The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another icon bites the dust?

Right and left, they all have them - and they come in all shapes and sizes. Rosa Parks and Terri Schiavo (who only became an icon years after she lost touch with the world), to name but two.

Generally, the stories associated with these icons are, at best, ones with which the facts are strictly prohibited from interfering. Or, more usually, a pack of lies.

Another left icon (the facts of whose life I know not, and thus do not speak to) is Cesar Chavez, founder of what eventually became the United Farm Workers union.

Miriam Pawel of the LA Times has a series running that places a bomb under both the UFW and its legendary founder. Under heds Farmworkers Reap Little as Union Strays From Its Roots , Linked Charities Bank on the Chavez Name and Decisions of Long Ago Shape the Union Today (one part of a four part series to come), she seems to have good stuff. The series title is UFW: A Broken Contract.

The unions in the US is a fascinating topic that I've touched on from time to time before (for instance, the truly evil CCPOA excited my ire for some time till I realised that Golden State citizens don't give a flying one about it), but more generally have been handicapped (not for the first time!) by a lack of actual knowledge.

If Pawel's work stands up, it might be something to come back to.


American exceptionalism has applied to its trade unions as much as anything else.

The growth of the AFL as a group of lily-white, craft-only unions, with industrial workers - miners, say - struggling to make much headway until the advent of the NRA's famous section 7(a) and (after NRA was held unconstutional), the Wagner Act; a spurt of activity - a Popular Front operation in the CIO, working to reelect FDR in states lacking a Tammany machine - and then having the rug pulled from under them by the full employment of the war years. And then Taft-Hartley, corruption, relocations to the hard-to-unionise South - all that jazz.

The unions should be a key element in Democratic Party politics and campaigning. Comparatively, you rarely hear talk of them in lefty circles online. The star of the SEIU's Andy Stern, Great White Hope of union revival and effective Dem linkage, seems to have slipped a bit since I was writing about him here last year. His profile on the lefty sites I've been looking at since my return to online seems more discreet than earlier bold talk might have suggested.

I have a feeling that there's a CW amongst lefty rags (Nation, American Prospect, etc) that union stories are both boring and unlikely to help the Dem cause. If so, they'd be half right.

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