Labor Advocate Online

Solidarity Must Be Unconditional
by Bill Onasch

An injury to one paying per capita to our federation, and with a proper approved plan, is an injury to all of us.

That appears to be the new quantum of eligibility for solidarity motto of the AFL-CIO in the midst of the Northwest Airlines strike.

Mark Gruenberg filed a story with Press Associates entitled, AFL-CIO's Sweeney supports Northwest workers, but not AMFA.

"We don't think the strategy of this so-called union is the right one to achieve a contract. To undertake a strike without resources or a plan . . . it's the workers who wind up making the sacrifice," said Brother Sweeney. Like the NWA bosses, our leader feels deeply for those poor workers duped by a "so-called" union leading them to disaster. He wishes something could be done to help these unfortunate victims.

Not reported in the story is an internal pre-strike memo circulated August 15 within the AFL-CIO which states, "If there is a strike, AMFA may ask CLCs and State Feds for support: food banks, money, turnout at AMFA picket lines and at rallies etc. StateFeds and CLCs should not provide AMFA with such support, unless the national AFL-CIO instructs them to do so."

The Teamsters have quietly told their members they are on their own as far as the strike lines go but at least have had the decency to cancel staff travel plans on the struck carrier.

Certainly workers need to examine the strategy of our unions and engage in debate about whatís needed. There is much that could be said about the past and present developments around AMFA. But a life-and-death struggle is not the best format for such discussion. Action is needed. We can and will draw a balance sheet on the AMFA experience when this fight is over. But right now more than four thousand sisters and brothers urgently need our assistance to save their jobs and the union of their choice.

Of course much of the hostility the craft bureaucrats show toward AMFA is because they view them as interlopers, stealing their members, cheating them out of dues. But thatís not the only reason.

In this particular case AMFA is waging a struggle against concessions that are devastating airline laborĖand that the other crafts are accepting. The former president of the National Writers Union, Jonathan Tasini, has used his gossip blog to give voice to craft bureaucrats ashamed of attribution.

One says, "They are getting their just desserts. These are a bunch of idiots. Everyone else in the industry bellied up to the bar to help these companies survive." Another comments, "AMFA walked right into the hands of Northwest which did not want to force a strike. These guys just boxed themselves in. And they've done a disservice to the labor movement."

I would have to agree that "everyone else" in the airline labor bureaucracy did belly up to the bar to buy for the house. To their credit AMFA didnít spend their members hard earned money to treat the boss to a round.

But the claim that AMFA forced a strike on Northwest is simply ludicrous. Seldom has a company used such hard ball tactics as spending many millions months in advance to assemble a scab workforce, and cutting deals with rival unions and the White House.

Letís donít forget the demands this "reasonable" carrier made and that the "idiot" workers rejected: agreement to outsource 53 percent of AMFA jobs and 25 percent cuts in wages for those remaining.

The craft union bureaucracy is committed to partnership with their employers. They see no alternative to rolling over for whatever demands the carriers make. If AMFA doesnít accept their "fair share" of give-backs the pilots and IAM are afraid they will have to give up even more. And, if AMFA were to win they would have to explain to their members why they couldnít have done the same. Thatís the main reason for this shameful lack of the most elementary solidarity.

Fortunately, there are some in the labor movement who still recognize that "An Injury to One Is An Injury to All." They know a defeat at Northwest will encourage all bosses to press similar attacks. Dozens of IAM baggage handlers, ignoring their craft leaders, are honoring the AMFA line. Defying all internal memos, AFSCME Local 3800, representing clerical workers at the University of Minnesota, have proudly carried their banner at strike support actions. The International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union has endorsed the strike as well. Community support groups are active in the carrierís main hubs in the Twin Cities and Detroit.

Solidarity is the life blood of any living labor movement. It must be offered freely, unconditionally. No matter what we think of the AMFA leadership and strategy this strike deserves the support of all working people.


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