Texas Is Moving Fast

Most of the working world is watching Wisconsin to see how their June 5th recall election goes, but a lot is happening in the home state as well.

Voter turnout for the May 29th election is scraping for record lows, consequently even the tiniest effort is magnified in the election results. Union people realize this and are hitting it all the harder. Unions are constrained by very restrictive laws, but they are doing everything they possibly can. Phone banks are underway and activists are driving all over Texas to talk to union members about voting. Some unions have actually negotiated time off for voting, so they tend to be good voters. Union retirees vote in big percentages, as do all seniors, but the difference is that union retirees vote for the more progressive candidates. While union families account for only about 12% of the population nationwide, they have been turning out 25% of the vote. In the May 29 election, they may get an even larger percentage.

The street actions of yesteryear had almost no union participation, but those days are good and gone (thank goodness!). It is a rare picket line or march nowadays that does not have a healthy contingent of union members involved. Likely as not, the President of the Texas AFL-CIO will be a featured speaker! It has been a long time coming, but today's progressive movement is led by working people!

Unions have major problems of their own. As this is written, the Machinists at Lockheed in Fort Worth are in their fourth week of a difficult strike. The older workers there are standing up for the new-hires. I heard today that only 33 scabs have crossed their picket lines -- out of 3,500 strikers! That's phenomenal in a right-to-scab state! Four major unions are involved in fighting activities at American Airlines, the biggest employer in North Texas. The Transport Workers, the Pilots, and the Flight Attendants are trying to avoid the dagger wielded by a bankruptcy judge. The Communications Workers, who have struggled for years to organize American Airlines clerks, find that management thumbs up its nose at labor law and expects to get away with it!

Walmart employees have a winning forumula for organizing today. Previously, a lot of unionists called for boycotting the anti-union company. A boycott may feel good, but it's no way to organize the workers inside. Today, the organizing drive is going full swing and there's no more talk of boycott.

The best news of all is the way that working people are starting to pull together. From about 1947 to 1995, unions pulled further and further apart from one another and, even worse, from the working class as a whole. Since 1995, convergence has been more and more evident. Today in Texas, it is rare to go to a union protest and not see members of other unions there! The working class is on the move, including in our state!

-Jim Lane