September 1st, 2008: Labor Day

Southern Nevada ALLies honored Labor Day today by hanging flyers celebrating the history and principles of wildcat unionism -- of radical, fighting unions like the Industrial Workers of the World, based on the free association of workers and direct action on the shop floor.

Although politicians and bureaucrats endlessly wring their hands about the state of the working class, and although they endlessly posture as friends of labor, on their pandering junkets and in their comfortable government offices (paid for with tax monies, seized from the workers whose friends they so loudly claim to be), and while fat-cat, politically-connected union bosses neglect organizing on the shopfloor in order to spend their time and resources improving their political pull, flattering the politicians and doing their best to hornswoggle rank-and-file workers into believing that meaningful change can come from stuffing a ballot-box with workers' votes, what we must never forget -- on Labor Day, or any other day -- is that the only real change that workers have ever enjoyed are changes that workers made for themselves. Not by voting and lobbying and building a political rolodex, but by organizing on the shop floor and in their communities, by forming fighting unions, by agitating, uniting, striking, picketing, boycotting, and by practicing solidarity with their fellow worker. The labor movement has never been perfect. Today, thanks to a complex and constrictive system of labor bureaucracy and labor regulation, created by an alliance between Big Government, Big Business, and a few fat-cat union bosses who chose to sell out the rank-and-file for increased political pull, the labor unions have largely been captured and domesticated by the State economic planning bureaucracy; they have become big, stupid, complacent, and sclerotic while union membership has dropped more and more year after year. But in unionism, there is a vibrant, older, prouder tradition, and a valuable institution that the bureaucratic State has worked so hard to smother. On Labor Day we must remember that, when and if they can be freed from the smothering patronage of the State bureaucracy, fighting unions provide workers not only with better wages and hours and conditions, but also, underneath it all, with the only effective means so far discovered for workers to take control over the conditions of their labor, a means by which workers can win victories for themselves, without depending on the whims of pandering politicians or arrogant bureaucrats.

Well-heeled professional politicians and bureaucrats, insulated from real life in their office buildings and bought and paid for by corporate interests, will never offer a real solution to the problems of homelessness, starvation wages, sweatshop conditions, and corporate domination of everyday life. A real solution to these problems can only come from our own efforts as workers, from radical labor organizing and worker solidarity—solidarity that crosses all lines of ethnicity, gender, color, creed, language, or politically-imposed borders. When workers unite together as workers, and take direct action to take back control over their own lives and livelihoods, they have a weapon in their hands more powerful than anything the bosses and the bureaucrats and the corporations can buy, with all their wealth and all their power. When workers fight together, workers win.

Practical resources on wildcat unionism for workers who want to organize

More on the Libertarian Left, the Working Class, and Wildcat Unionism

The Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left can be reached through its website, sonv.libertarianleft.org, or through its e-mail list ALLSouthernNevada.

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