Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why No Strikes in the United States?

Political campaigns do not unify us and our interests; a strike does.

You might wonder why a general strike hasn’t occurred.  And as my last post’s author describes, there are several reasons.

One way of thinking about the politics of the decision not to strike, to continue protest in several states and to work looking forward to the next elections is that the union protesters, their non-union allies and their political leaders have made a rather strange decision regarding a general strike.  They have chosen not to make a choice.  They haven’t said, “We will not strike.”  They have said, “Let’s wait and see.” They have rather passively decided, in the midst of a lot of action, to not act.  We must ask, Why?

I suppose there are several methods we can use to solve the problems caused by the Republican-led attack on public workers across the United States.  Listing all the methods and the reasons for supporting the most useful is not necessarily helpful. Such a task is always secondary to a much more subtle process that disrupts the collective, concentrated, useful power in our organized labor.  In other words, before we can decide to strike, something else is already happening.  My argument is that this something that is happening is political and aimed at directing the power in our unions, the public unions in this case, into an effort to support a political party that cannot (because of its role in society) protect our unions’ interests.

Never mind that much of American labor functions under the notion that it does not have the freedoms its employers have to make contracts, set standards and function in the market.  Employees seem to feel obligated to cooperate under almost every condition for the benefit of Employers’ self-interest. Let’s apply this sense of cooperation to unions. The unions seem to have a similar problem with their political parties.  The unions feel obligated to support/cooperate under almost ever condition for the benefit of Politicians’ self-interest. It’s rare that unions get much from their politicians other than press.

We have tied our ability to organize labor to the success or failure of politicians and their political campaigns, much in the same way that most American employees tie their self-interest to the success or failure of Employers and Employer interest. One thing we know for sure.  The Employers and Employees do not have the same self-interest.

A general strike would put everybody’s interests at stake. A political campaign does not.  And that’s the power in a strike.  Where is this concern, right now?  All tied up in politics.  In ideology.  And ideology is imaginary representation.  And a strike is very, very real.

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