Government proposals on the “right to bargain”

The Government recently unveiled plans for addressing the fall-out from the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in the Ryanair and Impact dispute. This ruling undermined the operation of the Industrial Relations Acts (2001–04), known as the “Right to Bargain” legislation. The purpose of this legislation was to assist unionised workers in non-union firms where employers refused to collectively bargain in drawing on the support of the Labour Court to determine terms and conditions of employment.

While the new proposals may make the legislation operational again, some doubts must be raised about what is now being offered.

The source of the problem lies in a challenge against a Labour Court determination brought by Ryanair to the Supreme Court. Ryanair advanced the view that there was no trade dispute, that internal dispute-resolution procedures had not been exhausted in the first instance, and that the company already provided for “internal collective bargaining.”

The company maintained that collective bargaining existed because it “negotiated” with representatives of employees in concluding collective agreements on terms and conditions of employment. It further maintained that it had an Employee Representative Committee, whereby elected employee representatives negotiated with the employer—a fact contested by Impact, which claimed that the body was a consultative forum with no independence.

In a somewhat bizarre set of conclusions, the Supreme Court struck out the Labour Court determination. It found that, in the absence of sufficient evidence, the Labour Court could not conclude that the Employee Representative Committee was not a collective bargaining body, and that a collective bargaining unit need not be a “trade union or excepted body” with a negotiating licence but could be a body established by an employer, provided it exhibited an element of “independence,” had a system of elections, and operated in a “fair and reasonable” manner.

The Supreme Court further stipulated that employees could not simply leave a “functioning” internal bargaining body, not having exhausted its procedures for resolving disputes, and then say they had no collective bargaining, thereby triggering the provisions of the Industrial Relations Acts. It added that if the Labour Court did have jurisdiction to investigate the case it should consider the dispute through gathered evidence, referring to lack of evidence of sufficient union membership.

Following the Supreme Court judgement, the Right to Bargain legislation has largely remained in limbo. In attempting to alleviate the apparent problem, the new Government proposals, on the face of it, appear to go some way towards restoring the functioning of the act. However, on closer inspection some concerns arise over how effective the proposals will be in ensuring that workers in non-union firms have the necessary support for collectively bargaining.

Collective bargaining

To circumvent the risk that company-sponsored employee forums of the Employee Representative Committee variety would be used to supplant genuine unions, an important requirement of reform was held to be a definition of “collective bargaining,” which is not strictly defined in Irish law, although the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act (1977) contains a definition of “collective bargaining negotiations.” The definition now being proposed is:

collective bargaining comprises voluntary engagements or negotiations between any employer or employers’ organisation on the one hand and a trade union of workers or excepted body on the other, with the object of reaching agreement regarding working conditions or terms of employment or non-employment of workers.

In contrast, article 2 of ILO Convention No. 154 defines collective bargaining as

 . . . all negotiations which take place between an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations, on the one hand, and one or more workers’ organisations, on the other, for: (a) determining working conditions and terms of employment; and/or (b) regulating relations between employers and workers; and/or (c) regulating relations between employers or their organisations and a workers’ organisation or workers’ organisations.

“Voluntary engagements,” on the other hand, might imply that the management made an effort to simply interact with, communicate with and consult the workers, perhaps over matters of common interest to workers and employer. “Engagements” might even allow their joint examination with a view to identifying, in so far as possible, appropriate solutions. But it does not entail or imply a negotiated solution, which would traditionally be associated with collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining is normally confined to co-determining terms and conditions of employment and relations between the parties. It implies, at some fundamental level, joint regulation, not simply engagement.

Why use the term “engagements”? Some doubt must be raised about whether this will open up the possibility of non-union bodies that are really echo chambers for senior management communication, passing muster for collective bargaining. Or perhaps a determined employer could stonewall attempts to use the act by claiming that they are trying to voluntarily engage with the union at the local level.

Representation and the burden of proof

One potential problem with the proposals is the prescription that unions cannot use the legislation “if very small numbers of workers” are involved. No figure for “small” has so far been provided, but it seems to be left to the Labour Court’s discretion whether the numbers offered are “insignificant” relative to the total number in employment.

This is a change from past practice. Previously the court took the assurances of a union official about membership, although in some cases a union would voluntarily provide the court with membership numbers.

Unions have often relied on bringing a small minority of employees into membership first, using the Industrial Relations Act to secure gains and demonstrate their value to potential recruits and thereby increase membership. Now the burden of evidence of membership has increased for the union: it must make a statement under the Statutory Declarations Act setting out the number of members and the period of membership in the group, grade or category to which the trade dispute refers.

Where evidence is contested by an employer—for example where the employer claims to be already engaged in collective bargaining with a non-union excepted body—there may be a requirement for an employee to give oral evidence. The court has experimented with this already in the period following the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in a small number of cases. How this might work in identifying and bringing forth union members to give evidence in disputed cases, where an employer’s hostility and threat of victimisation is high, is uncertain.

Repeated use of the act

The new proposals will also limit the repeated use of an act in the case of particular companies: “The Labour Court shall not admit an application by a category of worker to which the trade dispute applies where the Court has made a recommendation or determination in relation to the same category of worker in respect of the same employer in previous 18 months.”

Under the former procedure there were a number of companies that were subject to multiple hearings under the Industrial Relations Acts on separate dispute items that they refused to negotiate on. Under the old situation, the prospect of repeated multiple claims sometimes encouraged employers to meet the union to sort issues out at the local level. Now they will just deal with one batch of issues and go for eighteen months before the process could start again.

In the light of the proposed Code of Practice Timeline changes, which involve doubling the initial reply period from the Labour Relations Commission and extending the voluntary resolution period from six to eight weeks, this could make the process of securing workers’ rights in non-union firms very sluggish.

Comparators

Finally, non-union firms are being proposed as valid points of comparison in relation to terms and conditions.

This is a new departure. The implicit original intention of the acts was to provide an outcome to workers that would be similar to that which might have occurred in a situation where collective bargaining did actually take place. The court, therefore, in making recommendations, did so with reference to unionised terms and conditions in comparable employments. But now the situation as it prevails in a non-union firm subject to the acts must be considered in the light of the prevailing situation in other non-union firms, and not just unionised firms. This might risk putting downward pressure on the gains workers might achieve through the acts.

