Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Solidarity Forever

Joe Hill Moose ponders the international importance of unions.

One of the most under-reported international stories is the role of the Iranian unions in the movement for human liberty in that country. For instance, on Monday, thousands of Iranian workers protested against the regime's denial of union rights. They defied the regime' security forces and crashed government approved demonstrations to denounce the attacks on striking bus drivers.

This burgeoning Iranian union movement is certainly not the equivalent of the old Polish Solidarity, but it does offer hope of an internal opposition to the mullahs. And some American unions, notably the Teamsters, have been actively offering support to their Iranian brothers and sisters.

During the Cold War, labor unions were a critical factor in our struggle against communism. The International Affairs Office of the AFL-CIO was hardcore against the reds when many in the business community went south in its pursuit of profits. The American labor movement provided important support for Solidarity in its battle against their Communist rulers which helped precipitate the fall of totalitarianism in eastern Europe.

One of the Moose's favorite blogs, Harry's Place , makes this critical point about the universality of union and worker's rights,

"We at Harry's Place frequently point out the hypocrisy of those on the Left who denounce repressive practices of Western and pro-Western governments while excusing "anti-imperialist" regimes which do the same or worse. It's also worth noting the hypocrisy of those on the Right who support labor struggles in countries like Iran (and, in the 1980s, Poland) while turning tepid or hostile when the struggles are closer to home."

Indeed, one of the most critical factors in exacerbating the imbalance of economic power in America is the decline of American unions. While the Moose has differences with organized labor on such issues as protectionism and school choice, he recognizes their importance not just to worker's economic rights, but also to the cause of international freedom.

There is little discussion, even on the left-wing blogosphere, of the cause of the American labor movement. That is unfortunate. Mooseketeers should lend their support to a major union initiative, the Employee Free Choice Act, which "would strengthen protections for workers’ freedom to choose by requiring employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign cards authorizing union representation. It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and authorize stronger penalties for violation of the law when workers seek to form a union. "

America needs a strong labor movement in the tradition of George Meany that opposesss tyrants abroad and supports economic justice at home. And we should show our solidarity with the Iranian workers in their struggle against the mullahs.

Solidarity forever!
-- Posted at 8:18 AM | Link to this post | Email this post