In this flyer, the “defense of the union” really means “help the union reach a collective bargaining agreement with the bosses.” I think that a collective bargaining agreement is better than none. I’m not convinced that not having a legal recognition of a union and a legal agreement helps workers break from legalism in some type of automatic way.
Certainly in my union, the OEA, being under state-imposition has not lead to any type of worker agency being expressed in radical ways. Quite to the contrary, it’s lead to further demobilization and increased incorporation of the union structure into a company union institution that simply rubber stamps the dictats of the administration of the OUSD. Again, in my situation a legally binding agreement between the union (leadership + workers) and the state that actually contained demands around working conditions, class size, etc would create (and be created by) conditions where teacher workers are taking direct action, pushing the boundaries of the union structure by directly working with parents, students, and non-unionized workers to discuss working conditions of all school workers and school community. This is what should be built.
I have a feeling that to really reach a collective bargaining agreement, the ILWU would need to be organizing all sectors of the waterfront to be in collective discussion and strategizing about conditions at the ports and about how their interests intersect against those of the bosses. Key in this is discussing how their interests have not intersected.
In keeping with this thought experiment, if the ILWU reached an agreement, what would be next? Chest beating about how “American” workers kept their jobs, and reproduction of divisions among all port workers? Simply defending the union (aka, reaching collective bargaining agreement with the bosses) does not answer these questions. Any type of “defense” that we consider and potentially engage in must begin by addressing BOTH the capitalist attacks and the internal contradictions of the waterfront proletariat.