By Robert Holst
A labor organization, having the responsibility for thousands of lives cannot make decisions based on a whim. It always has to be mindful of the differences between genuine progress and social trends that come and go. That is not to say that our unions don’t need to always strive to be dynamic. They should of course always try and respond to changing times, social issues and technology. The best unions have been able to give careful consideration to these issues and respond. They have stood the test of time. Steady leadership although less romantic and glamorous, is what has benefited workers the most.
So what does this mean for you? It means that it is of the utmost importance that if you are a union member, you find a way to plug in. Nobody is asking that you help field the phone calls and make sure the trash is taken out at the union hall. But taking time to attend meetings and functions is a good start. At the very least it helps you to get an understanding of challenges your union faces. Of course labor moves and should always act together. Solidarity is important to and social based struggle. But it isn’t a monolith, as with anything in life, some issues your union has may be unique to your union. How best to tackle those issues and problems without causing harm to others needs careful consideration. That doesn’t happen if your voice as a member isn’t part of the discussion. Social media is a powerful tool and I will never try to pretend it isn’t. But it does lend itself to a false sense of participation. It’s easy to be dismissive of ideas and plans if you haven’t participated enough to learn about the problem. What has been lost on many is that the sheer act of showing up, moves the needle. It is the first step in a long journey.
I am always a little confused by people that demand an organization of thousands reflect their personal opinion. We see this mostly in regards to politics. Usually from the right, but now a growing demand on the left. In the event you roll out of bed in the morning and remember you’re in a union, you can’t demand something you’ve put no time into look like you. You just can’t. It’s not a realistic expectation and only ensures that any positive results take much longer than they should. Members and the leadership of any union all act the same to being attacked. Defensively. Everyone being defensive is what has killed this labor movement. Those looking to dismantle labor are on offense. Always on offense. I know many will see his and think “Who the hell is he?” But I’m only offering my observations based on way to much time thinking about these things and paying attention.
Lastly if you think nobody will listen I am telling you that you are wrong. Of course it takes time cause you can’t show up Monday and build enough trust and build relationships by Tuesday. I wanted to be a part of my union. I feel ownership of my union. I feel my leadership listens and responds. I had no secret password. I’m nobody’s kid. All I did was show up.