Overall, the Industrial Relations Acts delivered some modest gains for unionised workers in non-union firms where employers refused to enter into collective bargaining. Relative to properly designed legislation on union recognition, it certainly was the poorer cousin. On the other hand, it is not entirely inferior to the statutory recognition regimes that exist in Britain and the United States, which have delivered very little to unionised workers.

The proposals might well inject new life into the use of the acts; but it is not clear that the present proposals will necessarily be of much advantage to Irish unions, and they are unlikely to turn around the trend of declining density.

Surprisingly, some union figures, such as Begg and O’Connor, have expressed some optimism about what is on offer. Although there is a long way to go before these proposals pass into law, it is difficult to see if such optimism is warranted. A range of concerns over the definition of collective bargaining, representation, the burden of proof and the nature of comparators all seem to justify some concern about the proposals’ effectiveness in securing bargaining rights for Irish workers.

[NC] – http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/04-bargain.html

The Problems with Work

Kathi Weeks
May 26, 2014

Despite my use of the singular in the title, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries (2011) explores several problems with work. My focus is not so much on the difficulties of this or that job but on the failures of the system of waged work together with the values and ways of life that support and are produced by it. Some of these problems fit under three general headings: underwork, overwork, and non-work.

The first and most obvious problem is that of underwork. In a society that expects most individuals to engage in waged work, the fact that there are not enough jobs to go around is devastating to individuals and communities. The current unemployment numbers and the prospect of a “jobless recovery” make it all the more clear that waged work is too precarious and incomplete to function adequately as a system of income allocation or a means of social inclusion. Then there is the problem of overwork. I refer here to all the ways that work monopolizes our time and energy. This includes not just the long hours we spend at work but the time spent preparing for work, searching for work, worrying about work or its absence, and recovering from work. The problem is that too much of our lifetime is subordinated to work. Finally, we should add to this list the problem of what I call non-work, which comprises two elements. One refers to all the forms of social productivity that are not covered by the wage system. For example, feminists have long insisted that unwaged housework, child care, and eldercare are all forms of socially necessary “reproductive” labor without which the “productive” waged labor economy could not function. These are not the only examples of unpaid work upon which waged work depends; employers profit as well from the time required to develop the knowledge, physical capacities, artistic output, communicative abilities, emotional skills, and even the social networks that they do not remunerate us for. The other problem of non-work is meant to evoke our inability or unwillingness to conceive a life not so relentlessly limited by the exigencies of work. The world of waged work so dominates our values, institutions, laws, and symbols that we have a hard time conceiving any other way of organizing productive activity, allocating income, or fashioning a meaningful life. We are valuable to ourselves and to one another to the extent that we produce at work. This limits our understanding of what is a worthy social contribution to a narrow conception of waged labor and then makes that a key requirement of citizens. So our ideas about individual achievement and social reciprocity become affixed and reduced to waged work.
Our ideas about individual achievement and social reciprocity become affixed and reduced to waged work.
To think critically about this system of waged work, we need to consider as well the cultural discourse that supports it, namely, the work ethic. In elevating work over other activities as our highest calling and moral duty, as a primary focus of time and energy, as what we should devote our lives to, invest our identities in, and structure our relations around, the work ethic encourages our consent to a lifetime in service to work. In celebrating work as an end in itself rather than just a means to other ends, and as the central focus of our lives rather than one component among others, the work ethic teaches us to live for work instead of working to live. The current power of this ethic of work should not be underestimated. Far from being some kind of historical relic, this set of ideas about the meaning of work, this overvaluation of work, is more important to the post-industrial economy than it ever was in the industrial period. For example, our “good attitude” toward work is important in jobs that require emotional labor on the part of service providers, among workers who cannot always be monitored or whose encounters cannot be entirely scripted, and for those employers that want employees who are independent and creative, but also manageable and directed toward the organization’s goals. If a strong identification with work and its discipline is increasingly a source of profit, then our willingness to question these values and orientations are potentially more effective as modes of resistance and rebellion.
 In elevating work over other activities as our highest calling and moral duty, the work ethic encourages our consent to a lifetime in service to work.
So what is to be done? One might approach this question in terms of three different demands: for more work, for better work, and for less work. As long as waged work is the primary way that most of us can secure the means to live, the struggle for more work—more jobs, more hours—remains necessary. And certainly, efforts to make work better, to make it less dangerous, less isolating, less alienated and, of course, better paid, are crucial targets of reform as well. But the demand for less work in the form of fewer weekly and lifetime hours, together with the demand for “lesser work,” that is, for its demotion in our hierarchy of values, is important as well. For one thing, full employment is unlikely to be achieved in the current system because it is considered detrimental to what is measured as “economic health.” As for the effort to improve the experience of work, unless it is coupled with the demands for less and lesser work, there is a danger that it will be met by employers with changes that result in more work. That is, advocates of better work are likely to find their demands for work enrichment appropriated by employers as an excuse for work intensification, as multi-skilling turns out to mean multi-tasking and demands for empowerment and participation are translated into additional responsibilities requiring even greater levels of energy investment and time commitment.
 [A guaranteed basic income] could offer a stronger position from which to negotiate better wages and working conditions.
There are two specific demands for change that I defend as part of a struggle for less and lesser work. The first is a thirty-hour week with no decrease in pay. The second is a guaranteed basic income. I am interested in these proposals as concrete policy reforms that could improve people’s situations by expanding the time off waged work (shorter hours) and making the link between work and income less absolute (basic income). The demand for shorter hours has historically appealed to a variety of differently situated workers. The demand for a basic income has even more potential to gather a broad coalition. It could offer some much-needed support for the unemployed and underemployed and a stronger position from which to negotiate better wages and working conditions. A basic income could provide some support for unwaged forms of socially necessary caring labor and also relieve some of the pressures that limit our choices of household formation and family membership. After all, it is important to recognize that there are two major mechanisms of income allocation, waged work is one, and the family, as a way to distribute income among the not-yet waged, unwaged, underwaged, and no-longer waged, is the other. As neither of these institutions is adequate to the task of providing for us all, a guaranteed income is a better option.
I am also interested in the way these demands for shorter hours and basic income (among others) can function not only as policy proposals but also as perspectives that can help organized labor, allied organizations, and the broader public to reflect critically on the present system of wages and hours and as provocations to think imaginatively about other ways of defining, organizing, and valuing work. Why, these demands ask us to consider, do we all need to work so long and hard? Why are some productive contributions rewarded with income and others not? What would we do with more time off waged work? How would our relationship to work change if the economic pressure to work was alleviated somewhat? The struggle for these practical reforms, in other words, in addition to winning reforms that would improve people’s lives, could also serve to broaden our perspectives on the social role and meaning of work and inspire us to imagine them differently.
https://portside.org/2014-05-26/problems-work

All the key issues?

