Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bug-less Flyers

NY UFT Union Bug-less Flyer

By Marjorie Stamberg

(NY City) -- I thought people might be interested in the political issues raised here, as there are fundamental issues of labor principle involved. For the last 24 hours or so, I've been in a fairly heated polemic with various members of the MORE caucus in the UFT.  It started when I posted my "Reportback from the UFT Delegate Assembly October meeting". As a delegate, I post my report and comments on the various teacher blogs, and the report has become rather popular.

At the October union meeting, the MORE put up a motion on retro pay, and handed out a leaflet that the Mulgrew bureaucracy ("Unity Caucus") attacked for various nasty reasons, but the bureaucrats noted that MORE's leaflet did not have a union bug. That at least, was a correct criticism, I wrote, and then the MORE "justifications" of the bug-less flyer (a union using non-union workers!) came rolling in.  

So here is the correspondence so far:  The latest is my response tonight, and underneath it is the original "Reportback' and the various MORE jjustifications.

My posting tonight:

"It is a  telling statement in itself to read the blog protests coming in after I defend labor's tradition of the union bug, and comment on the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators' bugless flyer. 

The principle is simple --  if you pay to produce something, get it produced with union labor, and show it with the "union bug."  If you're volunteering your services in the interest of the cause, say so at the bottom of the flyer with "labor donated." 

Bottom line: Unions are the front lines of worker defense under capitalism. If we can't defend what we have, we cannot go forward. It's basic. 

And you can do something about it right now. A big struggle is underway in NYC for the basic right of immigrant labor to form unions and organize. The warehouse workers of the B&H photo store are showing the way. They and their supporters are gathering tomorrow, Sunday, October 18, at 2:30 p.m. at the new 34th St./Hudson Yards stop on the 7 train; they will then march to B&H on 34th and 9th Ave. They are seeking to unionize with the United Steelworkers -- and proudly display the USW banner! I hope to see you all there.

Now, on specific questions:
To James, who asked if the Unity materials had a union bug, the answer is yes. There is an IBT-GCC bug on their blue leaflet hailing the pathetic raise the leadership negotiated, and there is an OPEIU bug on the delegate card, meaning it was run off by the UFT office staff which is part of that union.
To Joan, who claimed that the union printing industry is dead in New York, you are wrong. You may have noticed that all the literature put out by my group, Class Struggle Education Workers, either has a union bug on it or else says "labor donated." If you want names of union shops, I can get them for you. If you want union-made buttons, you can go to M.H. Slater in Midtown.  If MORE doesn't do that, it isn't because it can't.

The point at issue here is fundamental: it's about the class line. There is a class struggle and the question is, which side are you on? Many people on the left and union reform groups have lost sight of that basic principle.
The government is on the other side of that line, it is the instrument of capital, no matter who is in office. The police are on the other side of that line, they enforce racist, anti-worker "law and order" as the first line of defense of capital. The Democratic, Republican and all capitalist parties are on the other side of that line, they represent the bosses (including the bogus "Working Families Party" which is just the Democrats in disguise, or the Green Party which is a homeless shelter for liberal Democrats left out in the cold by the rightward drift of the Clintons and Obama).
MORE outrageously crossed that line a year ago last August when it came down on the side of the racist killer cops (talking about "our brother and our sister officers," and uniting" with the fascistic PBA!!) and refused to go on the mass march of thousands who were protesting the NYPD murder of Eric Garner in Staten Island. MORE's claim to represent "social justice unionism" imploded. Any class-conscious unionist would have stood with the poor, black, Latino, Asian, immigrant and white working people against the cops. If you can't do that, what's the point?
A discussion is needed about the necessity to build a union caucus on firm principles of the class struggle: picket lines mean don't cross; cops are the repressive apparatus of the capitalist government, not "fellow workers"; don't run to the bosses' government against the unions or sue the unions in the capitalist courts; oppose all capitalist politicians; and print your material in a union shop. In short, draw the class line in matters big and small.

