Members of Carpenters Union Local 713 conducted a wildcat strike May 15 to attack a new labor contract that contained pay and benefit givebacks in a time of full employment which the union bureaucrats pushed through without a vote.
The union’s regional council was hoping to rush through the unsatisfactory contract and prevent the workers from voting on it for the first time in the union’s 110 year history. 150 rank and filers invaded the hall where this vote was to take place, chanting “No! No! No!” Days later, 150 more workers voted to go on strike and vowed to pack upcoming union meetings.
The strike lasted four work days, but it had significant impacts. The San Francisco Airport – the largest construction job in California – was shut down. Construction at Pacific Bell Park, Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco, and Microsoft was also slowed down.
“Full time union officials used to be elected and accountable. Now, decisions are increasingly made at the top and the international leadership is sending the message to members that they’ll take care of business. For the rank and file, there is a very real danger that the union will turn into an employment agency to provide labor for the contractors,” said one leaflet.
Unions are extremely important for the working class. Without them, we wouldn’t have the weekend, the 8 hour day, or OSHA standards. Union jobs pay more, are more secure, and have more benefits than non-union jobs. However, it is also important that unions remain true to their ultimate purpose – to protect the interests of the rank and file. This can only happen if unions are run democratically based on one member, one vote with bureaucrats serving the members, not vice versa. The rank and file should rise and ensure that “company unions” are quashed.