Last September the Trade Union Left Forum asked, will this Government guarantee the right to union representation for workers? (The full article can be read at www.tuleftforum.com/will-government-guarantee-right-union-representation-workers/).

Judging by yesterday’s press statement by the Minister for jobs, enterprise, and innovation, Richard Bruton, on legislating for reform of the Industrial Relations Act (2001), the answer has to be a resounding and disappointing but not surprising No.

The minister’s statement added very little to what he had already stated, and what was leaked to the media before Christmas. The Fine Gael minister has been clear that any legislation brought forward in this area would be a reform of the 2001 act, would not introduce compulsory collective bargaining and the recognition of trade unions, would retain our voluntary system of industrial relations, would legislate for the Supreme Court ruling on the infamous Ryanair case, and would be consistent with our dependence on foreign direct investment.

The minister has said all this publicly; so yesterday’s statement, which advised us that the main provisions of the legislation would include the below points, is not exactly news and, coming two weeks before an election, appears much more like a Labour Party stunt in the face of what may well be that party’s worst electoral performance in recent history.

There is no draft legislation, not even headings, just the following list of points:

• a definition of what constitutes “collective bargaining”;

• provisions to help the Labour Court identify whether internal bargaining bodies are genuinely independent of their employer;

• bringing clarity to the requirements to be met by a trade union advancing a claim under the act;

• setting out policies and principles for the Labour Court to follow when assessing those workers’ terms and conditions, including the sustainability of the employer’s business in the long term;

• new provisions to ensure that cases dealt with are ones where the numbers of workers are not insignificant;

• provisions to ensure that remuneration, terms and conditions are looked at in their totality;

• provisions to limit the frequency of reassessment of the same issues;

• an explicit prohibition of the use by employers of inducements (financial or otherwise) designed specifically to have employees forgo collective representation by a trade union;

• enhanced protection for workers who may feel that they are being victimised for exercising their rights in this regard by way of interim relief in the case of dismissal.

Within hours both SIPTU and the ICTU expressed their support for these proposals. David Begg went so far as to say that the points listed above “appeared to deal with all the key issues, from a trade union point of view.”

All the key issues? Will a group of workers in a shop, factory or office who get together and say, “Mr Employer, please talk to us and our chosen union about our terms and conditions of employment,” be able to compel their employer to do so? No. So has it dealt with the fundamental issue from a trade union point of view? No, it has not.

Worse than that: if provisions to help the Labour Court identify whether internal bargaining bodies are genuinely independent of their employer allows and legislates for the recognition and acceptance of staff associations or information and consultation committees as independent internal bargaining units, then this legislation is a step backwards for the trade union movement and will in fact make organising non-union workers into the movement even more difficult than it already is.

These proposals have the potential to weaken the trade union movement significantly over time, as internal bargaining units fill the private sector and declining union density is replaced by these internal associations. This is not merely unacceptable: it is potentially damaging to the movement.

Let’s look at some of the other points. The “sustainability of the employer’s business in the long term” sounds awfully like adding a vague competitiveness clause to any discussion about terms and conditions of employment. Pay and terms and conditions of employment to be “looked at in their totality” sounds as if any pay claim might be resisted on the grounds of a totality of terms and conditions of employment and benefits.

“Provisions to limit the frequency of reassessment” can clearly work both ways. Will a pay claim only be allowed every so often? This is hardly a mechanism for facilitating annual collective bargaining on pay.

An explicit prohibition of financial inducements to forgo collective bargaining with a union, while very welcome, is in fact the law under the European Court of Human Rights Wilson Judgement. And enhanced protection against victimisation, while again very welcome, is already provided for (somewhat weakly) in equality legislation.

So, do these points appear to deal with “all the key issues”? It is not possible to make such a statement on the basis of what is provided; and, worse than that, it seems it could be worse than achieving nothing if it provides for the legal recognition of internal non-union staff bodies.

To summarise what we said in our article in September about what would be positive and progressive legislation, it should include:

• a recognition of union membership and collective bargaining as a basic human right;

• a legal right and a mechanism for compulsory recognition of a trade union for employees by employers;

• broad outlines of what constitutes collective bargaining and negotiating mechanisms and an avoidance of minimal consultation-style frameworks;

• a clear understanding of a “trade union” as an independent registered trade union and not a staff association established by the management;

• the right of trade unions to have access to workers in their work-place, to ensure that all workers are given the right to organise a union free from intimidation;

• the right of access to existing members where collective bargaining already exists;

• protection for union members from penalisation, discrimination or disciplinary action for carrying out legitimate trade union activity;

• legal protection for the collection of union subscriptions at source;

• economically harsh fines and penalties for companies found to be in breach of the legislation, so that it is not economic to illegally avoid unions.

Of course, this article is not based on any draft legislation, so we must wait to see this. However, based on what has been made public, union members should be under no illusions about what is on the table.

New WFTU website a big improvement

The Secretariat is in the happy position to inform the members and friends of the WFTU that from May Day 2014 a new website is available at the www.wftucentral.org.

The new, modern, more user-friendly, more practical website is an important step that will empower the communication and the coordination of the struggle of the class-oriented trade union movement.

In the section “About Us” the visitor can find detailed information about the history, the constitution, the documents and the administration of the WFTU.

In the section “Action” you can find the Statements, news about the Activities of the WFTU, news about the union activity and workers issues around the world as well as all the latest Publications of the WFTU, easy to be downloaded.

In the section “Multimedia” you can find all the photos, the posters and the videos of the WFTU. In the new service called “Podcast Gallery” you will be soon able to hear recordings of WFTU activities, speeches etc.

With the new website every visitor can register his email in our mailing list and receive news for our activity.

Find out more by visiting the new WFTU website at www.wftucentral.org .

South Dublin County Council staff vote in favour of industrial action

IMPACT members working at South Dublin County Council have balloted in favour of industrial action following a decision by South Dublin County Council management to abolish ‘acting’ positions. The management decision effectively ordered staff to continue to perform senior duties, but on a lower pay rate. Staff at the local authority have voted in favour of industrial action by a margin of 86%.

