The Tasks at Hand for LUEL—Closing Speech to LUEL’s 1st National Congress

Originally published in Labor Today

Good Afternoon Comrades,

I would like to begin today talking about the need for our publication, Labor Today, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two years to truly take hold as the class-oriented voice of the labor movement. We must work with our Regional Chapters to develop a class-oriented approach to presenting the struggles of the rank-and-file nationwide. We must aim to take the grievances of the rank-and-file workers, both union & non-union, and highlight them like only class-oriented trade unionists can to help them build the class consciousness that is sorely lacking within the labor movement here in the United States. The issues and grievances that workers face on the shop floor must be brought to the forefront, we must highlight where the misleaders of labor have abandoned their members for a cut of the bosses’ profits.

In order to do this we must develop the organizing capacity of LUEL’s rank-and-file. Our membership must be able to connect with the rank-and-file, not just in their own workplace, but anywhere the workers’ struggle will take us. We’ve long encouraged our members to join the National Writers Union (NWU) and get themselves a Press Pass which will ease their ability to speak with regular workers with minimum hostility. This is necessary because workers are increasingly less likely to trust so-called outsiders after decades of effective anti-union brainwashing. But, this is only one aspect of the struggle we must partake in.

Rank-and-file movements have been a fixture in the labor movement for decades. The most well-known of these movements are groups like Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) & Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) who—with the help of federal crackdowns of extremely corrupt bureaucrats—successfully elected both Sean O’Brien and Shawn Fein as their International Presidents. These new leaders show promise, but the jury is still out on whether they will ultimately be a positive impact on the American working class. Though we may not be sold on their leadership just yet, we must organize a robust rank-and-file movement that will be the struggle behind Shawn Fein’s laudable goal of a National Strike on May Day 2028.

This rank-and-file movement will not be a movement of “troublemakers”; we will be a disciplined force of class-oriented trade unionists who will not stand down until we have a truly working-class led state of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is why the goal I stated earlier of truly building Labor Today as the voice of the class-oriented working class is so important, as it will help us develop the class consciousness of workers we are not personally engaged with on a regular basis. It can also help us in our aims of building the class consciousness of the workers we are in regular contact with. In my organizing internally within my own local, I have used Labor Today as a tool in helping my coworkers develop a class-oriented perspective.

Another tool I’ve used is the Them and Us Unionism pamphlet put out by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union (UE) which gives a brief, yet strong overview of their concept of rank-and-file unionism. LUEL needs to start developing our own resources like this, as well as, Shop Steward and organizing manuals. We must do this because we must develop true, class-oriented leaders; as opposed to merely troublemakers, who in essence do more to weaken the labor movement than build it.

To continue this aim of growing the labor movement, we must educate and train our members who are not currently in the labor movement – some of which are delegates here today – into the most class conscious group of organizers the labor movement has seen in decades. We must build the confidence within them to first organize their existing workplaces, and then set them out into the most key industries in the nation as experienced organizers ready to lead the fight against capital from the inside.

This fight will not only build the labor movement, but LUEL itself. We must, in the course of this campaign, bring the most advanced class-oriented leaders into our organization which will in turn strengthen our fight. Let’s face it, right now we are small and spread out amongst the country, as we bring in these advanced leaders we will be able to split up our chapters into smaller and smaller geographical areas. This splitting up of chapters to smaller geographical areas will make our task of organizing a robust class-oriented trade union movement that much easier.

We have in the last year made a particular region our primary focus in our organizing goals. In many ways the research we’ve done in our series on the History of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.), for the Harry Bridges School of Labor, made this obvious to us that it is of the utmost importance that we focus on organizing in the South. We made this decision at a time when we still did not have an active chapter in the Southern Region; but it forced us to be proactive and recruit members to not just form the Southern Chapter, but in less than four months build a structure that allowed that chapter to have a delegate here today. The C.I.O. had a Southern Organizing strategy known as Operation Dixie; this plan was largely unsuccessful and abandoned during the McCarthyite period in the U.S. Our National Executive, along with the leadership of the Southern Chapter must work together in studying Operation Dixie and analyze why it failed and work to form a new plan that will turn the largely anti-union South into a class-oriented force to be reckoned with.

But as important as it is to increase our presence within the American labor movement it is just as important to connect our struggle with the international class-oriented trade union movement. That is why we passed earlier today the goal to affiliate with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU). Established in 1945, the WFTU is leading the fight of class-oriented trade unionism throughout the world. It cannot be forgotten that our very own C.I.O. was intimately involved with the formation of the WFTU, not long before the Business Unionists within its leadership consolidated power in collaboration with the forces of McCarthyism I mentioned earlier to expel all class-oriented trade unionists in its ranks. This lead to the C.I.O. abandoning the WFTU and working with the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) to form what today is the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) which is a yellow unionist front to protect the profits of US based capital and subjugate the international working class.

In closing, I know many of the goals laid out here today seem impossible to attain. I can ensure you, Comrades; I see many of the seeds for success of this aims already planted as we are assembled here today. But even still, we must aim high in order to strengthen the labor movement to a level not seen in this country since the height of the C.I.O. Like Comrade Dirte said earlier, we have already come a long way as an organization, and with the resolve we’ve already shown I have the utmost confidence that we can achieve our lofty goals. Just this past week, we decided to alter our schedule for the Harry Bridges School of Labor to ensure that right out of the gate from this Congress, our organizing goals are made a priority by making our next Session – which we rescheduled to the second week in May so we can be on the ground for May Day – to build off of our class last year on Internal Organizing where we will focus on building a strong rank-and-file movement. I must say before I go that I am extremely proud of the work we already put in in the last few years in which we turned what was then called Labor United for Class Struggle around from the floundering organization it was to Labor United Educational League, an organization on the verge of cementing its place in an increasingly militant U.S. Labor Movement.

Onward to building a Class-Oriented Trade Union Movement!