Craft Unions and the General Strike

From: “The General Strike for Industrial Workers” as published by the IWW in June of 1946

            The Purpose of industrial unionism is to give the working class the greatest possible organizing power in industry. Unquestionably the General Strike, either on or off the job, is the most perfect manifestation of this power. If the craft unions of today are examined in regard to their adaptability to this end it will put the revolutionary industrial union movement in an entirely new light. Also it will reveal clearly the shortcomings of conventional unionism in general and the craft union movement in particular. After all, the full measure of power is the acid test of any labor organization.

            A cursory glance at the craft union movement will reveal the fact that it is constructed in such a way as to divide rather than to unify the forces of labor. The craft union is not designated to enable labor to use its full power. This type of union came into existence during the period of industrial evolution known as the small production when the tools of the craft and the skill of the craftsmen were important things. In those days the organized power of the tradesman consisted in his having monopoly of the skill necessary to make the tools of his trade industrially productive. The withdrawal of this skill during periods of strikes was all that was necessary to force the old-time employer of labor to terms. This it happened that the craft union was organized around the, then important, tools of the tradesmen.

Tools and Skill Obsolete

            But all this has been changed. The onward march of the machine process has to a large extent made both tools and skill unnecessary. This great advance in technical development has made the old fashioned trades union unable to cope with modern conditions. Craft unions still carry on as a matter of habit, it is true, but they are anachronisms in this modern world. Some of them merely serve as pie-cards for the tired business men who are their officials and all such unions serve more or less as props of the existing order. But they are not unions in the modern sense at all. They are merely the shells of once useful unions operating to secure advantages for a few favored groups of workers without regard to the interests of the working class as a whole. They are organized within the capitalist system which they have been taught to take for granted, and they have no thought or program of anything beyond this system.

            In relation to the manifest weakness of the trade union structure and concept the I.W.W. Preamble points out with telling emphasis: “We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trades unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs whish allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping to defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the workers have interests in common with their employers.”

Labor’s Problem is Industrial-not Craft

            Labor’s problem today is not a craft but an industrial problem. A labor union at the present time, to be an effectual instrument of offense and defense, must conform to the structure of modern industry. It must be industrial rather than craft in form. But the craft unions have not kept pace with the needs of a changing world. They have very largely remained just where they were in the beginning. Far from being the helpful fighting instruments they were in the old days, they have now become merely a further means of effecting the enslavement of the class whose interests they are supposed to serve.

            A General Strike of craft unions is an unthinkable impossibility. Being organized for the sole purpose of enabling a few groups of workers to “get by” under capitalism, they lack both the form and spirit necessary to make possible united action for a common objective against a common foe. For this reason, as organized today, they would be of very doubtful help to any unified effort of the working class to free itself from wage slavery by industrial means. The modern industrial struggle demands modern industrial weapons. And in this regard the craft union is as obsolete as the dodo. Workers who conceive of the final struggle for emancipation in terms of industrial power will have elsewhere for an organizational form more suitable for this purpose.

            The so-called independent industrial unions are in the same category. It is true their rather loose industrial structure makes it possible for them to think of their union in terms of a given industry. But, as in the case of the U.M.W. of A. and other similar unions, they are divided into districts if not in crafts and are tied down by contracts, which make it impossible for them to act in unison. In no case is there evidence of any attempt or desire on their part to ally themselves for purposes of solidarity with transport or other workers on One Big Union lines. Organized railroad, clothing and many other workers in the U.S.A. are similarly bound, similarly divided and similarly unable to get together for united action of any sort.

            As far as the interests of Labor are concerned these steps must be in the right direction. They must not only be distinctly industrial, they must also be unquestionably revolutionary. “Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, Abolition of the wage system.” So states the I.W.W. Preamble. And in this historic slogan is found the source of the strength and inspiration of the organized industrial workers of all the world.

