The union leadership of Local 1600 is making the rounds around the seven City Colleges of Chicago with the rallying cry of labor peace. They know that the tentative agreement that they are asking their members to ratify in the blink of an eye gives away a significant chunk of hard-won union rights and guarantees. Important things that have been in place for many, many years. They know that. They know that the membership will have to live with the consequences of such a surrender for many years and that no one in their right mind would spontaneously make these concessions. So what’s left? Fear.
The only thing the campaign for a yes vote has to offer is fear. Fear that catastrophe will ensue if this miserable offer is not taken now. That the administration will come for everything else that remains in the contract. That mysteriously people won’t be able to say NO to an even worse offer and fight together against it. In a twisted logic, the things that are not being sacrificed yet in the tentative agreement are being highlighted as if they were fresh gains. And the recompense will be labor peace.
But what does labor peace on these terms mean? In whose interest is this type of labor peace? Who is maneuvering behind the scenes for this labor peace?
There is a sad prequel to this story. As readers of this blog may remember, back in March we described how the union that represents the clerical and technical workers of the CCC, Local 1708, was ambushed into signing a terrible contract. Unfortunately, this defeat was facilitated by the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL). As we wrote in this March post:
As 1708 grappled with the possibility of going on strike in a few days, the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) intervened. They told 1708 to sit tight, while they approached the Mayor. Their conditions: that 1708 did not polarize things and that it did not criticize the Reinvention.
Thus rather than getting ready to gather forces to support 1708’s fight as a portent of things to come, the CFL pressured 1708 into accepting a rotten deal.
It is a tragedy that things ended up this way. The other unions currently negotiating with the CCC bosses have now a more uphill battle: AFSCME, SEIU and IBEW. Soon enough they will be joined by CCCLOC, representing the adjunct faculty. They need to become aware that the script is not written in stone, that the CFL is supposed to be there to represent us, not to suffocate us. That it still is up to us to fight a full fight because if we don’t we are screwed. And because every time we get screwed, everyone else gets screwed too.
It is tragic, how unfortunately correct our assessment of the logical consequences has turned out to be. And it gets uglier, for it is a fact that, yet on another errand for the Mayor, the CFL brought together last week CCC Chancellor Hyman and Local 1600 president Buckley, over and over. Until this grand Tentative Agreement was hashed out. This is the epicenter of the virtuous quest for labor peace.
A labor peace that provides peace only to the bosses’ side (and to the union bureaucrats who get to duck yet another struggle). A peace that guarantees that our side won’t resist. A peace that that doesn’t provide peace of mind to the teachers, professionals and their families, who will have to feel on their flesh everyday for five years the violence of the consequences of this despicable contract. Some kind of peace.
One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that anything that is given away in this contract won’t be in the way to impede the unending demands for more that will come in the next one. When is it that you are supposed to draw a line on the sand if labor peace is the most important principle?Labor peace is a euphemism for let’s not fight. But the origins of Local 1600 back in the 1960s stand out as an example of the willingness to fight. If labor peace had been the guiding principle, Local 1600 would have never been born.