Friday, May 02, 2014



It now appears that Debbie (Sims) Africa has had her7th parole hearing since 2008 .  It seems the parole hearing was rushed and without warning so as to dissuade and divert supporters.  

As most of you are aware Debbie is a member of MOVE who has sat in prison since August, 8. 1978, following a massive police attack on them at their home in Powelton Village (Philadelphia). This was seven years before the government dropped a bomb on MOVE.  

As reported at Confabulator:

The August 8, 1978 police attack on MOVE followed years of police brutality against MOVE and was a major military operation carried out by the Philadelphia police department under orders of then-mayor, Frank Rizzo, whose reputation for racism and brutality is well known; it followed him up thru the ranks of the police department to the police commissioner’s office to the mayor’s office.

Debbie is one of the MOVE 9 who were arrested on that day.   Ramona Africa explains, 

The government came out to Powelton Village in 1978 not to arrest, but to kill. Having failed to do that, my family was unjustly convicted of a murder that the government knows they didn’t commit, and imprisoned them with 30-100 year sentences. 

It didn't end there, as you know.  From Insubordination Photo-Journalism:

“Attention, MOVE: This Is America!” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sambor declared through a loudspeaker, minutes before the May 13, 1985 police assault on the revolutionary MOVE organization’s home. This assault killed 5 children and 6 adults, including MOVE founder John Africa. After police shot over 10,000 rounds of bullets into their West Philadelphia home, a State Police helicopter dropped a C-4 bomb, illegally supplied by the FBI, on MOVE’s roof. The bomb started a fire that eventually destroyed 60 homes: the entire block of a middle-class black neighborhood. Carrying the young Birdie Africa, the only other survivor, Ramona Africa dodged gunfire and escaped from the fire with permanent burn scars.

It didn't end there either (nor did it begin in 1978). There is just too much to the story for me to get into here.  I would direct you HERE for more information. 

Many of you may not have been old enough to actually observe what happened back in that May of 1985.  Well, now an amazing film is available on the whole thing.  

In the astonishingly gripping Let the Fire Burn, director Jason Osder has crafted that rarest of cinematic objects: a found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. On May 13, 1985, by order of local Philadelphia authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated–and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. It was only later discovered that authorities decided to “…let the fire burn.” Using only archival news coverage and interviews, first-time filmmaker Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history. See trailer and read more at
Playing now in many states, check out show dates near you!

For Scission Prison Friday I join with many others calling for the release of our sister, Debbie Africa.  Join us.

The following is from Denver Anarchist Black Cross.

Immediate Relase: Call in for Debbie Africa!
Ona Move Everyone!
It has just been brought to our attention that Debbie (Sims) Africa 006307 had her parole Hearing this past Monday or Tuesday . We find this to be very strange because Debbie’s hearing wasn’t set until some time in late May and without an official date as well. Debbie was only given a day’s notice on her parole hearing . Though a verdict on her parole has not been made as of yet we have to move on The Pa Parole Board Now.
The Parole Board gave Debbie an early hearing to divert supporters and sweep what they do under the rug. They are under a tremendous amount of pressure over the issue f The Move 9 and Parole and now they are trying to push their illegal denials of Move people under the radar and out the eyes of The general public. We are not fools and we see exactly what these legalized misfits are up too.
We need people to start flooding the phone lines of The Pa Parole Board and demand parole for Debbie (Sims) Africa 006307. We need The lines flooded for the next three days Including the weekend when they are closed. Leave a message on their voicemail in regards to Debbie getting parole. The Pa Parole Board can be reached at (717) 772-4343
24 hours a day seven days a week whether it’s a live person or a voicemail.
It’s clear that The Pa Parole Board has been monitoring our actions and is trying it’s best to stay a step ahead of us. Our National Solidarity Week for Debbie is still set for May 5th thru May 9th. For people to call The Parole Board in support of
Debbie but due to the situation we are calling now to hold these misfits accountable for what they are trying to do let’s get ona move everyone.
Ona Move

Thursday, May 01, 2014



Today, Scission, of course, must, absolutely must send you pictures and reports from around the globe and those you shall find below, but first...

I figured I would share with you something about what  you might call reproduction workers...and social reproduction from a collective which most of us have never heard about.  The Florence Johnson Collective seems to me to be one interesting worker organization in New York City struggling around “reproductive” work; or work that’s primary function is not to make things to be sold, but to take care of the lives of both workers and non-workers in society.  This includes nurses, CNAs, home health aids, teachers, social service workers, nannies, and more, plus custodians, kitchen workers, and other staff who work in healthcare and social services facilities.  It not only includes workers but also recipients of care.  It describes itself as "a small organizing collective, many of whose members live in Brooklyn) has focused on struggles around what we call “social 
reproduction”—the work required for human bodies to keep on working, living, and loving."  More to the point...

Florence Johnston Collective Points of Unity

1. We understand that in our society, the current mode of production (capitalism) is defined by the necessity for a segment of the population to work for a wage in order to sustain itself. We also understand that the less our wages are, the more the bosses get.

