Labor Day 2008
How It Looks For Them, Us, Everybody

by Bill Onasch

This is the ninth Labor Day since we launched the KC Labor website. As always, I join other pundits, great and small, in commenting on the state of American labor at this annual day of reckoning.

This task is far from being a festive celebration. Each of these roundups since 2000 has been increasingly grim. Last year I wrote,

“I believe we have to look at our unions from the same perspective we should view global warming....The same sense of urgency needs to be applied to the crisis facing American organized labor. We must speak inconvenient truth to dwindling power. Our unions have become endangered species and no body can prevent their imminent extinction–except us.”

Is the truth any less inconvenient this year? Let us review.

First let me clarify some worker-centric definitions. “Them” are the employers and financiers, along with the politicians and brass hats that serve them in government.

“Us” are those who work for Them, or would like to work, or, like me, used to work before retiring. Us also have some natural allies among most of the self-employed, such as family farmers, owner-operator truck drivers, and free lance professionals.

“Everybody” is everybody.

Such divisions were recognized by the pioneers of the American labor movement,

A struggle is going on in the nations of the civilized world between the oppressors and the oppressed of all countries, a struggle between capital and labor, which must grow in intensity from year to year and work disastrous results to the toiling millions of all nations if not combined for mutual protection and benefit. This history of the wage-workers of all countries is but the history of constant struggle and misery engendered by ignorance and disunion; whereas the history of the non-producers of all ages proves that a minority, thoroughly organized, may work wonders for good or evil. Conforming to the old adage, 'In union there is strength,' the formation of a Federation embracing every trade and labor organization in North America, a union founded upon a basis as broad as the land we live in, is our only hope. —Preamble to the Constitution of the American Federation of Labor, 1886

How far we’ve gotten off message.

Them
No body in history has accumulated more wealth than Them. No body before has had the awesome military power, capable of destroying the planet many times over, at their disposal. Other than harsh dictatorships, no prior rulers have been more effective in controlling the flow of information and the shaping of mainstream opinions.

Them often affect the air of divine right kings, expecting appropriate deference to their authority. Most commentators, emulating the practice of worshipers of the Hebrew God, dare not mention Them directly by name. We hear respectful references to the Business Community, Entrepreneurs, Captains of Industry and Commerce--but rarely does “ruling class” get uttered in polite company. Most of the union leaders of Us humbly ask to be junior partners with Them. Whether admired, hated, or feared, Them project invincibility in their relentless pursuit of more.

On one important level Them have won unprecedented victories at the expense of Us since last Labor Day. Above all, the Big Three agreements with the UAW dealt Us a defeat of truly historic proportions. It signaled a virtual unconditional surrender of defense of “middle class” standards for industrial workers in the USA--and its ramifications have quickly spread in to Canada as well. (For an interesting assessment of where Canadian workers stand on Labor Day click here.) A particularly painful twist of the knife was later felt at American Axle.

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This humiliation of the most powerful industrial union has helped Them to ratchet up what Steven Greenhouse so accurately described as the Big Squeeze on the entire working class.

The latest BLS report before this Labor Day showed the tenth consecutive month of declining real wages. After adjusting for inflation, workers on average earn 3.1 percent less than a year ago. The percentage of workers and retirees with employer provided health insurance again declined. Nearly a third of those of retirement age still hold down at least one job to stay afloat. All boats are taking on water in the rip tide from industrial unionism going down the drain.

But it turns out Them have problems of their own. Just as the Big Three were getting ready to reap rich rewards from the UAW surrender the housing bubble burst, the credit bubble was revealed, and speculators drove food and fuel prices off the charts. The entire auto market, including the Big Three’s Japanese, Korean, and German owned competitors, took a nose dive. The Big Three, top heavy with gas-guzzlers, got hit hardest and are floundering around trying to restructure their product lines.

Them also face serious challenges on the world scene. The Bush Doctrine is in shambles. They have yet to come up with a workable plan for extricating themselves from a costly and unpopular war and occupation in Iraq. They are headed deeper in to the quagmire in Afghanistan. And Bush’s good buddy in Moscow is being troublesome.

The dollar’s exchange value has taken a hard hit, attracting bargain hunters from abroad. These include not only tourists but such embarrassing corporate acquisitions as InBev’s take over of the maker of “The Great American Lager.”

