This piece is a reflection addressed to coworkers by a rank and file militant in the public sector after going through a negotiating process with the employer, East Bay Municipal Utilities District. This is a good example of how one should conduct themselves politically when engaging in struggle within the union form. Good demands, defiant approach, trying to link with other unions, extending interests beyond sector to be class-wide..
The negotiating team recognized that gains are not really won at the table–it is the conscious and organized intervention of the membership that gets results. Historically, working people have made the most gains when we have relied on our own strength which means mobilizing our members and linking up with other unions and the communities in which we live and work and a solidarity committee was set for this purpose.
To the extent that this type of intervention is part of a bigger project of building rank and rile organization, the union is being transformed from a bureaucratic mechanism that stifles struggle, to a proletarian vehicle connecting struggles. If there were 1000 militants like this one in strategic workplaces (factories, schools, hospitals, mass transit, etc) in any given metropolitan area, we would see that the whole field of struggle would be more favorable for the working class. We need workplace militants intervening within unions as well as building independent organizations, centralized democratically in a proletarian party with a clear program for uniting diverse struggles toward socialist revolution. Far too many radicals have lost interest in implanting themselves in workplaces as extensions of a radical party with a plan for unleashing and coordinating proletarian revolt, engaging within the worker organizations there, and advancing them in a militant direction. Militants like the author of the blog we link to only assist any effort to transcend the sectoral, rigid, conservative obstacle to class struggle that existing union leadership structures pose.
It goes without saying that the workplace is not the only valid site of struggle. We need to advance struggles and we need those struggles united. We need a new International to coordinate this across borders. Coming from a starting point of the unionized workplace, the perspective offered here sets the trajectory correctly to merge with proletarian movements originating elsewhere.
It should be obvious to anyone that the contractual bargaining aspect is just one part of the class struggle. Other posts will deal with worker agency beyond the bargaining table, and offer examples of militant leadership in the field of strikes. However it should be equally obvious that in normal conditions, workers sell ourselves for wages and that we must haggle with bosses to get the best deal we can out of capital. Some day after the revolution we will not have to do this. Until then, negotiating with the bosses and having those negotiations codified in a contract is going to be a part of the struggles we participate in. When in that position, this is one small example of how it should be done.