"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Emergency Labor Network calls for organizing the unemployed

I couldn't agree more with the ELN's analysis of the problem:
What will it take to address this jobs and housing emergency? Putting millions of workers back to work will require immediate action to create a public works jobs program comparable to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s.
There is no shortage of socially necessary jobs. Infrastructure is crumbling, energy systems need conversion to renewable sources, our education system needs reinforcement, and millions of people are without health care.
The fight for living-wage jobs, and the preservation of the social safety net, will only be won through large-scale organizing of the unemployed and underemployed. This organizing should have as its goal mass action to win immediate and long term relief. . . .

. . . .What is urgently needed is for the organized labor movement to throw all of its weight into organizing the unemployed in organizations controlled by the unemployed themselves, independent of political parties. This requires real grassroots organizing in the neighborhoods and towns where workers live. . . .

. . . The unions need to make low-wage and unemployed workers a part of the organized working class. Union halls should be open to mass meetings of the unemployed and unions’ resources should be made available to help unemployed organizations get off the ground, with programs demanding good paying jobs with benefits. This is a practical question for labor. The unemployed and low wage, part-time workers are victims of the current economic crisis, but are also fed a diet of anti-union propaganda. By organizing these workers, labor would be reinforcing a vulnerable economic and political flank. As this crisis worsens, the right-wing can exploit the politics of resentment to mobilize the unemployed as a battering ram to break the organizations of the working class. This is a real danger if the unemployed are left unorganized and if the struggles they wage do not receive labor’s all-out support...
But I don't think this strategy is useful:
It’s time for organized labor to break with the twin parties of Wall Street and build a party of our own — a labor party based on the unions.
ELN believes that the failure to recall Walker in Wisconsin was due to unions putting all their energy into the election instead of organizing a national general strike and creating a third party.  I disagree.  Our "winner-takes-all" political system dooms third party attempts.  If we had proportional representation, then a third party makes sense.  By all means, organize the unemployed around issues like a modern WPA (full employment and living wage for all).  But continue putting pressure on the Democrats to move back to the left while getting the independents to vote Democratic.

FOR EXAMPLE: The Southern Freedom Movement forced changes in Supreme Court Decisions; adminstrative policy; and legislation.  the new decisions, policies and laws then provided the issues around which further organizing could happen, to continue the movement.  There would have been no Freedom Rides without Morgan v Virginia and Boynton v Virginia, and it was the Freedom Riders that forced the ICC to change it's policy and enforcement procedures.

See Jeffrey Perry's response to ELN call.


Jeffrey B. Perry said...

I encourage people to read my comment at

Thank you -- Jeffrey B. Perry

Kathy Emery said...

excellent article Jeffrey!! It reinforces what Robert and Chude Allen argue in their excellent book, Reluctant Rebels -- a history of how progressive movements have failed in this country because they didn't approach their organizing from a fundamentally anti-white supremacist paradigm. Also....I just finished David Barber's A HARD RAIN FELL: Why SDS failed. another important book for white activists to read and learn from. thanks for your contribution to the blog!