Our ongoing series where we dig through the archives to bring you some old school gems that are still relevant today. This entry comes from the May 1937 issue of the One Big Union monthly.
A little sticking together has done us much good.
More would do us more good.
One Big Union would solve all our problems for us.
Whatever is worthwhile in this American standard of living is there because workers stuck together and put up some stiff fights to get it. If we are to improve that standard of living, we must stick together on a bigger scale.
That’s what’s back of all this recent talk of industrial versus craft organization, vertical versus horizontal unionism.
We have found out that sticking together in crafts often completely defeats the entire purpose of unionism. We join unions because we want to act together for our common good. When we join craft unions, we find ourselves pitted against each other, contracted to work while our fellow worker strikes, obliged to break his strike just as sooner or later he is obliged to break ours. Even when we strike together in crafts, we find that one craft is played against another in negotiations, and that the employing class pries its wrecking bar into every crack and crevice of our craft federations to pull it apart and weaken the structure. The seamen’s strikes showed that.
So the American Federation of Labor plan of craft federation is out of the picture. We can’t afford to have cracks in the solidarity of labor.
Will the C. I. O. plan fill the bill?
First let’s see what specifications a union should come up to.
It should enable workers to come together as the problems facing them require, to decide what to do about those problems.
It should have its policies laid out entirely by the majority rule of its membership, otherwise the whole idea of banding ourselves together for our own common good is pushed aside to make us the pawns of some fellow who may look out for our well-being but who much more likely is looking out for his.
It should give the most effective support to every member in the manner that occasions the least trouble to the rest; that is, its solidarity should be efficient as well as effective.
The CIO does not come up to these specifications. It is a loose structure favoring both crafts and semi-industrial unions, easily pried apart and entering into contracts to scab on each other. The agreements of the coal miners, leaving Kentucky and Virginia still struggling prove that. The agreement of steel workers to furnish steel to scab auto workers shows that. The agreement of auto workers to work with scab steal shows that. And in all these agreements the obligation to quit direct action on the job, and to continue at the current wages no matter how rapidly prices may rise, shows that the CIO in structure and policy does not enable workers to take such joint action as they find they need.
The CIO is not constructed to enable workers to decide what action they should take. Believe it or not, the CIO has 13 members and no more. The thousands of workers who think they are CIO members, are instead members of unions that have made business contracts with the CIO surrendering most of their rights as unionists to this committee of 13 members. How little control they have over their union is shown by the auto and other negotiations, where the workers on the job were not even present. They are told by others where they got off at. It was to stop others from telling us where we get off at, that we organized for our own protection. Organizing as puppets for someone else to direct is not organizing for our own protection.
The structure of modern industry requires job unionism, industrial unionism, and One Big Union. We can afford no craft divisions to split solidarity on the job. We can afford no federation of alleged industrial unions to divide the working class into sections obliged to scab on each other. What we need is this:
One Big Union for all workers;
Industrial Departments, as transportation, manufacture, etc. built of Industrial Unions for convenience of the members in dealing with their specific industrial problems;
Job organization, always free to take immediate action on the job for bettering their conditions, or for practicing solidarity with their fellow workers on other jobs, never aiding the employer to break any strike by working with scabs, or with scab material, or furnishing material to scabs. This is the efficient, convenient and effective way to practice solidarity.
It must be an organization with all power vested in the majority of decisions of its members.
It should also have a program of action proportionate to such power. The power to say whether industry shall run or not should not be frittered away in the demand for a few petty concessions while the circumstances of our lives show that labor should run the industries for the benefit of labor. A working class organized in such a One Big Union would be utterly asinine to let its own power to act for itself lie idle, while it expectantly waited for some politician or a few more Supreme Court judges to do for it, what it could much better do for itself. It would be ridiculous for such a One Big Union of Labor to aim at anything less than a world run by the workers for the workers, with that abundance for all that industry and science has made possible, and with the chronic stoppage of production and the perpetual diversion of production to such purposes as war eliminated for ever from the life of mankind.
There is such a union; and there is only one such union for one is enough. It is the Industrial Workers of the World, with 29 industrial unions in one or another of which there is the logical place for you.
Quit building obstacles across the road to emancipation and join with your fellow workers in the one organization by which labor can defeat all its enemies, solve all its problems and create the future for our children that it is your duty to furnish them.