In a local struggle such as the Daley lockout in Decatur, Illinois, the townspeople have just as much to win, lose, or gain as the workers themselves. This forms the basis for much of the support townspeople offer to the workers being locked out. If the workers ultimately lose their jobs, the local economy loses valuable income and taxes, and all businesses that depend upon disposable income will suffer. That will include anyone in the service sector, such as restaurants and small retail.
In addition, another argument the local citizens would have to support the workers is the meaning of the word local: many of the citizens either had family members who were being locked out, or at the least had very close friends (Ashbury & Hawking, 2009). This emotional bond allows for joint suffering and joint support. This also creates a tighter ‘us v. them’ mentality in which the company is further demonized. Unfortunately this sort of argument cuts both ways: local people who work at the plant need their income.
There is no other place to offer them the employment and benefits (especially long term like retirement) that they have accumulated. It would be difficult to lose and lose and not cross the picket lines. In the end, unemployment is unemployment and realities often trump ideals – even if it means crossing against locals and friends. I hope that I would hold out and support the locked out Staley workers. That is what my intention would be. Especially having watched the actual footage of events, I would like to think that I would show solidarity and human compassion for these people and their basic human rights.
Finally, as is probably obvious from my answer, I think that the activists led by Watts held the right stance. The locality of unions always makes the strongest defense of local interests and municipalities. 2. Dave Watts did, in retrospect, declare that the Staley lockout and protests by the workers was a winnable fight (Ashbury & Hawking, 2009). I do not know that this is in fact true. The workers would have had to be on the receiving end of several changes in conduct – and these changes were outside of the local union control. By way of strategy, the local union did everything that they could.
They did not simply sit down together and hope for the best. They organized themselves, and then organized their plans. The most positive thing they did was to send out their ‘soldiers’ to outside groups and unions nationwide. Had they received the support of the other unions, whether by coming to Decatur, or each of them sponsoring picket lines at their own unions and localities, their fight would have been possessed of much more power and efficacy. That big if, however, did not come to fruition. Another positive thing they did was to link their struggle to the civil rights movement.
This engaged a very important part of the civil sector, and really should have drawn more government attention in a positive way. This, too, obviously did not work. It was the right thing to do, however. Since these things were ultimately ineffective, the locals never were able to take away from the power positions of the Staley bureaucracy. I think that the biggest obstacle the Staley workers faced, and other unions face even today (or even especially today) is that large companies provide great amounts of tax revenue. This money is not only important for the local municipality but for the state itself.
Thus it was no big surprise to see not only the Decatur police force show up to protect the plant, but the Illinois State Police, as well. It would seem outrageous for police to engage nonviolent protestors, but in light of this monetary point, it is a sad reality. ? 3. Somehow the local unions need to organize themselves with other local unions without organizing. This seems extremely counterintuitive, but must be so. Once hierarchies and larger structures are built between unions, the decision making and ownership becomes farther and farther removed from the actual workers.
It becomes a business of its own instead of a representational movement. That lack of activity, that lack of movement is what dooms actions like the Staley protests. It was heartening that individual workers from other unions showed up (Ashbury & Hawking, 2009), but had this occurred with a wide variety of unions, there would have been much more pressure and attention brought to the Staley Corporation; perhaps this pressure could have yielded the contract they needed. I did learn much about the fight of organized labor against corporations, but it was not a positive learning process.
I have become more cynical about the effectiveness of unions, and have begun to doubt whether unions are now just prepared to accept the 2nd or 3rd offer from a business, rather than truly fight for workers’ rights. I think that the corporations know this as well and the result is a well orchestrated dance of supposed holdout. It all seems a sham. I have also learned that the individual union members are being way too sheltered from the struggle and depend on stewards and representatives to just take care of things for them.
This depends upon the belief that these stewards are actually acting on the worker’s best interest, and I do not know if that is actually true. Maybe the workers just aren’t involved enough to even know for themselves. Entering this course I did not really believe that unions were all that helpful, and thus far I still haven’t changed my thinking. ? References Ashby, S. , & Hawking. C. (2009). Staley: The Fight for a New American Labor Movement. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.