A weak dollar should be good for exports. But, as a recent New York Times article noted,

“Exports are the bright spot this year in an otherwise bleak economy. But the world is not suddenly snapping up made-in-America goods like aircraft, machinery and staplers. The great attraction is decidedly low-luster commodities like corn, wheat, ore and scrap metal. This helps explain why manufacturing jobs are continuing to disappear by the tens of thousands and factories are closing even during a miniboom in exports.”

The first major recession in the Euro Zone has revived competitive tensions as, for example, the failure of recent World Trade Organization negotiations indicated.

Even China’s torrid economy is beginning to cool and global players are starting to shift investments away from the Olympic giant to even lower labor cost opportunities in southeast Asia.

Here in the homeland, add in the factors of American consumers hunkering down, a dangerously crumbling infrastructure, foreclosure and bank failure rates not seen since the Great Depression, dysfunctional air travel–the list goes on. It’s clear troubles are just beginning for Them. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say they are just catching up.

There was already some uneasiness about the tightening Big Squeeze among Us in the 1992 election campaign. Bill Clinton ran on the theme “it’s the economy, stupid,” and ousted the senior Bush in a three-way contest by promising a “stimulus package.” Of course, no such package was forthcoming.

But Clinton did a lot of other things that eventually gained him the accolade of the Wall Street Journal as the best President for business ever. These included,

* A deal with Alan Greenspan, long time chair of the Federal Reserve Board, to adopt a “financial markets strategy,” guaranteeing the independence of the Fed to set monetary policy. This policy consisted almost solely of tweaking the economy from time to time by adjusting interest rates. Greenspan won the confidence of the bankers and small-fry investors hung on his every reassuring word. The stock market soared to heights never dreamed of.

* Financial deregulation. The last Democrat President before Clinton, Jimmy Carter, launched initial moves in deregulation of transportation and telecommunications, followed up by Reagan. Timothy A. Canova, in a solid Dissent article, The Legacy of the Clinton Bubble, describes what he calls The Mother Of All Deregulation,

“Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, one of the most far-reaching banking reforms since the Great Depression. It swept aside parts of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that had provided significant regulatory firewalls between commercial banks, insurance companies, securities firms, and investment banks.”

This helped fuel the spectacular growth of what turned out to be what some economists call “fictitious capital.” Enron, and the mammoth subprime debacle, would not have been possible without this deregulating “modernization.”

* Far from carrying out promises of stimulus, Clinton gutted the welfare rolls, and many other social programs, to eliminate budget deficits.

* And, of course, Clinton drove through, as no Republican could have done, NAFTA–the center piece of Them’s surge in to the globalization stage of American capitalism.

This bit of history is important to know because we may soon have to relive it. Robert Rubin played a central role in developing Clinton’s economic policies while serving as Secretary of the Treasury. Today, as well as being Senior Financial Adviser to Citigroup, he counsels Senator Obama and is rumored to be on tap for the Treasury Secretary job once more in an Obama cabinet. Also on the Democrat nominee’s economic team is UC Berkeley business professor Laura D'Andrea Tyson–who chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton. Such are the bold ideas of “change.”

Senator McCain’s economic advisers come from bitterly contending schools. Some are “supply side,” left over from the Reagan days. They favor continuing tax cuts for the rich. But others seeking the ear of the GOP standard bearer have called the Reagan era a “mad, drunken bash,” and want to focus on eliminating deficit spending and paying down a seemingly out of control national debt.

Whichever dueling economic school prevails in the next administration, it is clear that none come armed with silver bullets. The transitory booms of Reagan and Clinton can’t be replicated. The globalization step has lost its bounce. Fictitious capital has a tragic ending. The worshipers of Greenspan’s Golden Calf may have to take a long hike in the desert.

What About Us?
So Them no longer seem so omnipotent as they appeared Labor Day last. But while the interests of Them and Us clash we can’t simply take comfort in Them’s troubles. Without positive, effective advocacy for our interests Them’s miserable cold becomes our debilitating pneumonia.

The only mass, class based organizations Us have so far developed in the USA are our unions. That’s the logical and traditional starting point for assessment on the worker’s holiday.

With a few honorable exceptions, which we’ll get back to, the mainstream bureaucracy heading our unions long ago rejected the class struggle perspective of their founders.

