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?

***

You can contact Richard on Twitter @stlwrkr4889.

Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

More ...

Make Father's Day Union Made!

Make Father's Day Union Made!