Free Choice Organizing Op

Ideas and Issues Labor Organizing Personal Writings

San Francisco        Talking to union organizers up and down California in this state that still stands for a major part of what exists for union density in the United States, I often asked if real plans were beginning to be made in case Obama won and in case labor reform passed in the form of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  

    Answer:  No.

    In fact some organizers believe that even if EFCA passes the opportunity will be a window that opens and quickly closes with perhaps a 6-month shot at really moving workers with some momentum.  Betting odds are that employers will be readier and more able.

    Despite the public commitments and leadership support within organized labor, some seem to believe that there are going to be some number of hard core Senators who do whatever and whenever to block EFCA from dilution to filibuster.  This is just one of the reasons that the struggle to make it to 60 votes in the Senate to get over the hump on votes like this and others is increasingly seen as critical.

    In fact here in the heartland of union organizing over the last several decades, a lot of organizers are somewhat depressed.  Internal struggles are still at the top of the list, the disputes between California Nurses and SEIU are sill time consuming, expensive, and disheartening for organizers, and many are trying to figure out where to go and what they can do in order to really be involved in major organizing again.  In short, there is no sense of a labor movement getting ready to ramp up.

    Jon Hiatt, AFL-CIO General Counsel, was one of the speakers at the Tides Momentum conference.  He talked passionately about the “car wash” campaign that they are pushing around Los Angeles with the Steelworkers.  It was an interesting effort to push wage standards for 3000+ workers.

    On the other hand talking to Peter Olney, organizing director of the ILWU, a couple of days before about the Alameda Corridor in Los Angeles he reminded me of some of the work he had done when he directed LA MAP, which looked at manufacturing jobs still in great Los Angeles.  He had found 3000+ workers in steel fabrication in shops so specialized and competitive that they were unable to be torn up and replanted across the border.  He thought they were still there.  But, even now at a great union like Steel, they are somehow trying to organize car washers rather than getting ready to pick up steel fabricators in their classic jurisdiction.  

    We need to see if this thing is real enough to start making preparations and plans.  Or what?

Jon Hiatt, AFL-CIO General Counsel