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

Steel for Wind Power

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

Siemens Gamesa last month laid off 130 workers at its turbine blade manufacturing plant in Iowa, just months after GE Renewable Energy decided to close an Arkansas factory and eliminate 470 jobs.

The companies reported shrinking demand for their products, even though U.S. consumption of wind energy increases every year.

America’s prosperity depends not only on harnessing this crucial energy source but also ensuring that highly skilled U.S. workers build the components with the cleanest technology available.

Right now, the nation relies on imported steel and turbine components from foreign manufacturers like China while America’s own steel industry—well equipped for this production—struggles because of dumping and other unfair trade practices.

Steel makes up the bulk of turbine hubs and the wind towers themselves. It’s also used to make the cranes and platforms necessary for installing the towers.

Yet the potential boon to America’s steel industry is just one reason to ramp up domestic production of wind energy infrastructure.

American steel production ranks among the cleanest in the world, while China has the highest carbon emissions of any steelmaking nation and flouts environmental regulations.

The nation’s highly-skilled steelmaking workforce must play an essential role in the deeply-needed revitalization and modernization of the nation’s failing infrastructure. Producing the components for harnessing wind energy domestically and cleanly is an important step that will put Americans to work and position the United States to be world leaders in this growing industry.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work