LaborTalk for February 28, 2012

Let's Re-Build the American Labor Movement
By Educating a New Generation of Workers

By Harry Kelber

Corporate America is conducting a continuous campaign to make people believe that unions are controlled by "bosses" who compel workers to give them regular cash payments to allow them to hold a job. They insist that unions force workers to strike whenever it pleases their so-called "leaders."

The public is warned that unions are the first step into turning America into a Socialist government, where individual freedom will be a feature of the past.

Big Business believes that the country would be better off if Congress and the state legislatures would strip unions of their economic power to extort concessions on wages, pensions and other benefits through the collective bargaining process. They would ban unions from participating in electoral politics without the annual approval of each member.

Of course, the barrage of corporate propaganda is composed of phony statistics, half truths and outright lines, but it seems believable when constantly repeated, especially if there are no convincing responses from union sources.

A major corporate target are the millions of students who will be graduating from high school or college this year and future years. Powerful companies can pressure book publishers to provide readers with a wholly-favorable view of Big Business, while they distort or omit the achievements of unions during the past century.

It is true that the AFL-CIO, through its web site and public statements strives to present a favorable picture of unions, but it cannot match the amount of money and resources of the business community.

How Should Unions Respond to These Corporate Attacks?

Local unions can play a significant role in educating a generation of young students, particularly those who are seniors and will be graduating from high school or college.

The first thing a local union should do is to see whether the school children of its members know why unions are good, as well as necessary, for working families. The parents should make sure that their children are properly informed.

A union committee should make a study of the textbooks in the social sciences in the community schools and then report on how unions and their leaders are presented in the book. If the textbook contains inaccuracies, the local union can demand a public meeting to correct false statements. Union activists should challenge corporate apologists to public debates.

Whenever issues, like immigration, pensions or taxes are being publicly discussed, unions should insist on the right to present their views.

* * * * *

Unions should be ready to distribute leaflets, brochures, pamphlets and articles, as well as public statements to describe how for more than a century the labor movement has won important legislation for the protection of working families. Right now, unions have to develop a new generation of union members to carry on this work.

If the labor movement expects to grow, it cannot shirk this responsibility.

LaborTalk will be posted here on March 2, 2012 and on our two web sites and on

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