Minutes: 02.04.19 Meeting

-K.J. will continue studying new Family Leave Law, possibility of developing a workshop on what state, federal, and union benefits we have and how to use them.
-Motion made and passed: to have an in person CORE 46 meeting in the lobby of the Kent hall on the Tuesday following the IBEW Local 46 general meeting.
-Motion made and passed: to have CORE 46 zoom (online) meetings open to any interested, Rank and File electrical worker. J.D. Will add the zoom link to the CORE 46 website.
-J.H. Will draft a possible IBEW Local 46 bylaws motion regarding having an on call Rep on staff
-J.Dr. Will ask IBEW Local 46 Business Manager about the possibility of members being able to donate banked insurance hours to other brothers and sisters
-Motion made and passed: to adopt motion forms created by J.M.
-Motion made and passed: to post meeting minutes on CORE 46 website.

The Whole Person Goes to Work

How many old men told each other and Henry Miller that he was just some idealistic youngster when he said he wanted to form a union for electrical workers? I see a lot of young people in our union now that aren’t ready to stomach the old injustices. If you don’t want to join the fight, well please don’t get in the way.

All my dignity, all my love for my family, all my respect for humanity, all my humility, all my appreciation for god, nature, the finite and interconnection and relation of all things. These come with me to work everyday. I couldn’t leave them at home if I wanted to.

The whole man/woman/person goes to work. And each day we pray that at the end of the day the whole worker will come home. And when I go home I bring back so many unwanted parts of the job. I bring home the silica in my lungs and on my clothes, the cramps in my hands and the soreness in my back and feet, the short temper that comes with under sleeping, the knot in my stomach that ties itself up arguing between security and righteousness, the humiliation from knowing that I am exploiting god and nature and the finite to serve folks that deny that they already have too much, while my fellow workers slave away. While the mother of the children I love slaves away. While children all over the world prepare to enter the slave market totally unarmed to do combat in the class war that is our economy.

Tell me I shouldn’t be here. Tell me love it or leave it. Tell me I’m idealistic. Tell me that everything I want for myself, for my brothers and sisters, for my family is unrealistic. Tell me this is just one contract, it’s just one contractor, it’s just one job, it’s just one day.

I’ll leave when I’m done. I’ll shut up when I have nothing to say. Thanks for reading. Thanks to everyone who has confronted some fear of their own to stand up already. Thanks to all you cautious old folks that stood up once before and were pushed back down.

LET’S MAKE THE SICK LEAVE LAW WORK FOR IBEW MEMBERS!

We, the finest electrical workers in the world, demand that language be adopted to the contracts of our Inside Wire, Sound & Comm, Residential, and Stockman units which will make the benefits of Washington States Paid Sick Leave Law accessible to all IBEW Local 46 members. For our sisters and brothers to benefit from this legislation paid sick leave benefits must be:

  • Usable after the 14th day of employment
  • All accrued & unused sick leave must carry year to year
  • Employers must be required to pay all accrued & unused hours upon a member’s termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment.

A change like this will help our contractors by keeping members producing on the job, and ease the administrative burden of keeping employees sick leave on their books for 12 months after that member is no longer employed by the contractor, and it will help our membership by ensuring that we get the benefits we are entitled to and keep us from worrying so much about the financial burden of getting sick as we complete projects and move to the next contractor to keep building America!

CALL TO ACTION!

At the General Union Meeting on Wednesday, February 13th a motion will be made to recommend that the business manager of IBEW Local 46 actively and sincerely pursue the adoption of language as a Memorandum of Understanding between all signatory contractors, Puget Sound NECA, and the members of all concerned units. A strong showing of YES votes will demonstrate that the members are ready to fight for an ever improving standard of living!

Life is good at the big kids table

A recent commentary I wrote regarding the unjustified actions taken with constituency groups at Local 46 has really stirred up the supporters of the Local’s Leadership Team. I have received many messages online demanding I take down what I wrote. Accusing me of being drunk and ignorant of the facts. It really troubles me that members of minority groups are accusing me of making up my accusations. If a victim of discrimination or worse makes a claim, shouldn’t we start off our conversations with them from a viewpoint of support? When we are told a story or presented with information about something that has happened, we should not discount the individual just because we have loyalties to the accused.

