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EMBEDDED WITH ORGANIZED LABOR: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home by Steve Early by Steve Early
WHY UNIONS MATTER by Michael D. Yates
ON THE GLOBAL WATERFRONT
by Suzan Erem and E. Paul Durrenberger (Introduction by Greg Palast)
NOT AUTOMATIC: Women and the Left in the Forging of the Auto Workers' Union by Sol Dollinger and Genora Johnson Dollinger (Foreword by Kim Moody)
MEATPACKERS: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality by Rick Halpern and Roger Horowitz
RECLAIMING THE IVORY TOWER: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education by Joe Berry
LABOR PAINS: Inside America’s New Union Movement by Suzan Erem
THE POWER IN OUR HANDS by Norman Diamond and William Bigelow
INSURGENT IMAGES: The Agitprop Murals of Mike Alewitz by Paul Buhle and Mike Alewitz
|#OWS, Times Square, and the Global Labor Movement
by Mark Nowak
The repetition of the final line, however, was drowned out by a thunderous applause.
All throughout Times Square, workers joined in -- some brandishing trade union-produced signs, others wielding handmade slogans on old cardboard or the back flap of pizza boxes, and yet many more "incognito," there with only their bodies and their voices -- as people across the globe took to the streets for the October 15th demonstrations.
Trade unionists I've spoken with around the world have related, over and again, how participating in the occupy movements have transformed their opinions. For example, Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, General Secretary for the First Commercial Bank Industrial Union in Taiwan and International Coordinator of the Serve the People Association (SPA), Taoyuan, told me how attending one of the meetings of the initiating group of the occupy movement in Taipei changed his perspective on the movement:
And as I continue my conversations with trade unionists and labor activists around the world about what role the Occupy Wall Street movement is playing in their own working-class struggles, two central messages emerge: nearly everyone I speak with mentions both the historical centrality of the occupation tactic to trade union struggles of the past; and nearly everyone I speak with also hopes that this newly invigorated tactic of the Occupy Wall Street movement will inspire trade unionists -- especially rank-and-file members -- to revisit the occupation/sit-down strike technique.
For example, Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary at UNISON: The Public Service Union, where he is responsible for organizing and recruitment, pointed to that history in the UK: "We can look right back to the 1970s to the occupation of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. This was a very successful occupation where workers continued to work and exercised a strict discipline over each other to ensure the work got done."
"In my personal opinion," McKenzie continued, "these are tactics that trade unions should make much greater use of. I think it's something that will happen now."
Labor historians and labor activists have, in recent years, devoted an increasing amount of attention to "occupy" tactics. From articles on the "Occupy. Resist. Produce." politics of the MST in Brazil (see the interview with João Pedro Stedile's in New Left Review) to the FaSinPat and Brukman workers and MTD activists in Argentina (documented in Marina Sitrin's Horizontalism and Lavaca Collective's Sin Patrón) to the recent leveraging of occupation tactics in Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors factory (the subject of Kari Lydersen's Revolt on Goose Island) and in the streets of Miami (analyzed in Max Rameua's Take Back the Land), the global desire and need for leveraging occupation techniques from the local to global scale has been escalating in recent years.
Bilge Seckin, a former International Relations Specialist in the Union of Leather Workers -- Türkiye Deri-İş Sendikası, spoke of a similar use of the technique in Turkey:
Yet Seckin was also quick to point out what many activists and rank and file in the global labor movement have felt about the lack of a more militant stand among many of their trade unions officials:
Perhaps in addition to marching in rallies and looking for ways to mobilize their members to participate in their local occupy movement, the lesson that U.S. and other less-than-progressive trade unions around the world should take from this moment is that the rank-and -file workers have been waiting for an opportunity to slow down, sit in, and sit down in their workplaces again. Workers, especially young workers here in the States and elsewhere around the world, are ready, once again, to participatein re-defining how their own workday lives are structured and lived. And this reinvigoration of an old tactic, in the end, could become -- for the global working-class struggle -- one of the most significant benefits of the #OWS movement.
Mark Nowak is the author of Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) and Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004). Read his blog Coal Mountain at <coalmountain.wordpress.com>.