Labor Chaos

Community Organizing Labor Organizing

hotel-worker New Orleans  Sensitive, internal memos and financial information are leaking like a sieve exposing vulnerabilities in some of our storied unions.  This hurts workers and all of us.  In labor we need some real leadership and something likea “Geneva convention” or “Marquis of Queensberry” rules for how to handle internal conflict within unions without eroding protections and rights for union members themselves.  We would need some kind of Geiger counter to find any evidence of principles and restrain in how the UNITE, HERE, and SEIU ménage de trios is now breaking out.

In the bitter court battle and divorce struggle within UNITE HERE as they try to unwind the merger of their organizations several years ago and reassemble various pieces into a new formation or in the former UNITE case to affiliate with SEIU, like the worst of Hollywood divorces both sides seem unrestrained in trying to destroy the other, no matter who and what is hurt at the hindmost.  Most recently when the HERE forces seized the building in New York City where the former UNITE forces had been operating, a flood of documents has been unleashed in internet way past acceptable boundaries.

One details the declining financial fortunes of UNITE laying the cupboard bare for employer inspection at a time when employers are trying to deny recognition – and therefore – dues income to the union claiming (with way too much credibility) that they can’t tell who and what the union really is.  ARAMARK, who I know too well personally from a dozens of organizing campaigns run by my local union or partnerships we managed, seems to have been predictably quick to now refuse to bargain and deny recognition I heard from a colleague in California on the phone yesterday.

Hospitality workers desperately need organization, and here where Local 100 works in the middle South, especially places like New Orleans and San Antonio where such industries dominate, the lack of organization is a tragic factor in impoverishing entire communities.  I would like to pretend all of this mess was in service to a potential organizing program, but there’s no sign of this yet on the horizon.  All sides seem instead to be set on weakening unionization in this critical sector by throwing all of our laundry into the street.  Maybe it was bad judgment to leave these memos lying around, but it was equally wrong to serve them up for public consumption.  We have to be better than our enemies, not the same.

All may be fair in love and war, as the expression goes, but even where there now seems to have been little love, there needs to be an understanding that this is still not really war, so some standards need to be upheld.