The Assault on Labor and the Public Sector: June 6 LAWCHA Public Forum

During its 2013 annual conference in New York City, the Labor and Working Class History Association is hosting two important free public forums. First up is an examination of strategies to counter the assault on labor and the public sector.


Frances Fox Piven Honorary DSA Chair

Frances Fox Piven
Honorary DSA Chair

The Assault on Labor and the Public Sector: Strategies for Resistance in the Post-Election Environment
Thursday, June 6, 8pm
Location: Eisner-Lubin Auditorium, New York University

  • Chair, Opening Remarks Alice Kessler Harris R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History, Columbia University; author, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America.
  • Frances Fox Piven Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Political Science, City University of New York, Graduate Center, author, Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America.
  • Richard Wolff Professor, University of Massachusetts and New School University; author, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism; and partner
  • Bill Fletcher, Jr. Labor Activist, Senior Scholar, Institute for Policy Studies; author, “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.
  • Saket Soni Executive Director, National Guestworker Alliance and New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice; author, And Injustice for all: Workers’ Lives in the Reconstruction of New Orleans .

The panel participants will assess the prospects for the US and international labor movements at a time of expanding global corporate economic power and political and economic retrenchment of the organized labor movement in the U.S. How will elections that produced divided federal governance and emboldened conservative governments in many states influence labor’s prospects? Can labor unions rely on parliamentary and legislative strategies to reverse their decline? What potential do new forms of struggle and worker organization hold for labor? What history and traditions are relevant to the present circumstances? What is the future of strikes and other forms of worker insurgency?

Well, is Labor a “Lost Cause?”


by Street Heat

Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher appeared on Bill Moyers last weekend. Moyer’s theme for the show was “Is Labor a Lost Cause?”.

I have to confess having Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher on TV talking about the crisis of labor was enough to make my labor nerd head explode. Both of them have been thinking, writing and speaking about labor strategy for decades and both of their voices are welcome contributions to this discussion.

Continue reading

Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher on This Week’s Moyers and Company

Lost in the Supreme media chatter last week: a disturbing ruling that restricts labor unions from directing collected dues toward political causes. There’s no such limit on corporations, naturally – yet another indication that the power and status of modern unions is waning, especially when compared to the unbridled influence of Corporate America. With a sharp decline in union membership, a legion of new enemies, and a series of legal and legislative setbacks, can unions rebound and once again act strongly in the interest of ordinary workers?

On this week’s Moyers & Company (check local listings), Moyers asks Is Labor a Lost Cause and talks to two people who can best answer the question: Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher, Jr. The architect of the SEIU’s Justice for Janitors movement, Lerner directed SEIU’s private equity project, which worked to expose a Wall Street feeding frenzy that left the working class in a state of catastrophe. Fletcher took his Harvard degree to the Massachusetts shipyards, and worked as a welder before becoming a labor activist. He served as assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, and is author of the upcoming book They’re Bankrupting Us – And 20 Other Myths About Unions.


What Future for SEIU After Andy Stern Resigns?


by Paul Garver

Articles and editorial comments in the Left and liberal press display a wide spectrum of reactions to Andy Stern’s divided legacy as SEIU President. I will analyze these reactions, note where they diverge and converge, and propose some modest course adjustments for a union that is too big, and too important to the movement, to be allowed to fail.

The articles and comments cited are:

Beyond Chron: Randy Shaw, “SEIU’s Post-Andy Stern Era”
Counterpunch: Steve Early, “Who’s Going to Pay the Tab Left Behind by Andy Stern?”
In These Times: Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Nelson Lichtenstein, “SEIU’s Civil War”
Labor Notes: Mark Brenner, Mischa Gaus, and Jane Slaughter, Andy Stern’s Legacy: Right Questions, Wrong Answers
Katrina van den Heuvel, “SEIU’s Andy Stern Steps Down”
New Republic:
John Judis, “Andy Stern’s departure is another sign of labor movement’s decline”
New York Times:
Steven Greenhouse, “Andy Stern to Step Down as Chief of Politically Active Union”
Washington Post:
Harold Meyerson, “Andy Stern: A union maverick clocks out”
Washington Post: Alec MacGillis, “At the peak of his influence, SEIU chief set to leave a mixed legacy”

Continue reading

The United Auto Workers Must Fight Back!

By Bill Fletcher

This article first appeared at The Black Commentator.