The form of industrial action to be taken is expected to be announced next week.

IMPACT official Angela Kirk explained “In an act of calculated bad faith, council management announced its intention to cut the pay of staff in acting positions just days before a Labour Relations Commission hearing, which was to arbitrate on the matter. Local talks had broken down after management told the union it intended to change the pay rates rather than regularising the acting positions as agreed in the talks that led to the Haddington Road agreement.”

Ms Kirk said management was in breach of Haddington Road and was effectively extending pay cuts to staff below the €65,000 earnings threshold set out in the deal. The union also condemned management for refusing to discuss its proposals, saying that they were non-negotiable.

Many of the affected staff have been working at the more senior levels for years. They have already seen their pay cut by an average 14% since 2009 and have seen their working time increased under the Haddington Road agreement.

During the talks that produced the Haddington Road agreement, IMPACT won agreement on a process to regularise long-term acting positions following the completion of a workforce plan in each local authority.

http://www.impact.ie/14/05/09/South-Dublin-County-Council-staff-vote-in-favour-of-industrial-action.htm

Alt-labor: a new union movement or the same old song?

Unions are evolving to survive, as protests against Walmart – without employees of the company – increasingly show.

On a crisp and sunny morning on the day after Thanksgiving, a group of protesters gathered in front of a large Walmart in Michigan’s Sterling Heights, calling for wage increases and better working conditions for the superstore’s employees. Mary Johnson, a retiree and member of international activist group the Raging Grannies, stood next to Dan Lombardo, a plumber wearing old-fashioned overalls, who was carrying a sign stating “Walmart equals poverty.” Mothering Justice founder Danielle Atkinson, in a vibrant purple coat, turned up with her entire family. Even Mary Kay Henry, the International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who was back in the Detroit area for the holiday, was there.

But as police cars drew up, scattering the protesters, it seemed there was one cohort of people missing: the protest had not included a single Walmart worker.

Over the last couple of years, in a bid to survive, unions have been fighting back against crumbling membership rates, testing out new strategies and pouring logistical and financial resources into non-union, alternative forms of organizing, at the heart of which are campaigns to raise the minimum wage. In the interest of reaching a new cohort of younger and more diverse workers, immediate ambitions to increase membership levels have fallen by the wayside.

So the pragmatism sets in: to command the numbers they need to create a presence at protests, unions are helping organize workers who are not paying members and have little prospect of becoming so in the near future.

There’s a name for it that harkens more to the music industry than the labor movement: alternative labor, or ” alt-labor”.

Leading the “alt-labor” initiatives have been two organizing clusters: Our Walmart, created by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), and the Fight for 15 movement. The former group’s demands include a $25,000 a year minimum salary for all Walmart workers but have given up on hopes for unionization. Then there’s the Fight For 15 movement, created by the SEIU. That targets the fast-food industry, with demands for a $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to form a union-and an appeal to millennials.

Alt-labor as a phenomenon – filling in gaps where unions have failed to organize – is not new. In the last two decades, workers in the restaurant, retail, agriculture and domestic work industries have been fighting for their rights through non-union foundation funded worker centers, grassroots, community organizations, including the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the Coalition for Immokalee Workers, who have had a number of landmark victories.

What is new is the extent of big labor unions’ involvement and investment into alt-labor, and the creation of their own alt-labor spinoffs.

The labor movement is trying to reinvent itself, by necessity. The United States labor movement is in crisis. Unions today represent just 11.3% of American workers, down from 28.3% in 1954. Worse for the old bosses of labor, 93% of the private sector is currently non-union – a reflection of a number of trends, including the gradual spreading of anti-worker, pro-employer legislation and policies, an idea that unions are bad for business, the outsourcing of jobs and labor’s failure to adapt to an increasingly service-based economy.

“The labor movement is on a learning curve,” says Bob Bruno, a professor at the University of Illinois, who directs its Chicago-based labor education program.

Unions have remained vastly absent from the retail and restaurant industries, Walmart and fast food chains included. Walmart currently employs 1.3 million people in America, while the 10 largest fast food chains employ 2.2 million Americans.

“As income inequality grows greater and greater, it becomes more and more obvious that you’ve got larger sectors of the workforce that are now huddling round the minimum wage,” Bruno says. “The labor movement is coming to a realization that these are workers that they need to be attentive to and think about finding ways of supporting.”

In many ways, Our Walmart and the Fight For 15 movements are not new forms of labor, but labor from scratch – organizing members who have never been members of unions before – one worker at a time, one work place at a time.

When Nancy Salgado, 27, who has been a McDonald’s employee in Chicago since the age of 16, received a phone call from her sister last summer, urging her to join the Fight For 15 movement, she says she didn’t believe any of what her sister was telling her was true.

“I wasn’t aware that I had rights, I wasn’t aware that anybody cared about fast-food workers or anybody cared about how much I was making.”

Now Salgado, who makes $8.25 an hour and has two young children she is the sole provider for, says she won’t stop protesting, striking and mobilizing more of her colleagues until she earns the right to organize without retaliation, form a union and negotiate a raise.

Damon Silvers, director for policy and special counsel at the AFL-CIO, a national trade union center representing 11 million workers, says the future of the labor movements is not so much tied to whether or not unions will survive, but whether the rights of working people will.

“The critical thing right now in the American economy and the American workforce is for working people to rediscover that they have power collectively to shape their own economic future,” Silvers says.

But with only a minority of workers taking part in protests (and in the case of Sterling Heights, none at all) there is no doubt this is a public awareness campaign too. Less kind commentators have called Walmart and fast-food industry-geared protests a march on the media.

Striking hardly threatens the daily functioning of businesses in highly volatile, low-skill industries where employees can be fired or have their hours cut from one day to the next with little protection. It does however serve to draw attention to broader economic issues, including stark income inequality, and the reality of living on the minimum wage.

“Often, fast-food workers are out of sight, out of mind,” says Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at Demos.

Jessica Davis, 25, also a McDonald’s employee, says she first learned about unions and workers’ rights just four months ago, when she was approached by an organizer on a work break. Before then, she says she assumed she was at the mercy of her manager.

Today, Davis, who has had her hours cut in half since she joined Fight For 15, dedicates time at work convincing colleagues to join the fight with her.

“I tell them they can cut your days for anything they want, why not have them cut your days for something you believe in, for something where you can stand up and say ‘They cut my days for this, this is not right.’”

