A fine essay by Alec MacGillis in the New Republic traces the history of long time labor activist and leader in the UAW Jerry Tucker.
An outspoken dissident, Tucker urged an alternate course for American unions for more than three decades, one with a broader progressive message and greater empowerment of rank and file workers. Despite his repeated successes in the field of action, Tucker was largely sidelined by the union establishment. Labor could desperately use Tucker’s guidance today, but it’s too late:
He died in his hometown of St. Louis on October 19 of pancreatic cancer, at age 73.
Still, with the movement he loved in such dire straits, it’s worth reckoning with him and his legacy to ask: Could it have been different? And might it yet be? …
In 1992, Tucker ran for president of the UAW as part of the insurrectionist, rank-and-file based New Directions reform movement. Bill Fletcher, who reluctantly turned down Tucker’s invitation to be his campaign manager, recalls the vision:
“He said to me that there needs to be a labor reformation…He was not simply talking about more militancy, he was simply talking about better tactics, he was talking about a rethinking of the role and mission of the union movement…It meant the centrality of the member…The rank and file needed real education, not simply training on filing grievances but helping people develop a progressive world view. Labor needed to be outspoken on a broader range of issues that went beyond the workplace.”
Read the entire piece, The Man Who Tried to Save Organized Labor at http://www.tnr.com/blog/alec-macgillis/111488/the-man-who-tried-save-organized-labor