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

Members of Local 7798 achieve major goal with workplace violence policy

From the USW

Workers at Copper Country Mental Health Services in Houghton, Mich., obtained wage increases and pension improvements in their contract ratified earlier this year, but the benefit Local 7798 members were most proud of bargaining was language regarding workplace violence.

The contract committed the employer to appoint a committee, including two members of the local, to draft a workplace violence policy. Work quickly began on the policy, and just last week, the committee drafted and released its first clinical guideline focusing on responding to consumer aggression toward staff.

“We are so excited to have this go into effect,” said Unit Chair Rachelle Rodriguez of Local 7798. “This was a direct result of our last negotiating session.”

The guideline includes the definition of aggression and an outline of procedures, all of which will be reviewed yearly. And though this is just a first step in reducing the incident rates and harm of workplace violence in their workplace, it still is a big one for the local, and it wouldn’t have been possible without a collective bargaining agreement.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work