Janus Decision Attacks All Wage Labor!
The recent Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME?decision marks yet another decisive moment for the American labor movement. ?This ruling overturned the previous 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education?decision that allowed labor unions in the public sector to collect “fair share” dues from non-union members for the union’s purpose of contract maintenance and collective bargaining. ?This ruling will further decimate the public sector unions which have a 34% membership rate (the private sector is 6.5% as of 2017). ?This will disproportionately affect women, particularly Black women, and people of color who have a higher union membership rate and who face vicious discrimination for gender, skin color, and national origin under capitalism. There have been an epidemic of attacks on workers at the state level with right to work laws or an erosion of public sector ?collective bargaining rights.. The trajectory back to 19th Century, open-shop ‘work harder, keep your mouth shut and work until you die’ society is far advanced. ?If the working class does not unite as a class for-itself, under our own banner and through our own methods of struggle, working at an Amazon warehouse will seem like a workers’ paradise compared to what is coming.
Janus?is the result of an 80 year assault by anti-union, right-wing forces to undermine the formal legal rights granted labor under the National Labor Relations Act, the Wagner Act, of 1935 and subsequent legal gains of American workers. It should come as no surprise that the Koch family has been at the forefront of these assaults. ?As summarized in an ?article by sports betting website developmentLisa Graves, The Koch family was an early supporter of the John Birch Society and made much of its early capital accumulation cracking gasoline for Hitler and Mussolini. (Also see Mary Bottari,?In These Times, “Behind Janus: Documents Reveal Decade-Long Plot to Kill Public-Sector Unions”)
The right-wing billionaires, corporations and think-tanks that are spearheading these assaults on labor do so not through open anti-unionism, but through demagoguery, appealing to the workers and presenting themselves as pro-worker. These forces find socially backward workers to file lawsuits in the name of ?“free speech,” “worker rights” and “workplace freedom”, referring to the labor bureaucrats as “fat cats” and “union bosses”. The minor truth to these epithets does not make the desired result visible to those who simply want a ‘free ride,’ i.e., representation without paying dues. The desired results for the big money is a legal juggernaut striking collective bargaining down! Behind Janus is a list of 80+ lawsuits against “sole representation” by any contracting party, i.e. union.
The labor laws themselves were generally double-edged swords. ?While granting formal legal rights to unions, they were in response to and designed to suppress working class struggle and direct them into legal channels which prevent solidarity strikes and secondary boycotts. These laws defanged the labor movement and channeled it into a long term dependence on the Democratic party. ?Purported friends of labor, the Democrats have no problem living today with the logic and content of the Taft-Hartley Act, which even Harry Truman called a slave labor law, and this cold war law prepared the future ground for Janus. After Taft-Hartley, Janus was always possible at any time until or unless prevented by a militant mass upsurge of the workers in their own self-interests. ?Such a mass upsurge is still what is called for to change the relationship ?of forces in favor of the working class. How likely this is without a fighting workers labor party is a question for history but also for every strike that escapes the control of the class-collaborators.
The Labor Lieutenants of Capital
It is very telling that these reactionary forces are able to fill the void with their reactionary politics left by a pro-capitalist labor misleadership that has long ago abandoned methods of struggle that built the unions in favor of the Democratic Party and electoral politics. Labor’s moment of truth happened nearly 40 years ago when Reagan broke the PATCO air-traffic controllers strike. ?And again in the 1980’s with the Hormel strike. ?And again in 2011 in Wisconsin. ?And here we are today, with the Janus?decision. The time to fight for the class collaborationist labor bureaucracy is NEVER!!!. That is a winning (or rather losing for workers) bet. ?You can also bet that unless the workers movement charts our own independent course, with our own methods of struggle and our own politics, that the downward spiral will continue. ?The unions are not going to be defended or rebuilt through the legal system or through elections. ?And the coming appointment of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will undoubtedly usher in a further erosion of ?workers’ as well as democratic rights.
Early American socialist Daniel De Leon labelled the labor bureaucracy as the “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class”. The labor bureaucracy is a parasitic, privileged, pro-capitalist layer within the workers movement that identifies its interests primarily with the class enemy. ?They bring bourgeois ideology into the workers movement by preaching the supposed shared interests between Labor and Capital. ?Their idea of “struggle” is getting as many workers as possible into the voting booth to elect Democrats.
“This is the bankrupt political methodology of the parasitic, pro-capitalist union bureaucracy that has dragged the labor movement to defeat after defeat. In virtually every labor struggle, the first thing these labor-fakers postulate are “talk shop” rallies with some kind of electoral strategy, which translates into “we don’t need working class struggle, let’s elect ‘labor-friendly’ politicians (mostly Democrats).” This was clearly the case in the Wisconsin Recall diversion, as well as in Michigan battle over “right to scab (work)”, where the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federation tops caved in.”
Teachers Point the Way Forward:? We Need a Class Struggle Leadership and a Fighting Workers/Labor Party
The recent wave of teachers strikes have provided a glimpse of what is possible. ?While not clear victories, they were not outright broken by the state either. ?What you saw was the usual assortment of union officials trying to shift the struggles back into the Democratic Party and elections along with a vacuum of leadership. ?If there had been even a relatively small number of class struggle militants with a base in the unions, these strikes could have been very different and they could have been taken to where they should have and could have gone. ?The Wisconsin struggle of 2011, the Chicago Teachers strike of 2012, the ILWU Longview struggle, and the teacher’s struggles today were all primarily derailed by the labor-fakers who limit and divert every struggle, at every turn back into legal and electoral channels and the Democrats. Rank and file initiative and pressure resulted in better-than-pattern contract gains for teachers in multiple states. But everywhere the democrat/bureaucrat layer reasserted control, no health insurance gains were won and many were the losses of these benefits. WHICH IS THE PATTERN of bargains struck by these leaderships in both federations!
Not to fall into cliche but crisis and opportunity go together like bread and butter. The roadblock that the labor lieutenants of capital represent are now facing an existential and material threat to their own continued existence. In the public sector they will appear with their tin cups begging workers not to stop paying membership dues as they can no longer count on the dues check off coming in the mail every month. ?Workers will rightly ask, “What have you done for us lately?” This is an opportunity for militant workers to build a new fighting leadership for the labor movement on the basis of class struggle and working class political independence.
The conditions of today scream of the need for a fighting workers/labor party, for a class struggle leadership of the workers movement to lead all the struggles of the workers and the oppressed:
“To win in the next round of contracts we need to pick up where West Virginia left off. We need to adopt class struggle methods to organize all worker organizations in any given industry or working for any target employer to take solid broad-based strikes. We need strike committees with a democratically elected, accountable and recallable leadership, that will replace the labor-faking union bureaucrats who will not fight. ?A class struggle leadership that understands that there is no common interest between Labor and Capital and that will treat the strike as the class war it is. ?
We need to advance demands that address the broader needs of the working class and oppressed peoples not just to gain their solidarity and because it is the moral thing to do, but because when we broaden the social basis of our struggle the entire class rises in consciousness and potential. To that end we need to incorporate the fight for Jobs for All at a living wage into every strike. Hence the demand: 30 hours work for 40 hours pay to compensate labor for increases in productivity and to share the work. We need to demand socialized medical care under workers control as a right in every campaign. Democrats will pettifog where they don’t overtly fight you. We need a fighting workers/labor party, beholden to no one but us and the oppressed!”?– Communist Workers Group, “WEST VIRGINIA LESSONS FOR LABOR AND THE FIGHT FOR MEDICAL INSURANCE”