2.  In order to be able to work every day, we require a “production” process that happens outside of the workplace as well.  We must be housed, fed, nursed, cared for, even loved.  Some of these services are done by other wage workers, others we distribute amongst our families, friends, or simply do ourselves.  We can call this process “social reproduction.”  Our wage is supposed to pay for our social reproduction but it is never enough.

3. We also understand that because of this, there is constant pressure to make the daily maintenance of human life and capabilities–the reproduction of human beings–as simple, quick, and subsequently degraded as possible. In our society, the impetus is on getting workers to work at the cheapest possible cost, not people having long, healthy, and happy lives.

4.  However, we are all still human beings who need to be fed,clothed, housed, taken care of when we are sick and when we are old, and regardless of whether or not we can work.  We need people to do this kind of work, but in capitalist society this work has to be done as cheaply as possible. This means that those of us who do this kind of work are paid nothing or next to nothing, are forced to work quickly, for long hours (or not enough hours), and have a difficult time doing what we need to do.

5. Social reproduction is not merely for wage laborers. Many of our society’s most vulnerable, including the elderly, the terminally ill, and the disabled, require special care, though they may be unable to work. Keeping with our society’s need to reduce subsistence to the cheapest possible means, those who find themselves in this situation and are unable to pay for expensive private care are cared for as cheaply as possible: in facilities that increasingly resemble factories and by overworked workers. People are not kept alive out of any kind of benevolence by the state or non-profits. Instead, these insufficient institutions (both public and private) are necessary byproducts of keeping the lie going that our system works for everybody, even the very poor, sick, and elderly, and to prevent civil unrest. Others are cared for by their families, free of charge. This care, or reproductive, labor is made invisible, or dismissed as not really work.

6. As workers engaged in social reproduction, we are therefore responsible for the functioning of the majority of both working and non-working human beings, and thus for the reproduction of society as a whole.  Traditionally women and people of color have done much of this work and not been paid for it.  Now, women and people of color still do the majority of this work, and are still paid very little and have to work very hard.

7. For these reasons, we are committed to building an organization both in specific workplaces and across workplaces where we can take direct action against our employers in order to gain the wages we need to survive, and the amount of time and support we need to take care of our clients and ourselves.  Generations of workers have struggled for wages, but also to control when, where, how, and how much they work.  We see ourselves as part of that struggle.  We also need to support each other when we have difficult or abusive clients, and demand that our bosses do this.  Our goal is not to put reproductive work on a pedestal, but to live in world where this labor is a truly free choice, and performed amongst an entire community.

8.  We work independently of trade unions and non-profits.  Contemporary trade unions have developed historically to help our companies move business forward; they no longer work for workers, but instead use the militancy of workers to gain political leverage, elect representatives of the same state that exploits and oppresses us, and at the end of the day tell us to go home and be happy with our lot in life.  This is because unions work from a representative framework: they seek to represent workers, instead of build the power of workers to stop and reorganize work. They also are often limited to a single workplace or a single kind of worker instead of society as a whole.  This separation of workers and non-workers is the root of our exploitation, and destroying the separation is the key to our liberation. Similarly, non-profits, as companies that exist in capitalism, are incapable of liberating us from the alien nature of our lives. Even non-profits that seek to “help” poor people, can only function because they are exploiting people, usually women, youth, and people of color as workers.  Others before have written more on women and unions as well as on non-profits.

9. Our goal is a world where we live for the sake of living, and work for the sake of producing for all humans, not for someone else to profit while we suffer.  This goal will take a lot of work, dedication, and will mostly take the organization of those of us who keep the world going with little respect but a lot of fierceness every day.  We will work towards this goal by building our capacity to organize collectively against exploitation and for liberation.  We believe we need to be the ones to develop strategy and theory–not academics, not politicians, and definitely not bosses, even and especially if they are bosses of non-profits and unions.

10. We take seriously the ways in which capitalism reproduces race, gender, and class social relations and seek to develop the leadership and confidence of oppressed people. However, we reject the idea radical social change can happen by organizing around single identity categories. We believe that people within any given social category hold diverse experiences and political beliefs, and the problems of capitalism cannot be solved by simply inserting oppressed people into capitalist institutions or leadership roles.  We instead organize across subject positions in order to collectively struggle against the dominant mode of production and exploitation.

That is who they are.  This is their statement for Mayday 2014 in the epoch of Empire. 

Long before the Haymarket Massacre, the worldwide workers’ movement, and the very existence of a worldwide working class, May Day was a celebration of what we hold in common. Before modern capitalism, vast stretches of the world were held by communities, not individuals. Everyday people with no conception of wage labor shared expansive tracts of land for farming, grazing, hunting, fishing, and coming together to celebrate their communal bonds. May Day originated as a celebration of the fertility of the harvest season, which would provide the food necessary to subsist for the entire year, and of the commonly held land and communal social ties that made survival, merriment, and love possible.

