow to adapt have lost members and eventually face the possibility of having collective bargaining stripped by well organized bosses and their political agents. This is just what happened in Wisconsin under the war cry of “Deficit Reduction!”
“We’re actually in a war right now. It’s a war with the working man versus big business, and the unions are in the middle since they represent the working man.”
— Antoine Brown, driver, Gary Recycling Department, Local 142, Gary, Indiana (Teamster 17)
Now when one talks of war we get into the realm of goals, tactics and strategy. The Teamsters did a fantastic job in helping to rally workers from all over the country using the slogan, “Stop the War on Workers.” This is an excellent militant slogan as it unites all workers against big business: 3000 workers protested in San Francisco on February 26; 1000 in Salem, Oregon on March 8; more than 3000 rallied in New York on February 26; and the largest rally was 185,000 in Wisconsin on March 12. Excellent. The people turned out.
But it is necessary to point out that in order to do battle all the allies need to be on the same page. As James Hoffa Jr. pointed out in a speech, “This is a conspiracy by the CEOs and Wall Street to destroy collective bargaining rights and lower wages of middle class workers.” But allies that pull in opposite directions can ruin the whole campaign: the Teamsters continue to finance with generous contributions precisely the same politicians that are in the pay of Wall Street: the Democrats.
The Republicans are the open representatives of big business, but the Democrats receive enough campaign funding from the rich to make them the accomplices of the attack on the working class. There couldn’t have been so many tax cuts for the rich had not the Democrats been in favor of implementing this policy as well. And it’s precisely these tax cuts that have led to massive deficits. In fighting back against big business, it isn’t tactically sound for working people to close their eyes to the Democratic Party partners of the corporations.
The Teamster’s stated goal is to protect the American Dream for middle class workers. However, years of supporting the Democrats have shown precisely the worthlesness of these professional politicians: organized labor is now just 12 percent of the American workforce.
Governor Scott Walker didn’t come out of nowhere, like a madman brandishing anti-union legislation; the ground had been prepared well in advance by the mistaken strategy of relying on Democratic politicians. Globalization has torn the rug out from beneath the feet of the labor movement of yesteryear. New goals for labor have to be commensurate with the new circumstances. Tax cuts for the rich and corporations and deficit reductions are being demanded by big business and both political parties. For workers the only reply can be “No Cuts! and No Concessions!; Tax the rich and corporations!”