Surely we can pledge to avoid strikes but I will never recommend that we give up our right to call a strike. In the same regard, I stand against any suggestion of arbitration to end our current impasse. To do so would reward the contractors for their outrageous proposals and their subsequent foot dragging.
Some would have you believe that strikes are archaic, an ancient practice of Unions that is outdated. Perhaps general strikes, where everyone walks off the job, are but a whisper from our past, but targeted, strategic strike actions are the new arrows in Labor Unions’ quiver. Rest assured we will take certain aim and use them wisely.
We did not win our War of Independence by marching in rank and file against the British following classical tactics and rules of war. In fact, we lost every battle when that was our strategy. We beat the Brits with unorthodox methods employed by rebel leaders that honed their military skills on the frontier. Ambush, hit and then run, employ snipers, take out the scouts, guides and then officers in that order, conserve resources, execute a planned retreat, and regroup to fight another day…this is how we won before and it is how we will win once again.
We can not call a general strike because we are bound by national contracts. We can not let food spoil. We can not let health facilities fail. We are committed to support our national defense facilities. The list of exceptions is longer but none of this means that we are powerless in an exercise of a selective strike. We can, as the Patriots did, employ hit and run tactics, conserve resources, execute a planned retreat, and regroup to fight another day. But keep in mind, all of this will require discipline and Solidarity.
Our Local Union stands to be divided because of national contracts and all of the exceptions every time we face a breakdown in negotiations. If we plan a strike action, some would continue to work 40 hours and limit their overtime. Some would be asked to walk the picket lines. Some would continue to support the Pension, Medical, and Apprentice Funds while those that are idle would not. Some would receive a regular paycheck and some would face uncertainty.
The contractors know all of this and are planning their strategy accordingly. We must adjust our strategy and plan accordingly. They want to involve us in their chess game. I’m sorry but I think it wise that we respectfully reject their invite. We are going to continue to play checkers.
How can the membership, in the spirit of Solidarity, fairly and equally share in the burdens placed upon the Union during a strike? One of the simple answers is that we can establish and maintain a Strike Fund, as an ongoing account, held within our General Fund.
There were preliminary discussions at this week’s Executive Board meeting and at the meeting of the Officers of the Local Union on establishing a Local Union Strike Fund. I expect a resolution vote to be offered to the members in attendance at Monday’s Special Called Meeting of the Local Union to affirm a call for a Strike Fund. If affirmed, I will call for a Special Order of Business to be considered at our Regular Meeting of the Local Union on September 7th to help formalize this fund.
Keep this in mind when you vote, no matter which side of the national contractor divide you are now on. Where do you think that you will be a year from now, one contract from now, ten years from now, multiple contracts from now? Life offers very few guarantees except that there will be change. I’ve been on both sides of the divide through the years and I expect that you may find yourselves trading sides at times during your career.
Keep the faith. Keep your powder dry. Maintain discipline and act when called to do so. As long as we act in Solidarity we will remain a Union that is so much stronger than anyone of us. The lyrics of the Union hymn are old but well worth repeating…
“The boss don't listen when one guy squawks, but he's gotta listen when the Union talks.”