 From the fifteenth century continuing through the present day, the development of capitalism has violently enclosed the commons, placed the planet’s resources in private hands, and compelled most people to live in isolation from their neighbors, working for wages in jobs unrelated to their daily lives. This was and is a brutal process involving the theft of land, the massacre and torture of untold millions, and the institutionalization of racism, sexism, and homophobia on a worldwide scale, as capitalism has divided and hierarchized the worldwide working class it has created. This process of enclosure continues to the present day, and will never end so long as there is a free breath of air for the worldwide working class to take.
 The communal resources we have lost are not simply land, food, and potable water. We have also forfeited our common knowledges of the body, and our abilities to care for each other regardless of income status. With the establishment of capitalist medicine, women especially were forced out positions of power, knowledge, and authority in matters of health. The power of women over their own reproductive lives, never mind communities’ control of their own social reproduction, has never been fully recaptured, despite many important battles.

 Indeed, the relationship of our society to health and to the body itself has increasingly become one fitting the capitalist mode of production — compartmentalization, alienation, and commodification have taken the place of holism, communitarianism, and care based on need. Today, all the “progressive” politicians can talk about is making alienated health care more “affordable”, while still leaving room for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to make a fortune, and not addressing the social causes of our society’s deadliest ailments: overwork, undernourishment, pollution, stress, and self-medication.

 This May Day the ghosts of our lost past continue to haunt us. As hospitals servicing the poorest New Yorkers close their doors, care workers find their labor ever devalued, women’s reproductive rights are threatened all over the US, and low income people of the world are shut out of basic health services, we must remember the past, and recall that this does not have to be the fate of humanity. Another way of caring for each other is possible. We cannot return to the past, nor should we desire to, but we can fight for a future inspired by humanity’s greatest achievement: the commons.
 May Day is not a day for politicians to give speeches about reforms and compromises. It is not about searching for a kinder gentler capitalism, or a more diverse ruling class. In a world without commons it is a day of loss. And this loss calls not for mourning, but for action. It is only through struggling together as a class that this loss can be redeemed, towards a future of the commons reborn.

 And now from around the world (and maybe next door) and brought to you by lots of people, web sites, etc.


Left-wing protesters clash with police during May Day demonstrations on May 1, 2014 in Hamburg, Germany.May Day In Germany: Hamburg

A Greek protester shouts slogans during a demonstration marking May Day in Athens on May 1, 2014.
A Greek protester shouts slogans during a demonstration marking May Day in Athens on May 1, 2014.

Demonstrators hold photos of the five garment workers killed during clashes on Veng Sreng boulevard last January. Cambodian workers unions gather in the streets of Phnom Penh to rally for an increase in the minimum wage and the release of garment workers detained in January strikes

A Turkish protester wearing a gas mask stands amid a fog of tear gas that was fired by riot police to disperse a May Day rally near Taksim Square in Istanbul Turkish police used water canon and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who tried to defy a Labour Day ban on demonstrations in the Square.

Turkish protesters take cover behind trash containers as riot police fire tear gas to disperse a May Day rally near Taksim Square in Istanbul on May 1, 2014.

Turkish protesters take cover behind trash containers as riot police fire tear gas to disperse a May Day rally near Taksim Square in Istanbul on May 1, 2014.. (GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images)

Gay rights activists march with a banner during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg May 1, 2014.
Gay rights activists march with a banner during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg May 1, 2014.

Anti-riot policemen face demonstrators in Turin during one of several rallies against unemployment and austerity in Italy for May Day, on May 1, 2014.

Anti-riot policemen face demonstrators in Turin during one of several rallies against unemployment and austerity in Italy for May Day, on May 1, 2014.

Riot police clash with demonstrators during a march in Turin, northern Italy, 01 May 2014 to mark International Labour Day.

Filipino protesters burn an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III , accused of being a ‘robot of US government’ during a protest to mark Labor day near the gates of Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, 

Filipino protesters burn an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III , accused of  being a 'robot of US government'  during a protest to mark Labor day  near the gates of Malacanang presidential palace in  Manila, Philippines, 01 May 2014.   (EPA/DENNIS M. SABANGAN)

A Palestinian woman chants slogans during a May Day rally, on May 1, 2014 in Gaza City.
A Palestinian woman chants slogans during a May Day rally, on May 1, 2014 in Gaza City.

Communists wave a flag with the image of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the former Soviet Union, during a traditional May Day march in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Communists wave a flag with the image of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the former Soviet Union, during a traditional May Day march in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Public health workers march through Havana's Revolution Square during the May Day parade 
In Chicago, heading toward Haymarket...

Chicago again...

Homeless and unemployed march on May Day in Katowice, Poland

German riot police remove sitting protesters blocking the street during May Day demonstrations in Rostock
German riot police remove sitting protesters blocking the street during May Day demonstrations in Rostock, May 1, 2014.

A man tries to protects himself as security forces beat him during the International Workers' Day rally at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh May 1, 2014

Crowds fill Trafalgar Square during the annual May Day rally in London May 1, 2014

A Salvadorean worker takes part in the May Day parade organized by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and various worker unions in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Thursday.

People take part in a demonstration during May Day in Berlin, May 1, 2014. The placard reads: "Resistance to crisis. Uprise revolution." May Day Berlin

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Demonstrators march in May Day protests in the Northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Thousand protesters attended in three separate peaceful rallies in Thessaloniki, with demonstrations aimed at ongoing austerity measures in the crisis-hit country, that have caused a dramatic rise in poverty and unemployment. 