There’s little new to say about their more traditional component–most AFL-CIO affiliates, some Change to Win unions such as the Teamsters, UFCW, and Laborers, and the NEA. The Big Three cave in was a sea change in industrial unionism, to be sure. But it was the kind of change you get when you heat water on the stove. Incremental give-backs have been gradually heating the troubled waters of collective bargaining over the past three decades. The boiling point was finally reached in auto; the historic gains of the most powerful union were vaporized.

Some unions have been fortunate that temporary conditions peculiar to their industries have so far allowed them to escape such catastrophe as devastated the UAW. West coast ports have benefited from the explosion of trade with Asia and the ILWU was able to negotiate an acceptable contract. Verizon was not in a position to take a long strike and let CWA and the IBEW off relatively easy with only modest benefit concessions mainly affecting next generation workers.

But such exceptions to the general trend will be few and far between. There will be more contract give-backs, along with more joint lobbying with the bosses for everything from local TIFs to new nuclear weapons plants.

The sole positive innovation among this group was the declared merger of the Steelworkers with British and Irish unions. Cross border bargaining and solidarity could be an important new phase for Us in the globalization era. But it remains to be seen whether this is the beginning of a serious new effort or yet another over-hyped false start.

Corporatism to Win
While there is little new to say about the traditional House of Labor much has been revealed in past months about a mutation in the bureaucratic species that defies the laws of natural selection. Some label it “corporate unionism.” This advanced degeneration is personified by SEIU president Andy Stern, aka Chairman Andy.

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Stern engineered a split in the AFL-CIO three years ago with big promises that the new rival federation, Change to Win, once freed from the fetters of Traditionalists, would grow by leaps and bounds. SEIU, and to a lesser extent UNITE-HERE, have added substantial numbers of dues payers to their ranks. What has been the secret of their success?

First of all, Stern & Co. wrote off trying to do anything with workers whose jobs could be outsourced or offshored. They have concentrated on healthcare, building services, food service, hotels, casinos, airports, and public sector units. Many of these jobs may be performed by Mexicans but none can be moved to Mexico.

Next came “consolidation” of SEIU locals into mega-bodies of unprecedented size and geographic jurisdiction. Some of these “local” unions have well over 100,000 members–bigger than many national unions. Many encompass a dozen states. Janitors in Houston, for example, are members of a “local” with headquarters in Chicago. Such a concentrated hierarchy was beyond the imagination of the Traditionals.

Historically, most union organizing has been done by nurturing committees inside the workplace. Effective organizing drives patiently build strong majority support among workers inside before ever seeking a representation election.

Little of this methodic style of organizing is done by the revved-up Corporates. The lion’s share of their impressive recent numerical growth has come from two innovations.

They use their political clout in state legislatures to get huge chunks of low wage, state-paid or state-subsidized workers--such as home healthcare, or child care workers--awarded to them with no real contact with the workers involved. Sometimes they have to share some of this gravy with Traditional competitors such as AFSCME, but they are far out in front in such politically awarded franchises.

In Puerto Rico, they went a tad further. Dennis Rivera, head of SEIU’s healthcare division, is a close personal friend of the Commonwealth’s Governor–who is facing trouble on a number of fronts. The two cooked up a mutually satisfying deal where the militant Puerto Rican Teachers Union was decertified and their membership offered to a small SEIU local of school principals.

In the private sector, Chairman Andy, and his UNITE-HERE sidekick Bruce Raynor, have come up with a new twist on secret organizing–it’s kept secret from the workers. Last Spring articles in the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune exposed some of these shenanigans with three food, uniform and building management giants--Aramark, Compass, and Sodexo. Deals were made at the highest corporate levels to recognize the unions, and an already agreed to contract template, at specified locations. In return, the unions pledged to refrain from any public criticism of these bosses and agreed not to extend organizing efforts beyond their assigned quota.(Aramark apparently later reneged on their deal.)

SEIU quickly sent a memo out to all locals which said,

“Local unions are not free to engage in organizing activities at any Compass or Sodexho locations unless the sites have been designated.”

The WSJ reported,

“The agreements enable the unions to organize workers through a simple card-signing process in which the companies agree to remain neutral, rather than a secret-ballot election. The companies agree to provide the unions with lists of employees and access to workers.”