I could go on.
Sean brings up the history of disgusting anti-Asian and anti-black exclusionism by the AFL, to which one could add the job-trusting exclusion of women in many trades. But that does not sum up the history of labor. This vile history of exclusionary, labor aristocratic, craft unionism is one of the reasons that the CIO was forged in the 1930s as industrial unionism including everyone that worked in that industry. I've fought against that exclusionism: I was the first woman switchman in NY Telephone before I became a teacher, and the union defended me.

It's something we must fight against in the UFT, by demanding (as Sean and others have done) special efforts to increase the number of black and Latino educators in particular, who were driven out under Bloomberg. But unions today are BY FAR the biggest force defending the interests of African American, Latino, Asian and immigrant working people. And that is particularly true in New York City.

You could see that graphically a couple of years ago. When Occupy Wall Street was camped out in Zuccotti Park, it was overwhelmingly, like over 90%, white. But when the unions twice called demonstrations of several tens of thousands to defend Occupy against Bloomberg's cops, those solidarity demonstrations were mostly non-white, because that's what the labor movement is in New York. 1199. 32BJ, TWU Local 100, go down the list.
Our union has a distinctly different composition, reflecting the fact that teachers are a petty-bourgeois layer. The UFT presents itself as a "union of professionals," never talking about the working class. And its leadership is a gang of professional sellouts, who betray workers here and abroad. That is true of almost all union leaderships in the U.S. today, because the militants who built the unions were driven out in the Cold War red purges (led not by Republican McCarthy but by liberal Democrats).
"Unity," which is simply the UFT bureaucracy, sells us out all the time, but not only us. Albert Shanker and his crew built the union by waging a war on reds. The Shankerites were up to their necks in imperialist skulduggery that earned the reputation of the "AFL-CIA". They refused to come out against the war in Vietnam, participated in the repressing and crushing of left-wing unions in Chile as part of the U.S.-sponsored Pinochet coup against the Allende popular front, and served as a conduit funneling U.S. government dollars to anti-communist pseudo-unions from Guatemala to Poland.

This is the heritage of Weingarten and Mulgrew, who brought us Barack Obama who is spearheading the privatizing corporate education reform aimed at destroying teachers unions. And now they want to stuff Hillary Clinton down our throats. Some "progressives" want to go for Democratic Party "socialist"  Bernie Sanders, but like Obama and Clinton he also supports Common Core, Race to the Top and the rest. Any class-conscious unionist must oppose the Democrats, but when this comes up in Delegate Assemblies, MORE delegates are silent.

The problem is not unions, it's the leadership ... and the "opposition," which at bottom shares the outlook of the bureaucracy.
A genuine, class opposition to the Mulgrews and Weingartens would fight to get rid of the whole system of capitalist rule that is destroying public education before our eyes.If you reject or dismiss the importance of having a union bug because of the crimes of Gompers, what's next? Crossing picket lines because the leadership is rotten? To hell with that. Picket lines mean don't cross, period. It's the class line, which side are you on. Unionism 101.

The outlook of petty-bourgeois professionals permeates both the UFT leadership and the would-be opposition. But the UFT isn't the only union of education workers. There are the school aides in DC 37. There are cafeteria workers in Teamsters Local 372. The school bus drivers and matrons of ATU Local 1181 were almost exclusively black and Hispanic. When they went on strike in 2013, the UFT Unity bureaucracy and the MORE opposition barely lifted a finger to defend them. I and my colleagues in the CSEW joined 1181 on the picket lines almost every day for weeks. That is class-struggle unionism.

PS:  Sean asks rhetorically, "When was the last time you checked your shoes, pants, bags and undergarments for a union bug?"  As a matter of fact almost all undergarments and many of the pants (including Levis) are made by garment workers in Haiti, who have been struggling to win recognition of their union. The CSEW has actively supported their struggle including holding a demonstration outside Macy's when they went on strike in December 2013, and meeting with their union organizers." 

For more on this, contact Class Struggle Education Workers: e-mail, or go to

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