While similar stories of worker empowerment are happening across the country through on the ground organizers at least partially financed by UFCW for Walmart and SEIU for fast-food outlets, it should come as no surprise that Salgado and Davis’ originally lacked any knowledge of their rights as workers. That kind of lack of awareness is what motivates alt-labor organizers.

Last September, economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty found that 95% of the wealth generated since the 2008 financial crash went to the top 1% of American earners, with economic recovery holding a very different meaning for those at the top of the American economic ladder than it did for those at the bottom.

In a report released last October, the National Employment Law Project estimated McDonald’s 707,850 employees were forced to rely on $1.2bn in public assistance despite the company making $5.46bn in profits, and paying its CEO $13.7m.

Traub argues the fast food and Walmart strikes and the personal stories that accompany them have brought increased visibility to theoretical arguments, propping up major campaigns to raise the minimum wage in more official settings, such as the recent Democrat-sponsored congressional bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2016.

But opponents abound, selling their skepticism: are these campaigns a succession of media-stunts set up by big labor as a last resort to advance their interests, or is the effort to build a new movement actually taking place on the ground?

Among the most vocal denouncing alt-labor practices is the Center for Union Facts, run by renowned conservative public relations expert Richard Berman.

Berman’s websites, laborpains.org and workercenters.com, among others, seek to expose alt-labor organizations’ ties to unions, with the implication that the old labor movement is pulling the puppet strings.

“No campaigns supported by unions – either implicitly or explicitly – to raise the minimum wage are worker-led battles,” Berman says. “They are coordinated attacks led by national labor unions against long-time industry foes.”

Berman’s point about worker involvement is a sensitive topic within labor and alt-labor.

When asked, Our Walmart and the Fight For 15 movement did not hide their union affiliations – though the ties are definitely downplayed. Presumably in an effort to appear as grassroots-led as possible, SEIU’s Fight For 15 movement has a different name in each city, and has no central website. Neither organization’s budget has been made accessible, which keeps opposition scrutiny at bay.

More concretely, one question remains: if the larger unions continue to dissolve, the sources of financial support for alt-labor are likely to go with them. The financial future of alt-labor is thus up in the air. Could fast-food workers feasibly become the dues-paying GM workers of the future?

If convincing workers to take part in protests still represents an uphill battle, the central, core ambitions of the protests – raising the minimum wage and tangibly addressing inequality – are bringing a variety of sympathetic community members and organizations together. With a new cause to rally around, the question arises: could a new kind of American, far from the factory floor, represent the future and survival of the labor movement?

Back at the Walmart gathering in Sterling Heights, with police officers growing increasingly impatient from their cars, the remaining, diverse set of protesters had gathered for a group photo. They exchanged jokes and, later, phone numbers. Current Walmart store employees may have been absent from the protest, but the cause of raising the minimum wage and tackling inequality was clearly forming new friendships, connections and alliances.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/01/low-wage-new-union-walmart-fast-food

Organize and fight for dignified work and life!

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) conveys a class, internationalist, and militant greetings to its almost 90 million affiliates in more than 120 countries of the world, to the class oriented trade union movement, to every worker all over the globe and calls them to honour this day with strikes, militant events, demonstrations. This year’s May Day finds the global working class under hazardous conditions. The recipe of all capitalist governments and imperialist mechanisms (IMF, World Bank, EU, etc.) for an “exit from the crisis” is the same in every country: pay – cuts, pension – cuts, authoritarianism, austerity, elimination of social rights, unemployment.

At the same time, the contradictions within the imperialist system, like those we witness these days in Ukraine make the situation for the working class even more dangerous and lead to even more hazardous situations. Alarm bells should be set ringing! These days, at the ILO, employers and capitalist governments want to eliminate the right to strike. That’s why they want to eliminate the recognition of the “right to strike” in Convention 87 of the ILO.

The right to strike was not donated by any government or international organization. It was won through hard workers’ struggles and it will continue to exist only by the workers struggles! The WFTU demands: Hands off the right to strike and calls the international class oriented trade union movement to organize massive and militant mobilizations to defend it. Unemployment, on international level, strikes mercilessly the working class and their children; it becomes a lever to increase exploitation, especially among women and young people of the working class and the popular strata.

This May Day, the WFTU calls the international class oriented trade union movement to fight against the phenomenon of unemployment as a whole: to struggle for the survival of the unemployed, organize the unemployed in the trade unions, fight for social benefits for the unemployed and struggle for the right to stable and permanent job for everybody and fight against unemployment and the factors that generate this phenomenon. Let’s make this May Day a starting point for the preparation of the WFTU International Action Day October 3rd 2014, which has as its central topic the fight against unemployment. Because, unemployment is a phenomenon inherent in the capitalist system. Workers all over the world, there’s no reason why our working class should live in poverty, unemployment, face hunger, imperialist wars or lack public and free healthcare and education. The WFTU calls all workers to unite under its banners, to strike, march militantly, defend the right to strike, fight for stable and steady work for all, for trade union freedoms and social rights. The future of the working class cannot be exploitation and capitalist barbarism.

The WFTU for this May Day and for everyday makes a call to all workers, based on the main slogan of the “Athens Pact”, our main political and trade union document, voted at the 16 World Trade Union Congress in 2011:

Workers rise up! against capitalist barbarism, for social justice, for a world without exploitation!

Raising Our Expectations

Jane McAlevey challenges the Left to stop lamenting its disappointments in the working class and address our own failures.

Taken from Portside Labor

Sam Gindin

Looking back to the defeat of the labor movement since the early 1980s, three lessons seem especially important. First, any gains made under capitalism are temporary; they can be reversed. Second, the kind of unionism we developed in that earlier period of gains was inherently limited; it left us in a poor position to respond to the subsequent attacks. Third, absent new forms of working class organization and practices, fatalism takes over and worker expectations fall.

Raising Expectations (And Raising Hell), newly out in paperback from Verso, is part memoir, part organizing manual, and part rejoinder to that fatalism. Jane McAlevey is a long-time organizer in the student, environmental and, over the past two decades, labor movements. She is currently a PhD candidate at City University of New York, which she has integrated into her continuing life as a labor organizer. Her message, based on her experiences and achievements, is that as much as capitalism has diminished workers and undermined their confidence in affecting their lives, workers can overcome — but only if they themselves become organizers inside both the workplace and community.