I am NOT accusing anyone of anything as heinous as a sexual misconduct, racism, or bigotry of any type, but I am accusing the Local leadership of discriminatory past practices. Myself and others were prevented by the Local Leadership from performing protected acts of freedom of speech, and our unchartered constituency group was not given the same level of access as other unchartered constituency groups within the Local. We have sought out legal support over these issues. Which ultimately was the reasoning for the sudden issuance of “free speech rules” this last September / October.

You probably don’t know about these issues because you were not involved. We didn’t make our fight public because we were honestly trying to work through the issues with Local Leadership. Their continued harassment of our group, forced our hand in taking up the cause for freedom of speech.

Our efforts has put the the Local Leadership in a protective posture. They are trying to protect themselves from any further accusations of unfair treatment of members. It is these efforts that they are making which is coming at a cost to the different constituency groups. Their efforts are really a defensive posture against CORE and unfortunately, the other groups are now caught up in the unfair practices that the Local Leadership has supported for years.


When you are part of a favored group of people, you often don’t see the discriminatory practices that are occurring around you. The situations I have written about here are examples of this very situation. Members are accusing me of making up these issues in some kind of slime ball attack against the Local Leadership. Maybe if these detractors were actually there when these events took place they would believe me. Or maybe they would keep their blinders on while they give their continued loyalty to Local Leadership that may not be deserving of such treatment as they strongly believe.

I had hoped that members of minority groups that have been discriminated against would be more supportive of other members who were experiencing discrimination. We should not be supportive of bad behavior just because the accused usually act in good faith.

Member Groups and the IRS*

The recent outing of RENEW, EWMC, and ESU from the Hall is motivated by additional layers than is being presented. The prevailing message from Karleena is that ESU has run amiss of the IRS regarding taxes. In researching the issue they discovered that ESU is not chartered by the IO, and neither was EWMC, or RENEW. On the surface, not being chartered doesn’t seem like a big deal. So what if members of our Local want to form a group, or two, or three, to get together and organize around some issues? All three of these groups have been allowed to hold meetings and events within the Local 46 Hall for years.

There is one group of active members that has not been allowed to have a meeting at the Hall, and that is CORE. When we approached Bagsby about scheduling time in one of the class rooms so we could have a meeting, he told us that we would have to put down an $800 security deposit. By placing a high financial burden in front of the group, Bagsby effectively prevented the Local Members from being able to meet together at the Hall.

The Caucus Of Rank & File Electrical workers has been organizing for 3+ years as an independent group which has chafed at the Local Leadership Team over this time period. CORE has maintained a no admittance to our online communications for Officers of any Local or Management Employees of any Contractor. At the same time, we have always had an open door at our meetings and we have extended invitations on multiple occasions.

Our invitations to our meetings have gone ignored, and instead The Local Leadership Team can be found making comments from the microphone about groups that exclude people. As was the case at the last General Meeting. While he did not cite CORE specifically, while attempting to give validity to EWMC / RENEW / ESU, the Local Leadership Team made reference to “groups that exclude people”. The reality is the only exclusion we maintain is our internal communications and online presence.

So, back to the issue of not being chartered… If there is a group of members who are being allowed access to the Union Hall and another group of members who are not being allowed access there is a problem. Prior to this last week, none of the committees mentioned in this article have been charted by the IO. With all the groups essentially being equal on the level of being chartered or not, access to the Hall has been being given out arbitrarily. If the group was in The Local Leadership Team’s favor, then they were allowed access. If they were not, such as CORE, they were given an arbitrarily high bar for access to the very same resources.

Recently, I led a fight for freedom of speech out our Hall with the support of many of members of our Local and CORE. We forced the Hall into a position to reevaluate their stance on blocking and restricting our rights to communicate with our fellow members. The Local Leadership Team made some wrong decisions about freedom of speech, but they have come to their senses and we all have greater rights now. Union officers cannot arbitrarily tell members that they can or cannot communicate with each other, and they cannot arbitrarily give access to the Hall to one group of members while denying others.