After I commented on this in a Week In Review column an organizer with a union that sometimes collaborates with UNITE-HERE, and who wishes to remain anonymous, sent me this sanitized example of how this played out in a school cafeteria operated by Sodexo,

“All of the food service workers were told that there was going to be a mandatory meeting with the Sodexo District Manager and Human Resource Director at 2:00PM. None of the workers were told what it was about, and of course they were all pretty well scared to death. They thought for sure they were all going to be fired.

“When they arrived, the District Manager and HR Director read some kind of prepared statements to the workers, in effect repeating the terms of the card check neutrality agreement that had already been negotiated, and for the first time ever, management warmly ‘introduced’ the workers to their ‘new union.’ Dues cards and a copy of the agreement were then passed out to the workers.

“The workers had never even heard of this union, much less ever met anybody from it. They were very suspicious, especially since this union was being ‘recommended’ to them by Sodexo management. Some of the workers tried to ask the union organizer some questions, which he evaded or refused to answer. This organizer abruptly told the workers that they had better hurry up and just sign the cards, he had to leave in four minutes to be at another meeting.”

Actually, this approach is not all that innovative. Sweetheart contracts have been around for generations. The only differences in this one, and perhaps others not yet exposed, are the scale of the scam–20,000 workers agreed to at Compass, 11,000 at Sodexo–and the fact that top levels of both company and union hierarchies were directly involved.

At least in this example the sweetheart unions were not competing with any legitimate active organizing by others. That hasn’t been the case in the healthcare industry where part of the incentive for hospital and nursing home chains to cut a deal with SEIU has been to freeze out other unions–especially the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA.)

Perhaps Chairman Andy should have consulted with his good friend Governor Schwarzenegger before starting down that road. The Terminator could have warned him that these nurses, generally so pleasant and nurturing while practicing their profession, can make an Action Figure weep like a girly-boy once they are provoked.

As jurisdictional rivalry between SEIU and CNA heated up Stern resurrected other tactics from the legacy of sweetheart unions. They used slander along with their clout to try to make CNA pariahs in not only the labor movement but even with groups such as the Democratic Socialists of America–recipients of financial contributions from SEIU.

They went even further, using an “organizing” tactic they sometimes employ against bosses resisting sweetheart deals–harassment of CNA leaders at their homes. But their crowning effort came in Dearborn, Michigan in April when they organized bus loads of rank-and-filers and told them they were going to break up a meeting of union busters. The “union busters” turned out to be a Labor Notes conference banquet where CNA leader Rose Ann DeMoro had been scheduled to speak .The Stern Gang tried to physically force their way in to the gathering to disrupt it. There were injuries during the scuffling. They were soundly condemned throughout the movement for this thuggery.

For me, there is no question that CNA is a far superior model of unionism than Chairman Andy’s variety. But CNA organizes only RNs. Even a flawed union is usually better than no union at all and SEIU is the logical union to organize most other workers in the healthcare industry. Clearly, their fighting one another does Us no good. What would do us good would be a joint effort of these two unions to organize the still largely unorganized healthcare industry, wall-to-wall.

How does SEIU approach “servicing” those new members signed up? Here are some remarks in a message sent to me by a former SEIU staffer who also wishes to remain anonymous,

“SEIU staff in my area were told to attack other unions as ‘needlessly adversarial’ and ‘stuck in the 50s,’ while hyping SEIU as the ‘21st century’ ‘pro-business’ union. Staff were told that ‘we don't do representation,’ that workers with grievances were most likely lazy bad ‘disgruntled’ workers who deserve to be fired, and that SEIU organizers should recruit ‘shiny happy workers’ (they really said this) who liked their bosses as the leaders of the campaign.”

SEIU became the first U.S. union to adopt corporate customer service methods–the Call Center. This approach was recommended by consultants performing a “branding study” for Chairman Andy. According to SEIU dissidents who saw the study’s product they suggested,

“SEIU should displace its employer relations work from the center of its membership activity, outsourcing worksite grievances to call centers, and other employer relations matters to top union officials….”

Dubbed Member Resource Centers, these now replace stewards and local officers as the main face (or at least voice) of the union for nearly a half-million members with a goal to ultimately plug in all of the nearly two million represented by SEIU. Retired CWA international rep, and long-time labor journalist Steve Early, looks at the new MRCs, as well as Traditional bureaucratic approaches, in an excellent article, Will Call Center Servicing Solve Labor’s ‘Customer Satisfaction’ Problems?