While any such organizing begins with workers’ needs, it is workers’ expectations of their own ability to intervene — and of the support from their unions in doing so — that must especially be raised. McAlevey refuses to romanticize workers or glorify spontaneity. But she deeply respects working people and genuinely appreciates their creative potential, a respect reflected in her refusal to be shy about challenging workers to reach their potential.

Organizing strategy is McAlevey’s forte, and two examples highlight her approach. In 1998, following the moment in the mid-nineties when the AFL-CIO had become desperate enough to allow some real experimentation to take place, McAlevey was sent to Stamford, Conn., to direct an organizing drive, the Stamford Organizing Project. Stamford had one of the lowest union densities in all of New England.

A number of aspects of that drive stand out. First, as obvious as it might seem to cooperate across unions, it is in fact extremely rare to see unions getting together to “pool resources, share lists, and adhere to collectively made decisions.” To the credit of the four locals involved (most of whose leadership came from an oppositional and left tradition), they saw beyond a parochial concern to gain new dues-paying members and grasped the need to build the class across sectors and across racial and gendered divisions.

Second, when a main concern of the workers turned out to revolve around access to housing, McAlevey shifted the unionization drive to make housing a primary focus — class was not just a workplace relationship. The confidence, skills, and alliances developed in that campaign, and the corresponding credibility gained for the labor movement, were key to organizing unions and winning strong contracts.

Breaking down the distinction between the workplace and the community and putting an emphasis on community allies is itself not unusual in such struggles; what was distinct was that rather than seeing the community as an “other,” McAlevey emphasized the extent to which workers were themselves part of the community; success depended on workers becoming the key organizers in bringing the community around. “When union staff try to do it in place of workers,” McAlevey writes, “they blow it.”

Some six years later, just before the split in the AFL-CIO in 2005, McAlevey was sent by SEIU to organize public and private hospitals in Nevada. Because Nevada became a right-to-work state, with workers having the right to opt out of paying dues, the thin organizing that unions commonly practice couldn’t work. McAlevey’s team identified and supported organic worker-leaders. The intensive, face-face organizing that followed, with increasingly confident workers now “in constant conversation with one another about everything going on” raised the share of dues-paying union members from 25% to 80% and higher — enough of a difference to distinguish between collective begging and collective bargaining.

This was accomplished by honing a rigorous system of mapping the workplace thoroughly and continuously, and then building and deliberately testing the workers’ capacities throughout the campaign. Alongside this, McAlevey insisted that to build the kind of power necessary to win in the particularly hostile context of Nevada demanded an inclusive bargaining unit — one that brought nurses and lab technicians together with janitors, laundry workers, and food preparation staff.

To a degree virtually unheard of in labor negotiations, McAlevey pressed to open up the bargaining sessions to the members. The bargaining team included “one worker to the team for every twenty-five workers in the larger units and for every fifteen workers in the smaller units,” and this was done “by unit and shift so that we had every kind of worker input.” All members were welcome and “encouraged to attend negotiations, whether for a day, an hour, or a coffee break.”

This had, as McAlevey acknowledges, its risks and demanded a great deal of preparation and internal discipline if it wasn’t to become a free for all. But in the end, such “big bargaining” greatly contributed to winning over members disillusioned about the union and their role within it.

In both examples, and central to all of McAlevey’s organizing, is the priority given to carrying out the most in-depth power analysis of what workers are up against and where they can exercise leverage in their struggle. This involves mapping and charting the power not only of the companies being unionized or bargained with, but in the communities in which the struggle is taking place.

And it includes both the conventional metrics of identifying power brokers, community leaders, state-corporate links, and others, and qualitative assessments by the workers themselves of both the power arrayed against them and the power they can bring to bear. The information gathered and the process of gathering it then become integral to developing workers’ strategic understandings and capacities.

Some critics of the book have accused McAlevey of self-promotion for the book’s emphasis on her own role in these events. This seems rather churlish. Both the device of making her points through a memoir based on her personal experience and the informal style were clearly intended to make it more accessible to lay readers and rank-and-file unionists. (The publishers apparently asked for the personalized subtitle of “My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement.”) Moreover, McAlevey is very generous in pointing to her mentors and giving them and earlier organizers credit for the model she applies.

Judgments of McAlevey’s personality are beside the point. The real question is whether she has written a book that contributes to addressing labor’s current impasse. And on this score, it is difficult to imagine even such critics denying that she has something important to say.

McAlevey has also been attacked — most notably by respected labor journalist Steve Early — for her criticism of Sal Rosselli, the SEIU leader of a key local in California who broke away, after the SEIU’s imposition of a trusteeship, to form the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Early’s attack is doubly unfortunate. First, McAlevey’s book only mentions Rosselli in passing. Challenging her brief comments is one thing; focusing on those few passages to essentially dismiss the book is another. Second, whatever disagreements there may be between Early and McAlevey on this specific issue, they are on the same side in their antipathy to the role of the SEIU leadership. As McAlevey says in her new afterward, “While the Birthers and Tea Party were effectively mobilizing town halls all across the nation to destroy health care–reforms, SEIU’s health-care organizers were busy blowing up one of their best local unions.”

Most important, however, in terms of discussions of organizing models, have been suggestions that as a staff representative herself, McAlevey presents a model that is staff-driven. We should, of course, be wary of organizing models that substitute staff for the participation of workers. But the very point of McAlevey’s work is to combat that kind of relationship between staff and rank-and-file and replace it with an orientation to remaking the working class into a social force with the capacity to make its own decisions.

As she said of the Stamford process, “I was proposing that the bulk of this work not be done directly by union organizers but by the workers themselves.” It was, in fact, McAlevey’s refusal to toe SEIU’s deal-making model, which she has referred to elsewhere as “organizing the company,” and to repeatedly insist on organizing the workers, that got her in trouble with the SEIU top leadership.

Yet the issue here isn’t just to reject the role of staff.  In the building of militant, democratic, community-centered unions, full-time staff have an essential role to play as catalysts and support systems for bringing in and bringing out the best in the members. To ignore this is to obscure all the difficult but necessary issues of how to establish the proper context for staffers to play this kind of role.

The larger issue here revolves around the nature of organizing. An essentialist view of workers as being inherently militant, solidaristic and strategy-wise doesn’t grasp the actual state of the working class. If workers already had the needed capacities fully formed, they would have organized themselves long ago.