Demonstrators march in May Day protests in the Northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Thursday, May

Protesters shout slogans and hold banners during a May Day demonstration on May 1, 2014 in Macau, China. Hundreds of protesters attended a march against job shortages and living conditions on May Day.Protesters shout slogans and hold banners during a May Day demonstration on May 1, 2014 in Macau, Ch

Sub-Saharan migrants sit on top of a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Thursday, May 1, 2014. Spain says around 700 African migrants have rushed its barbed wire border fences in the North African enclave of Melilla, and although police repelled most, 140 managed to enter Spanish territory. The migrants charged the fences in two waves, with 500 arriving in the early hours and another 200 later Thursday morning. Spain and Morocco stepped up border vigilance in Feb. when 15 migrants drowned trying to enter Spain's other north African coastal enclave, Ceuta.

spain migrants 1 may

Indonesian workers march during a May Day rally in Jakarta, Indonesia Thursday. 

Domestic helpers and their supporters wear masks featuring the picture of Indonesian maid Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who was allegedly brutally tortured by her employers, during a march to mark the May Day in Hong Kong, Thursday. he domestic helpers demanded to increase their monthly minimum wage to HK$ 4,500 (US$ 580). 

Labor rights activists shout while holding signs reading “Forbid Temporary Worker Services” during a rally for labor rights on international Labor Day in Taipei, Taiwan

A demonstrator hits an advertising panel with a hammer during a May Day protest in Medellin, Colombia.A demonstrator hits an advertising panel with a hammer during a May Day protest in Medellin, Colombia. (RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Bystanders take pictures of policemen during a May Day protest in Zurich, Switzerland, 01 May 2014

NYC march in solidarity with striking Adidas workers in China on May Day

A man holds a placard reading “No to the markets dictatorship” as he demonstrates during a May Day rally on May 1, 2014 in Marseille, southern France.A man holds a placard reading "No to the markets dictatorship" as he demonstrates during a May Day rally on May 1, 2014 in Marseille, southern France.  BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP/Getty Images

Supporters of the Lebanese Communist party take part in a May Day rally in Beirut.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I'm a busy man today, so I was thinking I'd end up with some second rate piece to present here due to my rush.  Well, you may think that is what happened.  I don't.  I haven't really done a whole lot on your basic union movement before...and for a reason (but we won't go into that here).  Today, that changes with an interview with a pretty exceptional human being by the name of Staughton Lynd.  You may not always agree with him, but you have to respect his long, long tenure and involvement in all kinds of movements.  Lynd is eighty-four years old and he still obviously has plenty to say. In the last few years he has published two new books and republished a third, not to mention a memoir coauthored with his wife Alice.  As the Zinn Education Project puts it:

In an epoch of imperial hubris and corporate class warfare on steroids, the release of these books could hardly have come at a better time. Soldier, coal miner, Sixties veteran, recent graduatethere’s much to be gained by one and all from a study of Lynd’s life and work. In so doing, it’s inspiring to discover how frequently he was in the right place at the right time and, more importantly, on the right side.

David Moberk wrote an article last summer entitled "New Visions from the New Left."  In it he talks about Lynd and his thoughts today.

Lynd, a historian punished in the late ’60s by academia for his early leadership in the civil rights and anti-war movements, retooled as a lawyer and moved to Youngstown, where he and his wife, Alice, used their legal, organizing and writing skills on behalf of workers and then prisoners, as jails replaced factories in the area.

...Lynd argues that the Left should stop organizing as unions, community groups and civil rights organizations have done in the past—sending outsiders into communities to pull people together on behalf of a project, then move on. Instead, he recommends a model of “accompanying,” in which an individual spends an extended time with a community and commits to “equality, listening, seeking consensus and exemplary action.”

Unlike religious or political missionaries bringing the true religion, an individual “accompanying” others treats them as equal collaborators and fellow “experts,” learning from them while sharing his own views honestly.

Lynd says, people need to experience the direct democratic exercise of power, such as through the rank-and-file oriented “Solidarity Unionism” that he contrasts with typical union hierarchies. “There’s a question of power, changing the nature of capitalism,” Lynd tells In These Times. “Gar and I have very similar goals, a participative society. But I am much more concerned than he appears to be with the taking of power, and by that I don’t mean taking over the state as much as challenging basic capitalist institutions that hold this society together.”

“Our most urgent priority is not to give someone else the authority to act on our behalf [or] the responsibility to remake the world,” Lynd writes. “No, we need to remake the world ourselves, right now, from below and to the Left.”
As “the sum of my best wisdom and counsel as an elder,” he proposes that “100,000 young radicals spread evenly across the United States”  beyond the hipdoms of major metropolitan areas to live in the country’s many Youngstowns, accompanying their neighbors on a journey to a new America. “Then see what happens in 25 years.”

Agree, disagree, critique, or praise...

This is a remarkable man.

The following is from ZNet.