All this super-centralization of the bureaucracy, insulating them from rank-and-file contact, much less accountability, became a Petri dish for corruption. Three locals in California and Michigan, with leaderships installed by Chairman Andy, have been subjects of exposes in the press and once rising stars in their union’s corporate culture have had to step aside. The DoL, and right-wing congressmen, are working to smear the entire labor movement with the mud and muck being dredged up in these locals.

Many progressives in and out of the labor movement hailed the Change to Win split with the Traditionals. In a dust jacket blurb on Chairman Andy’s 2006 book, A Country That Works, Barbara Ehrenreich gushed, “...be prepared to throw out all your stereotypes about ‘big labor’ and embrace a vital agenda for change.”

We think our lengthy examination instead shows stereotypes on steroids; an arrogant bureaucracy spending millions to re-brand its image while the low wage workers “organized” remain, for the most part, low wage; a business plan using lofty jargon while rubbing shoulders with CEOs and politicians, but sometimes reverting to petty thuggery and corruption.

Fortunately, that’s not all there is to this story. When you bring two million workers together, as SEIU has done, good things can unexpectedly happen. Even some officials once allied with Chairman Andy have begun to recognize and oppose the worst practices of corporate unionism. You can find out more about this hopeful development by clicking here.

The Adversarials

Sometimes staying the course can be a good thing. Last Labor Day we wrote,

“We have chronicled some of the victories of the California Nurses Association in organizing the unorganized, negotiating contracts that gain improvements instead of givebacks, and, above all, in forcing the issue of single-payer health care on to the political agenda.”

Despite having to divert time and resources to defending themselves against attacks by SEIU, CNA has maintained their impressive record of organizing and bargaining successes.

The United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers (UE) continues to rely on rank-and-file involvement both in fighting contract concessions and in organizing new workplaces.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), who have greatly improved conditions for tomato and cucumber field workers through past innovative campaigns that targeted Campbell Soup and Mt Olive Pickle, are now taking on RJ Reynolds on behalf of tobacco field workers.

All three have a social vision that goes beyond–without neglecting–contract negotiation and enforcement. All were early supporters of the Labor Party project. All are involved in the work of US Labor Against the War. UE and FLOC have played an active role in international solidarity and immigrant rights actions. And, of course, all actively support the fight for single-payer health care championed by CNA.

The Adversarials are a precious asset in the American labor movement both because of their intrinsically valuable role, but also, unfortunately, because they are so rare.

Everybody
While our society is sharply divided along the class lines I have labeled Them and Us, there is at least one grave issue that affects all–environmental destruction, above all climate change popularly known as Global Warming. Rising temperatures and sea levels will not respect property rights or social status.

This developing crisis has grown worse, not better since last Labor Day. More carbon dioxide emissions, more deforestation, more melting of polar sea ice and glaciers.

Impending environmental doom has stirred some response in the labor bureaucracy. The Teamster’s Hoffa recently shocked many by dropping enthusiastic endorsement of oil drilling offshore and in ANWR, instead supporting wind and solar energy alternatives. The Steelworkers found work for a retired District Director in reviving their Blue/Green Alliance with the Sierra Club. USW also co-sponsored with other unions–and corporate polluters–conferences on green jobs.

The most environmentally advanced union officials share with the mainstream environmental groups the hope of convincing Them to do the right thing by our troubled planet.

Allow me to recycle some excerpts from a presentation I made to a panel at the last Labor Notes conference.

“The scientists have done their job. Overcoming enormous political pressures, the scientific community has forged a consensus that economic activity is the primary culprit in the climate change crisis that is the most serious challenge human civilization has yet to face. They have also developed proven technologies for alternative ways of producing and using energy that could pause the global warming doomsday clock and allow us to start repairing at least some of the damage we have inflicted on our biosphere. And, they have become increasingly insistent about the urgency of this crisis, warning that each day of delay in effective countermeasures results in more irreparable environmental destruction that is already causing unwelcome impact on millions and could ultimately make civilization as we know it unsustainable for future generations.

“But scientists don’t run the world. They lack the power to implement the actions indicated by their science. That power, of course, is largely in the hands of the global corporations, and their hand picked politicians, who have profited greatly from environmental destruction. They are reluctant to even tinker with their good thing, much less accept the massive, fundamental economic changes required to tackle the global warming crisis, and a host of other environmental challenges.