When I awoke on Friday morning, December 12th, I turned on my computer. The first thing I saw was that the deal being worked on in the Senate to provide the automobile companies with loans had fallen through. The explanation offered on MSN: the United Auto Workers (UAW) refused to take a pay cut.

I found myself furious about the situation. Let us be clear that the deal did not fall through because the UAW had refused a pay cut. The deal fell through because the Republicans, who had consistently opposed the loan effort, seek to drive the auto companies into bankruptcy so that they can destroy the UAW. Those leading the charge against the proposed loan (which has been misnamed a “bailout”) publicly seek to force the UAW to accept the same wage rate as the non-union (foreign) auto facilities which, by coincidence, are located in many of the states of these Republican Senators.

Continue reading

Labor After the Bush Era

The 2008 election and the prospect of the upcoming exit of the Bush administration created a lot of discussion within the labor movement and among its allies about what is on the horizon for the working class. In October, 2008 a forum sponsored by Chicago Democratic Socialists of America and In These Times was held in Chicago which represented a current within this debate.  Labor Beat presents a sampling of those speakers. Here are David Moberg, Senior Editor, In These Times; Richard Berg, President, Teamsters Local 743; and Bill Fletcher, Jr., Past President of Trans Africa Forum and Education Director and Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO.

Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. Labor Beat is affiliated with IBEW 1220.

Even more than militant unions, U.S. needs a working people’s movement, Fletcher & Gapasin say

By Michael Hirsch

Bill Fletcher Jr. inscribed into my copy of his new book “Never forget the class struggle.” Wise words to readers who at their best treat the war of the classes as a Sunday catechism.

That’s why if there is one analysis of the labor movement people should own and read and pass around this year, it’s Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice (University of California Press, 2008), co-authored with Fernando Gapasin. The authors, a longtime union organizer and quondam top assistant to the AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney, and a Central Labor Council president and labor educator, come armed not only with critical and informed insiders’ views of the strengths and limitations of American trade unions but also of the international capitalist context in which a war against working people is fought every day. They also understand that unions, as institutions of resistance in that war, need to speak for more than their dues-paying members in bargaining, grievance handling and political action but have a vision of fighting alongside and mobilizing working people as a whole.

Continue reading

Oct. 9 Sacramento Progressive Forum Features Fletcher, Bacon

Forrest Suite, University Union, CSU – Sacramento  Oct. 9, 2008, 9 am – 3:30 pm.

Join DSA and our allies for a dialogue on current issues facing the progressive movements and their allies in our region. The Progressive Forum seeks to bring together scholars, students, social justice and union activists, and policy makers to nurture a new kind of conversation from within the campus and the social movements.

Bill Fletcher, author,  Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path Toward Social Justice

David Bacon, author, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants

Renee Saucedo, Immigrant Worker Organizing Centers

Continue reading

The Crisis In Organized Labor–As Viewed From The Inside and Out

By Steve Early, New Politics Summer 2008.

Review of Bill Fletcher and Fernando Gapasin, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and A New Path Toward Social Justice [Berkeley, CA:University of California Press, 2008] 320 pp, $24.95.

Although he looks old and tired today, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney was once hailed as a dynamic reformer, with a sharp eye for new talent. One of the first things he did, after getting elected in 1995, was appoint former Sixties’ radicals to be federation field reps and department heads. In Washington, D.C. and around the country, Sweeney’s “New Voice” administration quickly filled up with energetic ex- staffers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), his own union. Among them were veterans of campus and community organizing, the civil rights and black power movements, feminism, and Vietnam-era anti- war activity. On the labor left, no single personnel decision by Sweeney raised higher hopes and expectations than Bill Fletcher being named education director (a job he had held, under Sweeney, at SEIU previously).
Continue reading

Labor renewal requires a new theory of unionism

Fernando Gapasin and Bill Fletcher, Jr.
adapted from the Preface to Solidarity Divided

We contend that labor renewal in the United States depends on the adoption of a different theory and practice of trade unionism than has prevailed until now. Such an approach must understand the neoliberal global environment, reexamine who should be in the labor movement (and who is currently excluded), and redefine the role of the union movement in a process of social transformation. We are not interested in perpetuating illusions: the reality is that, absent an alternative, transformative trade unionism, the United States will see no labor renewal. Rebuilding the AFL-CIO, or even creating a new federation, will have been an exercise in futility unless we get to the roots of the problems facing organized labor.

Continue reading