By CHARLES WALKER
Injunctions and fines, jailings and blacklists have always been high on the bosses’ list for dealing with workers who refuse to see things the bosses’ way.
So it was predictable that American Airlines would go to court against its pilots (see article on previous page) and it was equally predictable that the judge would see things like the bosses do.
Unfortunately, it was also predictable that the union would retreat because of the court’s power to summon the police and the military to enforce the bosses’ will upon the pilots.
It was predictable because organized labor stopped fighting injunctions decades ago, even though unions won some ground breaking victories in defiance of injunctions:
In 1934, Minneapolis truckdrivers told the courts to paper the walls with their injunctions, and then sparked the Depression’s great labor upsurge.
In 1937, autoworkers stunned the world with their refusal to heed the courts’ many orders to end their occupation of General Motors plants. The victorious autoworkers’ “inside picket lines” set the stage for an insurgent industrial unionism that raised living standards of workers, and boosted their self-respect.
It’s rare today for a union officialdom to possess the kind of guts and brains that resurrected the labor movement during that time of mass unemployment and widespread despair. Rare, yes, but it happens.
In 1989, courts and state police were hounding striking mineworkers of the Pittston Coal Co. The militant miners occupied their mine, a maneuver that turned their strike around and won them concessions at the bargaining table.
More recently, Ron Carey led UPS Teamsters out in a one-day safety and health strike, defying a court’s injunction, and upsetting many of the union’s officers who are wedded to the business unionist axiom that the union’s treasury-which pays their often opulent salaries and benefits-must not be put in harm’s way.
Judging by the daily press, President John J. Sweeney of the AFL-CIO had nothing to say about the pilots’ plight, not even a whisper about bosses, judges, and injunctions. Sweeney didn’t even raise his voice in solidarity with the airline pilots, let alone give them material aid and comfort.
In fact, Sweeney seems a lot like former AFL-CIO head Lane Kirkland, who didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass in 1981 when the air controllers’ union was busted. Which is bitterly ironic since Sweeney was elected president of the AFL-CIO in 1995 on the “New Voice” slate, pledging to be “A New Voice for American Workers.”
No doubt there’s more fact than fiction in a New York Times report that “the pilots’ dispute has inconvenienced other union leaders by complicating the plans of many to fly to Miami for the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s annual winter meeting…”
Somehow, the “inconvenienced” union leaders did make it to balmy Miami Beach. Once there, they agreed to spend over $40 million to bolster the Democratic Party’s chances of winning the year 2000 presidential and congressional elections.
Given the fact that Clinton broke the American Airlines pilots’ strike in 1997 and that the pilots didn’t get two cents of help from the Democrats during their sickout, that might seem to the militant pilots like a waste of the ranks’ dues. In fact, it should make them sick.