An Interview With Staughton Lynd About the Labor Movement

For more than 50 years, Staughton Lynd has been a leading radical in the United States. He was an engaged supporter of the Black Liberation Movement in the Deep South in the early 1960’s, most notably as coordinator of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi Summer in 1964. He was an active opponent of US aggression in Indochina, including as chairperson of the first national demonstration against the war in Vietnam in April 1965.[1] In recent decades, Lynd has been an attorney representing prisoners, particularly at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, and has written a book, a play and numerous articles about the 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.[2]
Since the late 1960’s, Lynd has also been deeply involved in the labor movement as an activist, attorney and prolific writer.[3] Inspired by Marty Glaberman, Stan Weir and Ed Mann,[4] Lynd has been a passionate and prolific proponent of decentralized, rank-and-file driven unionism. In November 2014Haymarket Books will publish a book by Lynd entitled Doing History from the Bottom Up: On E.P. Thompson, Howard Zinn, and Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below and a new edition of his book Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below with an introduction by radical labor scholar and activist Immanuel Ness will be published by PM Press in Spring 2015.

PiascikWhat is your general view of the state of organized labor in the United States today?
LyndMy general view, like that of everyone else, is that the labor movement is in catastrophic decline. My particular view is that the reason for this decline is not the Supreme Court, or the McCarthy period, or anything that might be remedied by changing the top leadership of unions, but the model of trade union organizing that has existed in all CIO unions since 1935. The critical elements of this model are: 1) Exclusive representation of a bargaining unit by a single union; 2) The dues check-off, whereby the employer deducts dues for the union from the paycheck of every member of the bargaining unit; 3) A clause prohibiting strikes and slowdowns for the duration of the contract; 4) A “management prerogatives” clause giving the employer the right to make investment decisions unilaterally.
In combination these clauses in the typical CIO contract give the employer the right to close the plant and prevent the workers from doing anything about it. So long as collective bargaining agreements conform to this template, the election of a Miller, a Sadlowski, a Carey, a Sweeney, or a Trumka will not bring about fundamental change.
Piascik: You have written extensively about the working class upheaval of the 1930’s, both the early years of the decade and the formation of the CIO.[5] How and why was the CIO consolidated as a top-down organization?
Lynd: It tends to be forgotten that the CIO was created by John L. Lewis. There is now a significant body of scholarship to the effect that 1) Lewis centralized the administration of the UMW so as to minimize the traditional influence of local unions and ran the national union in an altogether high-handed manner; 2) Lewis went out of his way to assure the business community that if they bargained with the CIO such phenomena as wildcat strikes would become a thing of the past; 3) many liberals and radicals such as Roger Baldwin of the ACLU opposed the Wagner Act, believing correctly that the result would be exactly what has occurred and that alternatives such as the Progressive Miners in southern Illinois would be steamrollered; 4) contrary to popular belief, the revival of unionism among miners began from below before the passage of the National Recovery Act with its Section 7 during the Spring of 1933 and the long-lasting miners’ strike the following summer was created and persisted in by rank-and-file miners despite endless attempts by Lewis and his lieutenant Philip Murray to settle it from above.

Piascik: You consistently underscore the importance of local initiatives. What do such initiatives look like in practice and why might they be more fruitful than national reform campaigns?
LyndAt first glance any imaginable agglomeration of local groups appears helpless in contrast to gigantic international corporations. Indeed, in my early struggles with this dilemma, I highlighted the absence in the steel industry in the 1930s of effective coordination between new local unions improvised by the rank and file in a variety of locations.
The same problem presents itself today as low-wage workers in a variety of communities are simultaneously assisted, but also managed by, existing national unions like the UFCW and SEIU. For the moment, the unions say they only want to help these workers win specific demands through direct action. Down the road, however, these same unions may seek to make local direct actions serve as stepping stones to their familiar objective: exclusive bargaining status, complete with dues check-off and no-strike clause.
I have come to feel that the sense of helplessness experienced by local groups may be exaggerated, even illusory. In a single workplace, workers in a particular strategic unit or department may be able to bring the entire enterprise to a halt. Vicki Starr a.k.a. Stella Nowicki describes how this was true when the “beef kill” stopped work in the Chicago stockyards in the 1930s.[6]
Something like that occurred at the giant Walmart warehouse in Elwood, Illinois, near Chicago, two years ago. That particular warehouse handled most of the products flowing into the multitudinous Walmart distribution points throughout the United States. So severe was the disruption caused when these particular workers walked out for a couple of weeks over local grievances that the company not only granted some of their demands but also welcomed them back to work and paid back pay for the time they were on strike! Thus even when confronted with the challenge of national coordination, inquiry circles back to the willingness of small groups of workers in particular critical segments of the production or distribution process to stop work. 
Energy should go into building strong nuclei of self-activity on the workplace floor. Stan Weir called such entities “informal work groups.” He was convinced that such groupings come into being wherever human brings work together, and develop leadership of a sort from below, as needed. Energy should not go into electing new top officials.

