Is It Time for Labor to Return to Its Socialist Roots?

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

“I have raised hell all over this country.  You don’t need a vote to raise hell!  You need convictions and a voice!” – Mary Harris (Mother) Jones

Since its inception, the American labor movement has had a progressive, socialist voice aiding in its efforts to produce agreements with corporations that have included health care, pensions, strongly worded language on worker equality, civil rights issues and many more important benefits which some of us still enjoy to this day.

As the decades ensued, socialist ideals like those instituted by noted, founding member of the IWW and five-time Socialist Party of America candidate for President, Eugene V. Debs, came under heavy fire from red-baiters, such as the late Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

And as some of those same ideals, enjoyed by millions of American union workers and their families were deemed “un-American” ways of thinking, and as the country, pushed over the years to a much more neo-liberal (aka neo-conservative) leaning philosophy, began to take on a more unabashed, nationalistic tone, the voices of socialist union leaders were banished to the dust bins of history under the ever present oversight of scurrilous government watchdogs, such as the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Crushed under the weight of this unwarranted pressure (in some cases, pressure levied by their more hawkish, “Better Dead Than Red” union hierarchies of the 1950-60’s), socialist labor voices were reduced to a whisper, voices, which no doubt could have been utilized as a demonstrative force against evil in the painful, coming years of American government bowing at the altar of greed, the global economy and its horrendous spawn, free trade agreements.

With the introduction of the Internet and other advances, the millennial generation has become more open and interested in the history behind the labor movement and has been surprised to find out that its socialist hotbeds weren’t necessarily the urban centers of America, but instead from what are now more right wing states like West Virginia.

With the 2020 election quickly approaching, labor is being looked to by many millennials to see if they will again, as they had years before, charge headfirst into the fray as the vanguards of grassroots, socialist movements or align themselves with the status quo wing of the Democratic Party who helped free trade away countless, good paying, working class, labor-backed jobs in the past three decades.

Are we ready to take on the more progressive, socialist path of our storied union ancestry ­– the path of Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones) who was once labelled “the most dangerous woman in America,” and usher in a new wave of grassroots socialist, labor activism? Or will we sit on the sidelines, adopting a wait and see approach which has failed us miserably?

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You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

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