Saturday, June 23, 2007

Choices for Black labor

Choices for Black labor by Bill Fletcher; Black Commentator; June 23, 2007

I came of age politically in the middle of the Black Power movement. Within the ranks of organized labor, both the Black Power movement and the Anti-Vietnam War movement had a significant impact through the mid1970s. Caucuses were being formed to challenge the bureaucratic leaderships of many unions. Wild-cat strikes were taking place in workplaces around the country. And in some locales, independent unions were being established where workers had concluded that the established union movement was incapable of making any significant changes to address the needs and demands of rank and file workers. At the national level, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists emerged as a major voice arguing that organized labor needed to take a new and different look at the Black worker, a look and engagement that was based on the need for respect and equality.

As we enter the 21st century, Black labor is in disarray. Within the ranks of organized labor, the various institutions that have often spoken on its behalf have ossified. Black caucuses in various unions have stepped back from challenging and pushing the union leaderships and instead have in all too many cases degenerated into social clubs or step-ladders for individuals to get positions in the union structure. While there are greater numbers of Black staff and, in some cases, elected leaders, there is an emphasis on acceptability—to the leadership of organized labor—within the ranks of the movement, rather than an emphasis on challenge and struggle.

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