Piascik: Would you elaborate on the drawbacks of the “exclusive representation” stipulation in the NLRA?
LyndThere are at least three or four drawbacks to the idea of exclusive representation.
 1) The initial contact between a union organizer and a group of workers involves activities meaningless in themselves, such as collecting signatures on cards or petitions which are then forwarded to the NLRB. The obvious alternative is to build solidarity, what Stan Weir called creating a “family at work,” by means of small direct actions.
 2) Once a union is successful in winning a representation election pursuant to Section 9 of the NLRA (now LMRA), it becomes extremely difficult for a group of workers to “decertify,” that is, to choose another union to represent them. In contrast, in Nicaragua during the 1980s a union was selected only for the duration of a single contract, at the expiration of which there was a new election to choose a union to negotiate the next contract.
 3) Self-evidently, the Section 9 process made it seem impossible for a minority of workers to do anything meaningful until it became a majority. As everyone knows this need not be the case, in a workplace or any other setting. The idea of “minority” or “members only” unionism has accordingly been gaining ground. Its leading exponent is Professor Charles Morris, who argues that under the NLRA as originally conceived the employer had a legal obligation to bargain with any group of workers, even if was not a majority.[7] Thus a group in a particular department that was strategic in the enterprise could successfully bargain for better terms for itself. If successful, other workers would be drawn to join the union.
The main problem with Professor Morris’ perspective is that he makes it quite clear that bargaining status for a minority union is only a stepping stone to becoming an exclusive representative. It is my understanding that in many European countries there can be many minority unions, each aligned with a different national political tendency. Such unions may join together for bargaining purposes.
 4) I think the Right has a point when it says that existing law and practice strips away the dimension of voluntariness from union membership.

Piascik: How about automatic dues check-off? It’s taken almost as gospel among progressives and radicals, not just bureaucrats, that it’s essential to the survival of unions.
Lynd: When Alice and I did interviews for what became Rank and File, roughly in 1970, we asked: What do you think is the main reason for the failure of CIO unionism to fulfill its promise? The answer that received more support than any other was, ‘The dues check-off.’
 Sylvia Woods said that in her UAW local at Bendix during World War II they deliberately did not seek the check-off, because what happens when you have it is: everybody sits on their duffs and nobody does anything.[8] The argument for dues check-off is inseparable from the argument for exclusive bargaining status. If you believe that a voluntary minority can accomplish more than an involuntary majority, the check-off recedes in importance.
Moreover, absent the check-off there is of necessity a greater tendency for activists to stay in the workplace rather than seeking a desk at “union headquarters” in a separate building.
Piascik: Given the severe constraints of no-strike and management prerogative clauses, why is there virtually no discussion even among rank-and-file oriented unionists of the need to get rid of or even modify them?
Lynd: I have asked myself this question over the years.
I believe that the Wagner Act is Exhibit 1 for many radicals and liberals looking back on the successes and failures of the New Deal and of their own lives. I think of my own father, Robert S. Lynd. As a member of the governing board of the 20th Century Fund in the 1930s, he critiqued the Wagner Act for mistakenly presuming that the Act would equalize the bargaining power of management and labor. Yet at a UAW educational conference after World War II, my dad delivered a speech that was well received by the delegates and, according to Victor Reuther, reprinted as a pamphlet by the UAW because of insistent rank-and-file demand. Therein my father said that organized labor was the only force big enough to counter big business, and that the country would move toward socialism or fascism depending on the outcome of this confrontation.
Roger Baldwin of the ACLU, on the other hand, opposed the Wagner Act because he saw how Lewis would use the mechanism of exclusive representation to squeeze the life out of the Progressive Miners in southern Illinois, the union actually preferred by the membership. See Cletus Daniels’ book on the ACLU in the 1930s.[9] 
It is always easier to blame someone for the failure of a cherished remedy to deliver a solution than it is to critique the remedy itself. It is especially puzzling that folk on the Left have been so insensitive to the dictatorial heavy hand that John L. Lewis laid on dissidents within his own union, and on nay-sayers within nascent CIO unions. When an initial convention of the UAW voted not to support Roosevelt in 1936 and to look toward a new labor party, Lewis prevailed through UAW president Homer Martin and CIO staff man Adolph Germer to have that vote reversed.
In truth, we live through the cycle of over-adulation of a leader, followed by disillusion with his or her performance, over and over. Labor historians and union staffers sequentially idolize Lewis, Reuther and Murray, followed by Arnold Miller, Sadlowski, Sweeney, Carey, Trumka and others, only to recognize when the smoke clears that the structure of unionism in the United States has not changed . . . but to go looking for another maximum leader!
 As we sang in the 1960s, When will they ever learn?
Piascik: What experiences did you have with unions that led you to your present conclusions?
LyndLet me describe three experiences. 1) About 1969 or 1970, while still living in Chicago, I attended with some friends a Labor Against The War gathering at the hall of Harold Gibbons’ Teamsters local in St. Louis. The occasion was sponsored and steered by top national officers such as the Foners, Emil Mazey, Jerry Wurf, and as it turned out, Harry Bridges. The labor movement was five years late in opposing the Vietnam War, leaders like Walter Reuther having supported the war, but the occasion was promising. I found myself attending a rank-and-file caucus. We offered a motion from the floor that there be a single day on which workers all over the country would protest the war in whatever manner suited their circumstances (extended lunch hours, leafleting, local union resolution, press conference, etc.) His voice dripping with sarcasm, Mazey invited delegates to vote on this crazy idea. The resolution passed by about 3 to 1. So the apparatchiks canvassed over lunch and brought on Harry Bridges in the afternoon to ask the delegates to withdraw their approval. They did.
 2. In Youngstown, the international Steelworkers refused to support a campaign against the steel mill shutdowns. Their advice was to be concerned about benefits: what Ed Mann and John Barbero derisively called “funeral arrangements.” The national union red-baited Gar Alperovitz and myself. We were defended by the Catholic bishop of the Youngstown diocese, Father James Malone. After our spirited campaign but courtroom defeat in district court, the Steelworkers refused to file even a friend of the court brief in support of our appeal to the federal Sixth Circuit. Now the national union makes happy talk about worker buyouts, more than thirty years too late.
 3. Packard Electric, now known as Delphi Packard, had about 12,000 employees when we moved to Youngstown in 1976. Along with or next to GM Lordstown it was the largest employer in the Youngstown area. The local had originally been part of the UE and there was a clause in the local union constitution to the effect that any contract amendment had to be approved in a membership referendum. When the local violated this clause by agreeing to new language permitting 10 or 12 hour days without membership approval, we went to federal court and won. The company and union pushed through an approval process in a fog of misleading propaganda that we were unable to rebut. There are now less than 1,000 workers for Delphi in Youngstown and over 40,000 in Mexico.
 The national leadership of these mainstream unions was simply endlessly behind the curve of membership sentiment.

