labor / US Politics

National Labor Fightback Conference for May plus Open Letter to Trade Unionists


National Labor Fightback Conference for May   (source: Emergency Labor Network)

February 8, 2013—Below please find the Open Letter issued 10 days ago inviting unions to attend a national Labor Fightback Conference sponsored by Wisconsin and South Carolina labor organizations. As you will note, the conference is to be held at Rutgers University May 10–12, 2013.

The Emergency Labor Network, which has consistently posed the need for an independent labor movement—meaning a labor movement that breaks with its ties of subordination to the Democratic Party in order to fully champion the interests of its members and the working class majority—welcomes this initiative, which we strongly believe is timely and urgently needed for the reasons spelled out in the Open Letter.

We are gratified that this conference calls for a strategic discussion on how best to promote an independent labor fightback and that it seeks to advance this perspective through a few selected united-front action campaigns that can point the way forward for the entire labor movement. This is most urgent at a time when the labor movement and the working class as a whole are being subjected to relentless attacks by the corporate class all across the board. A concerted militant and massive fightback is clearly the order of the day.

Since the Call states that attendance at the conference is open to “any interested union [which is] free to send as many representatives as desired,” we urge concerned trade unionists to seek endorsement of the Labor Fightback Conference by their unions and the selection of representatives to attend.

For more information, please contact the conference organizers at (973) 944-8975, or e-mail conference@laborfightback.org, or write Labor Fightback Conference, P.O. Box 187, Flanders, NJ 07836

Open Letter to  Concerned Trade Unionists

Dear Brothers and  Sisters:

Please be advised  that a Labor Fightback Conference for concerned trade unionists who want to do something about labor’s plight  will be held May 10–12, 2013 at the Rutgers University Student Center, New  Brunswick, New Jersey. The undersigned urge attendance at this critically  needed conference, with any interested union free to send as many  representatives as desired.

This conference will address the key question: “What strategy will enable labor to  mount the most effective and powerful fightback possible against the corporate  assaults?”

The conference is  being held in the aftermath of enactment of right-to-work in Michigan and  Indiana; destruction of bargaining rights for Wisconsin public employees; the  all-out assault on defined pension plans; demands by large corporations making  huge profits for substantial concessions; layoffs, curtailment of benefits, and  other austerity measures in cities and states across the country; 25 million  unemployed or underemployed; and the list goes on.

And in the months to come, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other vitally needed social programs will be targeted for steep cuts, which could imperil the health, safety, welfare and very lives of the tens of millions of people who are dependent on these programs.

Labor’s plight—  and the plight of the working class as a whole—is dire but by no means  hopeless.

Despite the  defeat of the recall, we take heart in the mobilization of over 100,000  Wisconsin workers and the occupation of the state’s capitol building, labor’s  stunning referendum victory in Ohio, the outcome of the Chicago Teachers  strike, victories of the West Coast longshore workers, and the new winds  blowing in the struggles of low paid retail workers at Walmart and many food  centers for a living wage and basic human rights, including the right to have  union representation.

The purpose of  the Rutgers conference is to explore how we in labor can most effectively mount  an independent fightback action campaign based on such united front demands as  putting America back to work; preserving and expanding safety net programs  based on No Cuts, No Concessions, No Shared Sacrifice; Medicare for All;  retirement security; and redirecting war spending to fund human needs.

We also strongly  believe that labor must resurrect campaigns to organize the South and repeal  repressive anti-labor legislation, especially Taft-Hartley. In this regard, we  welcome the development of the Southern Workers Assembly at its recent meeting  in Charlotte, North Carolina, which drew hundreds of trade  unionists and others.

At the  centerpiece of a fightback action campaign, in our opinion, is the building of  labor-community coalitions. The Chicago  teachers set an example for the entire labor movement by the way they forged an  alliance with community groups and activists, which was key to the teachers’  victory. The Rutgers conference can help  advance the formation of such coalitions on a local and national level.

It is through  building labor-community coalitions that we will be able to mobilize the  largest number of people. Confining ourselves to lobbying and nothing more will  not get the job done. Street heat that will move hundreds of thousands—even  millions when you consider the 90 million people who depend on Social Security,  Medicare, and Medicaid—is what is needed now more than ever.

Finally, at Rutgers  we can discuss how to hold accountable politicians whose loyalty is to the  corporations, not the working class majority — politicians we often supported  in the past and who betrayed our trust. How best can we fight for our own  agenda? Isn’t it high  time to assert labor’s political independence in our workplaces, in the  streets, and in the electoral arena, starting with running independent, local,  labor-community candidates for public office, who run on a platform that  reflects the interests of the overwhelming majority?

We hope that you  agree that there is a compelling need for trade unionists concerned about the  issues cited above to convene for a free-wheeling discussion and debate leading  to an action program. Please plan to join us for the Rutgers  conference (a registration form is enclosed or attached). We look forward to  seeing you there!

For further  information, please call 973-944-8975 or email conference@laborfightback.org or write Labor Fightback Conference, P.O. Box 187, Flanders,   NJ 07836.

In solidarity,

Ken Riley, President  South Carolina AFL-CIODonna Dewitt,  Retired President South Carolina AFL-CIO

Kevin Gundlach, President  Wisconsin South Central Federation of Labor

Charity Schmidt,  Co-President University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA)  and Executive Board, South  Central Federation of Labor, Wisconsin

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