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Progressives/Liberals Are Scabbing: It’s NEVER OK To Cross A Picket Line


Scott Walker, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Paul Ryan…make your own list of the people who are viciously anti-union. We know the threat they pose: attacking the labor movement, and undermining the right to strike, is a death blow to the middle class and justice in America. The problem is that we are also undermined by another dangerous threat: liberals and progressives who cross picket lines—and do so with full knowledge that they are breaking a union strike. It's shameful.

Here is the story. There is a strike, boycott and electronic picket line targeting the Huffington Post. That strike has been called by two legitimate unions: the Newspaper Guild (an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America) and the National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers. The two unions, and hundreds of bloggers throughout the country, are trying to get a share of the riches pocketed by the owners of the Huffington Post via its sale to AOL, and, as important, set a standard for fair treatment in the future. Full disclosure: I am a proud member of the NWU/UAW.

This strike can be won. But, the many bloggers who call themselves "liberals" or "progressives"–people who collect money from unions and/or ask for labor's political endorsements–have to stop crossing the Huffington Post electronic picket line. But, they continue to work for–scab– at a workplace that is being struck and boycotted.

I have decided, for now, not to publicly “out” those people who are scabs–though it doesn't take a lot to figure that out. I want them to come to their own conclusion that their actions are undermining the fight against the right-wing–that if we are not united in support of labor, then, we cannot expect the rest of the country to show solidarity with workers.

This campaign–to publicly identify and praise people who support the strike and publicly identify the scabs–is about to commence in earnest. Many leaders have taken the right position regarding the strike, with the declared support from, among others, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and Leo Gerard, president of the Steelworkers and a long-time progressive labor leader.

No one has even asked that those scabs be publicly critical of Huffington. In fact, I have simply asked people to say, "I look forward to the day when I can return to this site and contribute. I make no judgment about who is right or wrong. But, as a matter of absolute principle, I will not cross a picket line".

Here are three of the justifications from a few of the scabs I have spoken to or emailed with directly–all of whom have received labor money and/or labor political endorsements.

[snarling]I’ve determined that she [Huffington] is too important to me and I don’t care whether I’m scabbing or you call me a scab.

Ok, you are a scab.

I get five times as many people to read what I write about [X topic—I am not identifying the topic because it perhaps would identify the person-JT note] so I’m not going to do this.

"This" being honoring the picket line.

I’m an independent contractor who writes where I choose whether the place is organized or not.

Perhaps the lamest of the excuses I've heard.

Look, if you want to support a hypocrite, someone who has been crowned a progressive voice because she talks about greedy CEOs and the disappearing of the middle-class while she mimics that very Robber Baron behavior; who, as reported by NYTimes [now-former] reporter Frank Rich, is part of a cult labeled “dangerous” by cult experts; who sends her staff members to be indoctrinated by the cult; and who dismisses the workers who created value for a company with a “let them strike”, Marie Antoinette-like wave of the hand, that is your business.

But, crossing a picket line is not acceptable. Whatever the reason.

Up front, an important point: honoring a picket line does not mean you have to agree with the reason for the strike. And I believe that people have the right, and often the duty, to speak up and be critical of labor in a positive, constructive way. God knows, I’ve done plenty of that and pissed off a fair number of labor people—including some very good friends. I would suggest only that that criticism be done judiciously so that it does not undermine public support for a strike. But, by all means, express your view about whether the strike is wise or not.

But being critical does not equal having the license to cross a picket line.

One colleague made a legitimate point: the two unions have not done a very good job at spreading the word about the strike and boycott and picket line. That’s a valid criticism—and is fair to any person who posted at the site out of ignorance. This person, by the way, has committed to honor the picket line—as others have—but says that s/he will do so quietly (I’m going to urge this person to take a public stand).

But, now you know.

There are two additional key points to point out here. The people who choose to scab because, to one extent or another, they see the boycotted site as a lifeline for their ideas, which they view as monumentally crucial to the future of the country, are hugely full of themselves. They have to get over their own self-inflated importance, particularly if that self-importance is justifying, in their own minds, some cockamamie reason to be a scab and break a strike. The problem in the country is not the lack of ideas or proposals or policy papers–which these Very Serious People are delivering via the Huffington Post (along with kitten videos).

No, it's the lack of a movement in the streets–and, in particular, the disintegration of the labor movement to power that movement.

A disintegration that these scabs are aiding and abetting.

And because many of these liberals/progressives are at the forefront of correctly excoriating the anti-union forces in the country, let them answer this. How do you demand from Scott Walker or anyone else that they honor union rights if you aren’t willing to do the same? Everyone of the scabs at the Huffington Post will be, and should be, the poster children for progressive hypocrisy trotted out by the right.

So, I make one personal commitment. To those people who refuse to honor a picket line, I promise to write as many letters or pick up the phone as many times as I need to for as long as it takes—and urge others to do the same—to deny those scabs labor money for their organizations or magazines, and/or labor political endorsements.

Let me close with Jack London's words (for a longer version of a speech he gave called "The Scab", read this):

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.

Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.

No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.

Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not.

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commision in the british army.

The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.

Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country.

A scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class. 

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