Piascik: You mentioned the unsuccessful efforts by steelworkers to take over control of closed mills in Youngstown 35 years ago. In many places, perhaps most notably Argentina, as well as at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, such efforts have been quite successful. Is assuming control of shuttered workplaces something unions, together with communities and local officials, should be attempting to do more of and if so how might it most effectively be done?
LyndThis is the problem that in Youngstown and Pittsburgh we called, “socialism in one steel mill.” Historically, most single distressed companies that have attempted worker or worker-community ownership have either failed or over time become capitalist enterprises again. One runs into a variety of problems.
 In Youngstown, we felt it would be a cruel temporary solution simply to buy any of the closed mills without modernizing them. Mere purchase might have cost $20 million. Necessary modernization to replace antiquated open hearths would have cost an additional sum of about $200 million, ten times as much. This was at a time when the guaranteed loan fund, created by the U.S. government to assist the industry throughout the country, was only $100 million.
In arrangements for worker “ownership” as at Weirton Steel, the new start-up capital was often derived by cutting workers’ wages and substituting common stock of the company. Pension experts specifically warn against a pension portfolio overly emphasizing any one company. Note, too, that Weirton was advised by Lazard Freres,[10] and that while workers held a majority of the common stock they were not permitted to fill a majority of the seats on the board of directors of the “worker-owned” company.
 In a worker-owned meatpacking plant, the union president became a member of the board of directors. Only in retrospect did it become clear that the arrangement created a conflict of interest.
Note, too, that it is not clear to me that Republic Windows and Doors has been successful. I believe it has passed through a number of ownership arrangements.
I think there is no substitute for public ownership of the “commanding heights” of the economy. In the midst of our Youngstown struggle, representatives of Swedish metalworkers visited us. It was like a fairy story! In Sweden, when a plant was scheduled to close, printouts of available jobs were posted every day on the shop floor. Each worker received a year’s severance pay, and husband and wife were financed by the government to make a trip to a possible new job site. And public assistance went beyond “benefits.” Sweden had three separate steel mills: one in the far North, where iron was abundant; one inland, where the steel was poured; and one on the seacoast. Our visitors told us that the government insisted that they be combined into a single company.
I worked more than 15 years for a public enterprise, Legal Services, that provided legal assistance to persons who could not afford a private attorney. It was a highly decentralized operation, and it worked.
I remain, as I have been for the last 70 years, a socialist.

Piascik: You participated in Occupy Youngstown and have drawn parallels between the Occupy phenomenon and youth-led revolts in 1905 Russia and 1956 Hungary that were joined by workers and became general insurrections. How is this different from traditional views of revolutionary change and how might it apply to the United States specifically and the anti-austerity, anti-imperialist movements around the world in general?
LyndThere are different groups and sub-groups in any imaginable Rainbow Coalition for fundamental change. After a good deal of thought, I believe that neither soldiers or prisoners can be the basic force for such change. The reason is that neither group is permanent. Prisoners are released one by one onto the street, and usually go back to the old neighborhood. They struggle to survive and not to be again imprisoned. Soldiers, too, hopefully come home.
Students are a distinct group but they, too, are temporary. At Oberlin College, students concerned about criminal justice kept that concern alive for two or three student generations, but then it lapsed.
Thus one comes back in the end to workers. Here also there are divisions and sub-groups. Stan Weir used to emphasize how disruptive it was for the informal shop floor networks formed during the 1930s when conscription for World War II picked them off, one by one, and broke up the sub-groups. Adjunct professors represent a potential for change that has not yet organized itself whereas tenured full professors are unlikely to be helpful, at least in significant numbers.
There is a potential for transformative change within the working class, and, I conclude, only there. Manny Ness says that most full-time workers are now in the Global South, and, as in India and South Africa, have been driven to open revolt, not only against employers but against do-nothing hierarchical unions.
Especially in an economy like that of the United States, stripped of manufacturing, “workers” need to be broadly defined. Moreover, it obviously will make a great deal of difference whether workers are encouraged to focus on individual material benefit, or, in solidarity, on common interests.
As women come into the work force more fully and into positions of leadership I believe that solidarity will be nurtured.