The IRS notice gives the Local Leadership Team a smoke screen to cover up their arbitrary practices of giving different groups favorable access. They have forced these groups out not because of the IRS, but because they have been in the wrong for years. To clean up the problem and allow them to continue to block CORE from being able to schedule meetings at the Hall, the favored groups will attain a charter from the IO. This charter will be the measuring stick by which they can say that some groups are okay, while others are unacceptable.

The picture is further muddled by the claim that the IO is pushing to bring all these groups together across different Locals. The IO is not suddenly pushing to have these groups sanctioned for the benefit of the groups, and the IO had already been pushing for these groups to be chartered for years. This is just another distraction to help cover up the truth. Bagsby & Bud fear rank and file member groups that they cannot control. By formalizing these groups, they inoculate themselves from claims of being biased, and arbitrary favoritism.

The members of CORE 46 believe that the members of any Local, whether they are chartered or not, should have the right to meet in their Hall.

*This letter has been edited to help not single out any one of The Leadership Team too much. Ultimately, the issues presented here are about unfair treatment of members by ALL of the The Leadership Team.

IUOE 302 on Strike

Hello Fellow Electrical Workers,

The Caucus of Rank and File Electrical Workers (C.O.R.E. 46) hopes that you have already heard that The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 (I.U.O.E. 302) has rejected their contract offer and is now on strike. There are pickets going up all around the Puget Sound. C.O.R.E. 46 stands in solidarity with the Union Operators. As decided by our members, it is the position of C.O.R.E. 46 to NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE, and never work with scabs (someone performing the work of a striking worker). Our industry is made up of many Unions, but we are all one working class and we are united in the fight for a higher and higher standard of living. There are some questions that fellow electrical workers may have regarding the strike and we would like to offer possible answers to some of these questions.

Q: There is a picket on my job, what should I do?
A: Our unions were built on the principle of labor solidarity. Honor your fellow workers, NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE.

Q: There is no picket on my job, what should I do?
A: Obey your conscience. Pay attention to the positions that operators usually fill on your jobsite. Are those positions being filled by other workers or by management themselves? How would you feel if you were on strike and some scab came and did your job, possibly for a lower wage than you do it? Never work with scabs.

Stand strong Fellow Workers, and keep I.U.O.E. 302 in your thoughts and prayers. If you have any questions you can email C.O.R.E. 46 at contact@core46.org

In Solidarity,

The Caucus of Rank and File Electrical Workers
C.O.R.E. 46
www.core46.org

Cross Trades Rally – May 2018

CORE 46 hosted a Cross Trades Rally in support of all workers fighting for better contracts. We were joined by nearly 150 members of the various building trades and other local unions at Westlake Center in Seattle on May 31st, 2018.

How the Trades Unions Killed Themselves

Mike Lucas was the director of organizing with the IBEW international office. Listen to the track below to hear a speech he made about where the unions lost their way in regards to organizing and how that has cost the unions everything. This speech was in the early 80’s and after it was made union activists secretly spread it through IBEW local 46 via cassette tape.

“I didn’t come into the union because I wanted a wage cut. And very frankly I don’t need the union to take a wage cut. I don’t see a whole hell of a lot of use in paying dues so I can take a wage cut. I came into the union because some rat contractor was paying me barely enough to keep me alive while he was doing his best to work me to death. That’s why I came into the union.”

That quote at the end really stands out to me. Mike Lucas was a very outspoken advocate of bottom up union organizing. He talks about needing to get the non-union worker into our unions and bringing their job with them. He talks about how if there are only two jobs left in town, those two jobs should be done at full scale.

Here is a link to an interview Mike Lucas did with Cornell University Labor Research Department.

The current trade union’s program around organizing seems disconnected from the work force, and because of this I think it is doomed to fail. Until we focus on creating opportunities for tradesman, union and non-union, to communicate about work we are doomed to lose workers to rat contractors. And until we recognize that a strong contract enforced effectively that provides great working conditions, fair pay and benefits is what organizes members, in turn with the inverse that it is organizing that wins strong contracts we are doomed to lose work to rat contractors. We need to stop the practice of buying jobs for union members at reduced wages and benefits at the expense of the non-union worker, and begin a serious campaign to organize those non-union workers into our unions, and make their jobs come with them.