[Plura-list] Teamsters transformed

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Nov 19 15:10:29 EST 2021

Read today's issue online at: https://pluralistic.net/2021/11/19/hoffa-jr-defeated/

Today's links

* Teamsters transformed: Militant labor is strong labor.

* This day in history: 2001, 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading


🌹 Teamsters transformed

It's one (true) thing to say that American union membership is down - that's a quantifiable, objective proposition. It's another to say that American unions are weak - and contrariwise, that unions are getting stronger. That's a lot more abstract and harder to pin down.

If you'd like an unrolled version of this thread to read or share, here's a link to it on pluralistic.net, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:


But here's a nice, concrete version of what it means for a union to be weak, and for it to be getting stronger: the Teamsters election, in which a clutch of do-nothing, sellout lifers were ousted from their cushy offices by a coalition of militant challengers who made specific, meaningful promises about what they would change.

For years, the 1.3-million member Teamsters has been (mis)ruled over by James P Hoffa and his cronies. Under Hoffa's leadership, the Teamsters negotiated a string of objectively terrible deals, including deals that created two-tier union members. These deals create a pool of workers who owe full union dues, but whom the union does not fully protect. They draw lower wages, have worse benefits and retire on worse pensions. Two-tier employment is how bosses break unions, by ensuring that all the members who join after a certain date don't value the union and won't fight to preserve it.

The John Deere strike that just settled was fought over creating a third (!) tier of workers.


Same with the California Kaiser nurses' strike:


Smart union organizers know that two-tier employment is slow suicide. Stupid union organizers don't know this, or they don't care.

The Hoffa administration gutted the union's capacity while lining its pockets - many union officers held multiple positions within the union (allowing them to draw multiple salaries), leading to chronic underperformance of core union functions.

Pretty much the only thing Hoffa and his cronies were good at was suppressing militant union organizers, sidelining Teamsters for a Democratic Union and Teamsters United, and firing their members from positions of power in the union.

After years of tireless organizing, TDU and TU have won a *smashing* victory in national elections - their slate is tipped to have more than 70% of the vote.


Region by region, the TDU/TU slate racked up impressive gains: in 2016, they took the South and Central regions with 57-59%; this year it was 71/72%. In the East region, they went from 43% to 75%.

How did they increase that support? By promising to make the Teamsters into a *strong* union, not just a *big* union. The TDU/TU platform includes organizing Amazon drivers, withdrawing support from politicians who sell out the union, abolishing the two-tier system, increasing UPS driver starting pay from $14 to $20/h, and cracking down on worker misclassification programs that treat "personal vehicle drivers" as "independent contractors."

They're also killing the practice of having a single person hold multiple union offices, meaning that warehouses will get full-time division reps, rather than a hybrid division-rep/business agent.

They're going to shift the emphasis to local organizers, rather than shipping organizers around the country - building organizing capacity on the ground, everywhere, that will stay in the shop after the campaign is over.

Under the presidency of Sean O'Brien, the Teamsters promise that they'll organize waste workers in the south, and expand grocery unions beyond Costco and Krogers.

That's what a *strong* union looks like. It is focused on delivering material benefits to working people by organizing workers and using their combined power to shift money from wildly profitable businesses to the workers whose labor generates those profits.


🌹 This day in history

#20yrsago Walt Disney World gets wifi https://web.archive.org/web/20020205093452/www.computerworld.com/storyba/0,4125,NAV47_STO65816,00.html

#5yrsago The Snoopers Charter is now law in the UK: “extreme surveillance” rules the land https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper

#5yrsago When Mike Pence came to Hamilton, the cast added a special afterword, just for him https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/19/us/mike-pence-hamilton.html

#1yrago Tyson execs bet on covid spread in unsafe plant https://pluralistic.net/2020/11/19/disneymustpay/#you-bet-your-lifehttps://pluralistic.net/2020/11/19/disneymustpay/#disneymustpay


🌹 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/).

Currently writing:

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Yesterday's progress: 270 words (31449 words total)

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 521 words (40395 words total).

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: The Unimaginable (https://craphound.com/news/2021/11/15/the-unimaginable/)

Upcoming appearances:

* The Kids Are (Kinda) All Right (San Diego Comic-Con), Nov 28

* Internet Governance Forum (Warsaw), Dec 10

Recent appearances:

* Move Fast and Fix Things (Aaron Swartz Day)

* Tales From the Bridge:

* Seize the Means of Computation (Internet Archive):

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1562/_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer.html.

Upcoming books:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

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