Big Labor bosses don’t want the rank and file wresting more power from them, for fear they will lose their power to force workers, and to live the good life on forced union dues.
Alec McGillis, tnr.com, misses this point telling the story of union “dissident” Jerry Tucker. It’s not surprising Tucker’s voice was drowned out by Big Labor bosses.
It has been a dispiriting year for organized labor. Unions contributed greatly to the reelection of Barack Obama and the Democrats’ retention of the Senate, but were punched in the gut before they could savor the victories. Michigan’s Republican legislature and governor rushed a bill through the lame-duck session, making the birthplace of the United Auto Workers a “right-to-work” state. The move is . . . raising the possibility that a majority of the 50 states will soon be right-to-work, allowing workers to opt out of paying dues to unions even as they benefit from union contracts, and thereby further weakening an institution that has seen its membership drop from a third of the private sector workforce 60 years ago to 7 percent today.
Few have fought harder to keep labor from this plight than Jerry Tucker. An outspoken dissident, Tucker urged an alternate course for American unions for more than three decades, one with a broader progressive message and greater empowerment of rank and file workers. Despite his repeated successes in the field of action, Tucker was largely sidelined by the union establishment. Labor could desperately use Tucker’s guidance today, but it’s too late: He died in his hometown of St. Louis on October 19 of pancreatic cancer, at age 73.
Still, with the movement he loved in such dire straits, it’s worth reckoning with him and his legacy to ask: Could it have been different? And might it yet be? Tucker, . . . was the son of a tool-and-die worker and got his start with the United Auto Workers doing factory work for General Motors and Carter Carburetor. But he was also an unapologetic intellectual. He got a degree from Southern Illinois University; spent some early years hanging around the Beat scene in San Francisco’s North Beach; and, in the final chapter of his career, gave a big speech at the Sorbonne.