and Robert Weissman
1953, the percentage of unionized workers in the United States has declined from
26 percent to less than 14 percent.
given the choice of joining a union or not, 48 percent of workers in this
country say they would join.
why isn’t the number of unionized workers higher?
According to Peter Kellman, a member of the Program on Corporations, Law and
Democracy (POCLAD), getting a corporation to recognize a union is effectively
neither a right nor a protected activity.
were, then the 48 percent of the workforce would become union members, elect
officers and start negotiating in a heartbeat, Kellman says.
Americans have the right to strike, true.
under a little known 1938 Supreme Court decision (NLRB v. Mackay), corporations
have the right to permanently replace those workers.
what right do workers have?
have the right to quit.
right to quit?
Slaves didn’t have the right to quit. We do. So, it’s a step up from slavery,
Americans have little understanding of labor history, about the Knights of
Labor, about Norris-LaGuardia (labor’s Magna Carta), about the "labor amendment
to the Constitution" (the 13th), about how the 14th Amendment has been used to
protect corporations as well as to protect African Americans, and about how
Taft-Hartley literally undid the protections granted workers by
Hoping to bridge the labor history gap, Kellman and POCLAD have published a
booklet — Building Unions, Past, Present and Future.
booklet is only 37 pages long — short and sweet.
Kellman puts labor history squarely in the context of the growing corporate
power that has crushed unionism as a social force.
"We’ve gone from a period where working class organizations dealt with broader
issues, represented the community generally, to a situation where the union
institution now just represents workers in the workplace," Kellman told us
Kellman opens a window on the history of the Knights of Labor.
learn that the Knights of Labor was a union whose members believed that the
society should be run by consumer and producer cooperatives.
believed that workers should exercise power through the ballot and the boycott.
believed in equal pay for equal work. They were integrated — black and white.
They had about one million members in the United States in 1886. They were
responsible for many changes, he reports.
didn’t organize just in the workplace. Anybody could belong as long as you
weren’t part of the what the Knights called the "non-producing class" — people
who obtained wealth through stock, for example. All others were members of the
working class or producing class.
had assembly halls all over the place. In the state of Maine, they had 120
assembly halls, Kellman says.
booklet is a joy to read, and should be widely distributed.
should a POCLAD poster titled "A Call to Defy Corporate Domination."
those of your who know the work of POCLAD, the 500-word poster is a neat
summation of the group’s work and beliefs.
are some nuggets:
Corporations are not persons.
are not citizens.
are legal fictions created in our names.
the People have the authority to do more than beg their bosses to behave a
little less badly.
can challenge illegitimate corporate authority.
can strip corporations of Bill of Rights powers and Constitutional protections.
can oust public officials who enable corporations to trample human rights and
govern the earth. But we can’t stop there.
Millions of people before us learned to escape their cultures of oppression.
helped one another decolonize their minds. They analyzed historical and
constitutional barriers erected against democratic self-governance.
they built popular movements to contest the self-proclaimed divine rights of
predatory corporate masters.
Democracy can contest corporate domination. But democracy must be much more than
holding elections, or even redefining business.
we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know
suggest buying as many of the booklets and posters as you can afford and passing
them around to friends and colleagues.
[The poster and booklet can both be ordered from: POCLAD, Box 246, S.
Yarmouth, Massachusetts 02664. web:
www.poclad.org Building Unions booklet: Single copies $8. 10 or more, $5
each. Postage/handling: one copy, $2, 2-9 copies, 50 cents each, 10+ inquire
for bulk rates. Defy Corporate Domination Poster -- 1-9 posters, $8 each plus
$3 postage and handling. 10-24, $4 each plus $4 postage and handling. 25+, $2
each plus $6 postage and handling.]
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt
for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage
Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber and
Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends or repost
the column on other lists. If you would like to post the column on a web site
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