Organizing is about moving people from where they currently are to someplace that brings out their potential as social agents. It involves developing the individual and collective capacities — alongside the structures, tactics and strategies — that can match what workers are up against. Most labor leaders today, McAlevey asserts, think that in the “self-centered, plugged-in, globalized country this nation has become,” deep workplace and community organizing is impossible. Her experiences prove otherwise.

The organizing model McAlevey proposes, based on her experience and with roots in early CIO practices, demands a heavy commitment of union resources (McAlevey hasn’t shied away from supporting large dues increases) and depends on experienced organizers (who may or may not be staff) playing a catalyst role. The identification of informal leaders is given much greater attention than most unions’ traditional organizing models since the de facto leaders, as McAlevey repeatedly emphasizes, are not generally the formal, elected leaders.

Organizing is a continuous process, beginning with power mapping, testing to hone mobilization capacities, then acting. It connects individual and collective action and passes on analytical and strategic skills to workers. It develops workers’ self-confidence through demonstrating that employers and politicians can be taken on and demands won. It is suspicious of the legalisms of grievance handling, instead focusing on workers addressing grievances through direct action. It keeps the union members fully informed, opens the bargaining process to much broader direct participation, doesn’t shy away from strikes, and it looks to the workers themselves to organize their communities.

And yet for all the concrete demonstrations that this model of organizing works, it did not spread across the labor movement. The exciting example in Connecticut of unions cooperating with each other and moving into the community — and subsequently gaining members and first contracts, successfully intervening to save and improve public housing projects and gaining representation in local politics — did not spread. In Nevada, an impressive number of workers overcame the state’s anti-labor legislation and joined the SEIU, and the contracts won were quite remarkable, including the breakthrough in Nevada’s health care sector for fully employer-paid family health care. Yet this too faded, undone by both legitimate disagreements and petty turf wars. What are we to make of this?

The dilemma is that this organizing model rests on unions being open to real organizing, committing the resources, standing ready to accept some turmoil within their organizations, and trusting the members rather than looking to broker deals with corporations. But unions that would agree to such a program are distressingly rare. Creating them essentially requires revolutions inside unions — something that is unlikely to happen through any spontaneous dynamic strictly internal to unions.

Without the existence of a left committed to class struggle and with its feet inside and outside workplaces, unions that have transformed into the kinds of organizing machines McAlevey helped create will remain the exception. But such a left, with links to workers and a capacity to develop organizers where workers are looking for help and workers that might transform their unions, is itself at an impasse. Much as many of us might think of the Left as the most self-conscious part of the class struggle, their impasse is as difficult to overcome as unions’.

In this context, McAlevey’s book is timely and desperately needed because it convincingly demonstrates that the problem is not in the stars, but in ourselves. If we as the Left can get our shit together, it is possible to build groups of workers into a social force in spite of the times.

Where unions are ready to try, McAlevey presents a method for how to do this. And where unions are not yet prepared to take this on, it lays out a range of specific demands we should be fighting for within our unions. (The book is full of concrete examples of tools, tactics, and strategies that can win; it is practically begging for a follow-up detailed manual).

Every serious labor activist needs to engage this book, drawing out what is useful and experimenting with variations as appropriate. But we also need to go further. Indirectly, McAlevey’s book challenges the Left to stop lamenting its disappointments in the working class and address, with humility, its own failures. The Left must raise its expectations of itself.

A rump clinging to the coat-tails of a future “partnership”?

Recent media reports suggest that, with a supposed “recovery” on the horizon, employers and unions are increasingly making noises about a return to some sort of partnership structure. The leadership of the unions, most notably Jack O’Connor and Shay Cody, have raised the idea of reconstituting some type of formal Employer-Labour Conference.
IBEC’s response has been a cautious mixture: on the one hand, not entirely ruling out the possibility of such a forum, if only to deal with protracted individual disputes, while on the other, maintaining that firms are at different stages, and centralised wage direction is not an immediate priority.
The minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton, does not believe that any return to national-level bargaining would be feasible or desirable at present and suggests that this will probably remain the situation for a further “eighteen to twenty-four months.”
However, the union leadership appear to be of the view that if they make enough noise about an “inevitable” and “forthcoming” wage explosion the Government and employers will come to their senses, and unions will find themselves once more at the national table.
There is no doubt that within union officialdom at present there is a perception that, while things might be tough now, when the recovery sets in they will “get their own back,” so to speak.
The unions’ confidence on this front derives in part from two sources. One is the registration of wage increases in parts of the unionised sector in recent years. The second derives from a perception that the present crisis is simply cyclical, a normal business cycle of boom and bust, and that the economy has now passed the trough.
In reality, this confidence is misplaced. While it is true that wage increases have occurred in some profitable unionised firms, it is wrong to assume that general rising wage settlements are a matter of course. Most of this current wage growth has accrued to those workers in sections of the export manufacturing sector. This sector, dominated by the pharmaceutical and medical-device capitalists, has been generally sheltered from the effects of the recession. Such firms have maintained sufficient profitability to be able to continue meeting modest pay claims, partly in line with the last, stillborn national wage agreement and simply as a matter of due operational course.
The capitalists operating exclusively in the Irish market and SME sector, however, continue to face stagnation in the domestic economy and pressures to reduce unit labour costs in an effort to survive.
Furthermore, in a context of mass unemployment it seems improbable that the wage gains in the sheltered sector derived from any union bargaining power. Much of the modest pay increases have been accompanied by significant productivity concessions. The pharmaceutical and medical-device sector has undergone intensive productivity drives and labour-process restructurings in recent years, which have probably raised the relative rate of surplus value among workers in these firms. In most of these firms the union at the company level remains a fairly hollow shell, characterised by weak local structures, inexperienced shop stewards, and demoralised membership.
While there is of course some shallow evidence of wage increases in other sectors, such as retail, these figures can be misleading. The weekly Industrial Relations News reports that about 22,000 workers in retail secured wage increases in 2013. However, 14,000 of these were Dunne’s Stores workers; this pay move was a unilateral decision by the management and not negotiated through collective bargaining.
Even then some of the deals have included pay pauses or longer phases of pay-out, which would have brought down the average pay increase per year significantly. Like the pharmaceutical and medical-device sector, such deals have also included significant productivity items over and above “normal ongoing change.”
Recent macro-economic reviews by the Central Bank and the Central Statistics Office also cast doubt on any wage explosion arising in the near future. The data in these reports indicates that a high level of slack in the labour market, along with pay restraint in the public sector, is expected to keep economy-wide wage pressures well anchored from 2015 onwards.
In its latest quarterly report the Central Bank says that economy-wide pay per employee “probably registered a small decline” in 2013. It also notes that reductions in hourly pay, which were rare when employment losses were greatest during 2010 and 2011, have recently become a feature of the data.
The CSO’s earnings, hours and employment costs survey provides further evidence of wage reductions in 2013. On a quarterly basis, it says, economy-wide wages declined by 2.4 per cent in the third quarter. Comparing the first nine months of 2013 with the same period of 2012, weekly earnings are down by 0.9 per cent, which the Central Bank says is “consistent with the trend in compensation from the National Accounts.”
When less than a fifth of workers in the private sector are union members, when inflation averages a mere 0.5 per cent at present, and when GDP is down 2.3 per cent (the worst since 2008), it is difficult to see where a unionised wage explosion will come from. With the private labour force well disciplined by unemployment, and public-sector unions shackled until 2017 (thereby eliminating the relevant budgetary issues from the current labour cost expenditure equation), it is unlikely that the state and employers will have any need to invite unions into “managing our recovery” and constructing some sort of “understanding” on the industrial front regarding wage inflation.
Yet it is revealing that this is the best of all possible worlds that the union leadership can seem to envisage.
It’s tempting to maintain that the union movement appears slow to wake up to the potential game-changing quality of the present crisis. As Milton Friedman once observed, ruling classes should never let a good crisis go to waste. This is precisely the dictum our elites are following. As the CPI recently argued, the “Troika,” in alliance with the Irish ruling class, are engaged in a project precisely to ensure that the present crisis does not go to waste.
The aim is to fundamentally restructure the rules of the game between capital and labour. The project is to construct a “flexible” low-wage zone, filled with pliable labour, to facilitate the transfer of wealth from working people upwards to the Irish ruling class, and to create an amenable environment for foreign capitalists to operate in.
The unions, on the other hand, appear to believe that this is just a normal business cycle and that things will soon return to the days before the crisis. At the annual Jim Larkin Commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery on the 2nd of February, Jack O’Connor said, for example, that the unions “must apply ourselves . . . to the immediate task of recovering ground which has been temporarily lost over the crisis years.”
As noted above, this strategy is to to secure significant rounds of pay increases and thereby coax employers and the state back to some sort of tripartitism. The result of this would probably be for the unions to subsequently exchange wage restraint for some tax reliefs.
In a context of weak local-level structures, demoralised membership and private-sector erosion, engagement with capital and the state—from a position of weakness rather than strength—is unlikely to be a strategy for revitalisation and growth. At best it indicates a role for the union leadership as pay moderators for a declining rump of union members and a road to further marginalisation and decline.
[NC] – taken from http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/02-unions.html April’s Socialist Voice