Piascik: You’ve written extensively about Accompaniment as well as about your decision in the 1970’s to “accompany” as an attorney, historian and writer rather than get a mill or factory job. Could you talk a bit about what Accompaniment means and what you would suggest to a recent college graduate or professional who wants to support the kind of working class movement we’ve been discussing?
Lynd: I continue to believe (see the Conclusion of my book Accompanying [11]) that persons with college degrees can make their best contribution not as manual workers, but as the kind of professional they have been trained to become, in daily contact with, and support of, other kinds of workers. Instead of pursuing a professional career in an academic or upper-middle-income setting, a person who acquires credentials to practice as a useful sort of professional — teacher, doctor or nurse, lawyer, etc. — should consider locating and putting down roots at an address that gives poor and working people easy access to him or her. Perhaps I can best explain what I mean by describing my own experience.
After I got graduate degrees in history, my first teaching job was at Spelman College, a school for African American young women (who included future Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Alice Walker). We lived on campus, around the corner from Howard Zinn and his family. As a result I was able to hold an honors seminar in our living room. It would have been difficult, in the segregated Atlanta of the 1960s, to do so off-campus.
 While I was in Mississippi as coordinator of the Freedom Schools in the summer of 1964, before starting to teach at Yale, Alice found an apartment for us in New Haven, in a moderate-income downtown neighborhood near a good public school. Members of the Yale faculty asked her, “Why would you want to live so close to the university that it will be easy for students to visit you?”
Of course Accompaniment is not just a question of where you live, but of whom you serve. I was fired by the main union-side law firm in Youngstown for assisting individual workers who were at odds with the unions who were the firm’s main clients. When Labor Law for the Rank and Filer was published, Alice and I debated whether to give a copy of the book to the boss. We decided to do so. I was fired at 10 a.m. the next morning.
Fortunately, I had already become a member of the board of directors of the local Legal Services office. I called the executive director, and within a week of my discharge I was practicing employment law as a Legal Services attorney. From time to time, local lawyers at private firms would ask me when I would be moving on to the “real” practice of law. I responded that I was happy as a pig in mud at Legal Services.
 Since retirement, Alice and I have been volunteer attorneys for the ACLU of Ohio. From 1978 to the present moment, 36 years, I have been able to practice law for needy clients whom the Legal Services office or ACLU served without charge!

1.On Lynd’s many years as an activist, see Living Inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical’s Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement by Staughton Lynd (ILR Press, 1997); Alice and Staughton Lynd’s Stepping Stones: Memoir of a Life Together (Lexington Books, 2009); The Admirable Radical: Staughton Lynd and Cold War Dissent, 1945-1970 by Carl Mirra (Kent State University Press, 2010); and Side by Side: Alice and Staughton Lynd, the Ohio Years by Mark Weber and Stephen Paschen forthcoming from Kent State University Press in October 2014.
2.Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University Press, 2004). Layers of Injusticea booklet by Lynd summarizing the Lucasville story and bringing it up to date, is available from him for $5. Send an e-mail to:
3. Lynd has written articles on labor for Radical AmericaLiberation, The Industrial Worker, Labor Notes and many other publications. Among his labor books, in addition to Solidarity Unionism and the forthcoming Doing History From Below, both mentioned above, are Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers(Beacon Press, 1973) and The New Rank and File (ILR Press, 2000), both edited with his wife Alice, as well asa new, expanded edition of Rank and File (Haymarket Books, 2011) in which eight interviews from The New Rank and File are added to all the oral histories in the original edition; The Fight Against Shutdowns: Youngstown’s Steel Mill Closings (Singlejack Books, 1982); and Labor Law for the Rank & Filer (PM Press, 2008) with Daniel Gross.
4.Marty Glaberman (1918-2001) was an autoworker and labor historian who lived in Detroit, taught at Wayne State University and wrote extensively about the UAW. Lynd compiled a collection of his writings in Punching Out & Other Writings (Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 2002) for which he also wrote the Introduction. Stan Weir (1921-2001) was a rank and filer and writer, some of whose writings are collected in Singlejack Solidarityedited by George Lipsitz (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). Ed Mann (1928-1992) was a steelworker and long-time officer in the Youngstown local of the Steelworkers Union. Excerpts from Mann’s autobiographical booklet appear as an appendix to the first and forthcoming editions of Lynd’s Solidarity Unionism.
5.See, for example, We Are All Leaders: The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930’s, Staughton Lynd, editor (University of Illinois Press, 1996).
6.Rank and File, pages 67-88.
7.See Charles K. Morris, The Blue Eagle at Work: Reclaiming Democratic Rights in the Workplace (ILR Press, 2005).
8.Rank and File, pages 111-129
9.Cletus Daniel, The ACLU and the Wagner Act: An Inquiry Into the Depression-Era Crisis of American Liberalism (ILR Press, 1980)
10.Lazard is a global financial and advisory firm headquartered in New York specializing in investment banking and asset management.
11. Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change by Staughton Lynd (PM Press, 2013)
Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who writes for Z, Counterpunch and many other publications and websites. He can be reached at