“That is why, even though many companies now try to project a green image, little progress has been made. Some of their touted environmental solutions–such as the food to fuel programs–in fact actually make things worse. We cannot rely on the global captains of industry and commerce to do the right thing.”

When you come right down to it Everybody’s future depends on Us.

Condemned By Self-Restraint
Control of all levels of government is essential to the rule of Them. Their wholly owned two party cartel of Democrats and Republicans is key to that control in the USA. When one party becomes hopelessly discredited the other stands ready to rotate back in its place.

In the industrialized world only American workers have failed to produce a party of our own. As a result, even in the best of times we fell behind other workers in a number of areas. Most European countries have legislated minimum vacations ranging from four to six weeks for all. We have zero. Most have sick pay required by law. We have none. Most have shorter standard work weeks. All have universal healthcare.

The best of times for Us are long gone. The most crucial challenges we face cannot be addressed through traditional collective bargaining alone. Political organization of our class is urgently required.

For a few years during the post-NAFTA period of the Clinton administration, the Labor Party project showed promise. After Bush came to power many got cold feet and made up with their traditional “friends” in the Democrats. The Labor Party, starved of needed union support, has dwindled, becoming once more an advocacy group within the vanguard of labor activists--far from being the party of the unions contending for power.

Virtually all unions–including, regrettably, the Adversarials–are subordinating all of their attention, energy, and resources to replacing one Them party with the other. Most social movements are doing likewise. If labor’s “friends” are elected then we can expect this self-imposed demobilization of struggles to continue through an extended “honeymoon.”

Reclaiming Heritage, Facing the Future
All in all, this year’s commentary has turned out to be the grimmest–and longest–yet. But our class has seen even tougher times before. The Big Squeeze has not yet reached the levels of misery and demoralization that marked the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even in those dark days our class recovered through broad struggle around what they came to recognize as social, not individual problems.

Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of three crucial class battles that revived fighting spirit and paved the way for a great labor upsurge that built industrial unionism and won some significant social reforms. Initial plans are under way for celebrations of the San Francisco general strike, the Toledo Auto-Lite strike, and Minneapolis Teamsters strike, that in 1934 mobilized Us against Them--and won.

These turning points in our history deserve not only proud recognition but serious study as well. We cannot simply replicate such victories today. But much of their principles, strategy, and tactics remain relevant and essential to Us today.

As usual, I will close with what I see as some hopeful signs:

* The loose network around the valuable publication Labor Notes. Their April conference involving a thousand labor activists was a powerful and timely antidote to the demoralization bug.

* The collaboration of unionists and academics in the Center for Labor Renewal continues to show promise in combining analysis with sensible action initiatives.

* The Guaranteed Healthcare campaign launched by CNA has been exemplary.

* US Labor Against the War is more active than ever bringing the issue of the bosses’ war in to the unions, bringing a labor perspective in to the antiwar movement, and building genuine solidarity with the labor movement of Iraq.

* Solidarity efforts in support of immigrant workers under increasing attack such as the work being coordinated by Peter Rachleff in the Twin Cities.

* And I’m still convinced that the Labor Party, hard pressed as it is, remains worthy of advocacy.

So I won’t be crying tears of despair in to my holiday beer and neither should you.

September 1, 2008


About the Author
The webmaster of the kclabor.org website is a paid-up member of UAW Local 1981—the National Writers Union. During the 70-80s, while employed at Litton Microwave’s Minneapolis operations, he was elected to various positions in UE Local 1139, including Shop Chairman and Local President. In 1980 he took a union leave from the plant to work on a successful UE organizing drive at a Litton runaway plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. When Litton began shutting down its four Minneapolis plants Onasch was selected to be a worker representative in a Dislocated Worker Project administered by Minneapolis Community College—where he became a member of the Minnesota Education Association. Returning to his home town of Kansas City in 1989, he soon began a 14-year stint as a Metro bus driver. During that time he published a rank and file newsletter, Transit Truth, chaired a union Community Outreach Committee that organized public protests against cuts in transit service, helped organize a privatized spin-off at Johnson County Transit, and served a term as Vice-President of ATU Local 1287. He has also been involved in US Labor Against the War and the Labor Party since those organizations were launched and represents Midwest chapters on the Labor Party Interim National Council.
 

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