Right-wing legislators in Wisconsin announced in December that they will push for passage of a right-to-work (for less) law in the 2015 legislative session. In response to this grave assault on all labor, community and youth organizations, the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement issued this appeal on Dec. 7. The appeal leaflet and other related information are available at www.wibailoutpeople.org.
An appeal to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and Our Communities:
YES WE CAN!
The attack on unions and our communities by Wisconsin’s governor and legislature is a declaration of war on the rights of poor and working people. Rallies alone won’t do. Wisconsin showed that even temporary occupations of the Capitol aren’t enough. This latest assault must be met with decisive direct action by organized labor and our allies.
The United Auto Workers Constitution gives us a weapon that can be used to fight and win. Article 50, Sec. 8 says:
“In case of great emergency, when the existence of the International Union is involved, together with the economic and social standing of our membership, the International President and the International Executive Board shall have the authority to declare a general strike within the industry by a 2/3 vote of the International Executive Board, whenever in their good judgment it shall be deemed proper for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating the rights and living standards of the general membership … provided, under no circumstances shall it call such a strike until approved by a referendum vote of the membership.”
The union-busting “Right-to-Work” plan certainly fits this description. A general strike is where all us workers take a holiday.
No general strike can be rushed into. Workers must be educated and the ground carefully prepared. Holding a referendum vote in every local union gives the opportunity to discuss this unprecedented attack and how to respond with every worker at every work place. The South Central Federation of Labor in Madison passed a resolution with similar plans in February 2011.
Along with the UAW, the State AFL-CIO can urge every affiliate to initiate discussions and hold referendums to authorize a general strike. Mass strikes are part of our history. In the 1950s, the Kohler strike, with the support of Black and white workers, won and built UAW Local 833. In 1934, successful mass actions in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Toledo lifted the living standards of workers for generations.
The Wisconsin politicians are not acting alone. The RTW legislation was openly demanded by the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, the Bradley Foundation and other similar groups. The entire crowd of Wall Street bankers and corporate bosses, including GM, Ford, Chrysler and the billionaire Koch brothers and ALEC, are behind the push to break us in this stronghold and symbol of unionism.
After years of concessions, the bosses thought we were ready to collapse. By moving methodically, vote by vote, toward a general strike, the working class of Wisconsin will send a message that will sow panic in their ranks. Let the big business news media, politicians, judges and others scream that it is illegal. As the words of the union song “Solidarity Forever” says, “In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold, greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold.” That power is our ability to bring everything to a standstill.
Labor-community solidarity the key
Unions are not a “special interest” apart from our suffering communities and all workers — unorganized, retired, young, immigrant or unemployed. Along with uniting all the unions we must bring in the many community groups affected. Labor must make their problems our own. “Social unionism” can take a big leap forward. While proceeding to authorize the general strike, unions and community groups should convene a huge assembly of the people in Wisconsin. Starting now, all union halls and resources should be available to fight RTW and to support community struggles, especially ones led by Black, Brown and poor white youth, most of whom are unemployed or low-wage workers.
Community organizations, church leaders, people of color fighting back against police abuse, women, the LGBTQ community, the education community, foreclosure victims, the unemployed, low-wage workers, the Occupy Wall Street movement, immigrants and all others who are under attack by the international austerity assault must be brought together to prepare for the general strike. Demands must be shaped to make the largest majority of the people of the state understand that we are fighting for everyone.
In a state where local and state politicians only represent the 1%, an assembly of the 99% will have commanding authority. An injury to one is an injury to all!