Legal attack on SIPTU is a warning to unions

Recently, various stories have appeared in the capitalist media about pay increases, hinting that IBEC and SIPTU want to return to some form of “social partnership,” purely on the pay issue. (None of the woolly stuff about social issues.)
At the same time, capitalist shock-troops are using different negotiating tactics: force and intimidation. On the one hand, employers’ organisations have been leaking stories about pay increases; however, they want the “pay increases” to come from a reduction in tax. In other words, everyone finances pay increases for employers, so they increase their profits, and there is a further reduction in public services.
In 2007 the Ryanair case undermined the concept of collective bargaining by claiming that unions could not engage with Ryanair’s internal pay negotiating structure. The courts supported Ryanair, allowing employers to ignore collective bargaining. Later, when the capitalist class launched their attack on the working class they first separated the private and public sectors.
The public sector is the most unionised part of the labour force. Over the years it has fought for, and obtained, good pay and conditions, which set a benchmark for the private sector. Consequently, it needed to be broken. Collective agreements were useful to the capitalist state when it came to attacking its own workers.
By means of the principle of divide and conquer, the public sector was first of all isolated and vilified by a vicious campaign in the media, with lies and misinformation about gold-plated pensions and huge salaries. This created an environment in which public-sector pay could be cut, and a special tax, called a “pension levy,” was imposed, using “emergency legislation.”
The public sector was to be browbeaten into submission. The Haddington Road Agreement and the “financial emergency measures in the public interest” legislation were the icing on the cake.
Once the public sector was taken care of, the emphasis shifted to the private sector. Whereas union membership is over 90 per cent in the public sector, in the private sector some estimates put it as low as 20 per cent. This has arisen for a number of reasons (which will be dealt with in a future article).
SIPTU is the largest union in the private sector. The latest move against it arises from the threatened strike at Dublin Airport over the defined-benefit pension scheme. Socialist Voice has already pointed out that pension schemes will be an area of attack in the battle to increase profits and reduce wages. The attack on SIPTU is not just aimed at doing it irreparable damage but also serves as a warning to the other unions that there will be consequences for any industrial action.
In the Nolan Transport case in the 1990s the Chief Justice stated that the class struggle was over. He accepted that unions exist to act for their members, and called on employers to recognise that fact. That strike also involved SIPTU, and the whole process of going through the courts cost it heavily, in members’ hard-earned subscriptions.
Now Aer Lingus (which is partly owned by the Government) is after SIPTU. Aer Lingus is suing for millions which it claims it lost over the threatened strike in March. The minister for transport, Leo Varadkar, described the Aer Lingus action as unhelpful but did nothing to stop it. Ryanair might also sue.
Regardless of the outcome, the cost of defending the action in the courts will neutralise SIPTU. The union official involved in the threatened strike is also being sued. In effect, any moves within SIPTU to strike in pursuit of pay claims have been effectually silenced or weakened by the use of compliant courts to tie the union up in the legal process.
After more than two hundred years of struggle and agitation there is still no recognition of collective bargaining. Although the right to strike exists, it has been curtailed by restricting sympathy strikes, using industrial relations machinery designed to cause delays, and provisions in the Constitution protecting property rights or the rights of consumers, so that the right is fast becoming one in name only.
The employers’ organisations are well represented in the Dáil and have a sophisticated system for lobbying and propagandising through the capitalist press. The state, far from being neutral, is used by employers to protect the interests of capital and ensure that no laws are enacted that would in any way threaten the interests of big business.
Unions are recognised in name, but there is no obligation to negotiate with them. Capitalists never waste a good recession.
[NOM] Taken from April’s Socialist Voice