Can Unions Lay the Groundwork for the Next Upsurge?

Comments by long time libertarian syndicalist Tom Wetzel on Mark Meinster’s new “Labor Notes” article: “How Unions Can Lay the Ground for the Next Upsurge”

Tom writes:

“Interesting piece by Matt Meinster (a staff organizer with UE). He points out that union membership surges have historically only happened in great spurts or waves, usually in periods when there are major social changes, crises, social movements that challenge the legitimacy of the system — like during the World War 1 era, or the 1930s, or the growth of public sector unionism between early 1960s and 1970s, during the period of the civil rights and other new social movements.

He points out that the conditions for this are hard to predict. But he notes three points: (1) Major strikes, strikes coming in waves. (2) Large number of militants with the capability of developing organization and assisting struggles, this is what syndicalists called the “militant minority”, (3) A willingness to build unions independent from what he calls the “mainstream” unions, that is, as I’d say, independent of the more bureaucratized inherited unions. As he points out the paid layer of officials tend to be skittish about strikes and worry about running afoul of the law, whereas successful strike movements in the past have found ways to roll over the law.

Some of his arguments are similar to my argument in “The Case for Building New Unions.” []

I think the massive upsurges of strikes in the World War 1 era and the early 1930s show that in both cases large numbers of workers (1) had been radicalized, and (2) were prepared to build unions outside the inherited AFL unions.”

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