Why the Amazon Union Lost: It Forgot History of the American Worker

On occasion I would read something about the union organizing at the Amazon plant in Alabama and scratch my head and wonder: “Don’t these folk know about the history of union organizing in America?”

About the time the vote got underway Bernie Sanders showed up. If you knew American labor history you would think Jeff Bezos the owner of Amazon paid him to do this.  Bernie’s message was:The reason that Amazon is putting so much energy to try to defeat you is they know that if you succeed here, it will spread all over this country.”  

Now there are two things that immediately stand out about Bernie’s  visit and his message. First, Bernie is looked upon by most Americans as being very close to a Socialist. He calls himself a “democrat socialist.” He fools no one. He does it because he knows running on the Socialist ticket he has no chance of getting elected. The Democrats foolishly let him into their tent.

Next, the workers at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama are not interested in spreading a message all over the country. They are interested in keeping their present job. Little is accomplished if you wave the union flag if you do not have a job yourself. Like politics, all union organizing is local.

Now to top off Bernie, another perceived Socialist, Elizabeth “Free Things” Warren, came into the picture. Amazon picked on her which caused her to take the bait and respond in a tweet: “But you bet I’ll fight to make you pay your fair share. And fight your union-busting. And fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”  (my emphasis)

Warren suggests it is all right if Amazon heckles others like the workers at the plant with “snotty tweets” but not her, a U.S. senator.  Any worker reading this figured she was not interested in them but in stopping senators from being heckled. She put herself in some special category which is clearly not that of the everyday workers at Amazon.

Bernie’s message reflects that of The World Socialist Web Site that states: “The building of rank-and-file committees to fight the sacrifice of lives to corporate profit must be combined with the building of a powerful political movement for socialism and the reorganization of economic and political life to meet the needs of the working class around the world.” 

President Stuart Appelbaum  of the RWDSU union which sought to represent the workers “is an officer of two global union federations.” Its web site noted: “Workers around the world are standing shoulder to shoulder with workers in Bessemer, Alabama”

When unions started organizing in the late 19th century and into the first part of the 20th century the industrialists labeled them as Socialists and Anarchists. Many were immigrants from Eastern Europe who were such. That they were turned the American people against them. Some labor union leaders recognized that those folk in their organization hurt their movement.

Samuel Gompers recognized this when he founded the American Federation of Labor which has lasted to this date where he specifically declared he was against Socialists of all kinds. Gompers in 1902 said he has read their words on economics, studied their philosophy, and closely associated with them for thirty years.  He concluded:  “I declare to you I am not only at variance  with your doctrines but with your philosophy,. Economically you are unsound; socially you are wrong; you are an impossibility.”

John Mitchell the president of the United Mine Workers (UMW) also felt the same. He said in 1902:  “I am not a Socialist, and do not believe in Socialism. I do not believe it would be best for the State to own and operate her coal mines. I am a strict trade-unionist. I believe in progress slowly,—by evolution rather than by revolution.”

He knew, as did Gompers, the unions could not win without the support of the people. Both knew the people would never support Socialists. This was later shown in 1905. The International Workers of the World Union (IWW), also known as the Wobblies, was established. It drew its inspiration from the Russian workers. Its leader Big Bill Haywood favored direct action (violence) over political action. It reached it apex in 1912 with the Lawrence Textile Mill strike. By 1923 Haywood had fled to the Soviet Union where he died and the Wobblies barely survived on life support.

Unions won in the past by rejecting Socialism. To win today  the Socialists or those perceived to be Socialists must stay away.  It is too bad they ruined the chances for the union at Amazon.

7 thoughts on “Why the Amazon Union Lost: It Forgot History of the American Worker

  1. Hutch

    What about Reagan’s “redistribution” of wealth (called the largest since the emancipation of slaves) from the middle class to the upper class. This was not a tax cut; it was a redistribution of tax responsibilities from rich to the middle-class. The revenues were not substantially reduced–just who pays them. Emboldened, he then became the godfather of huge deficits.

    In the thirties a member of my family was instrumental in starting two unions and paid for it dearly.

  2. msfreeh

    Matt
    WOW!

    https://thirdworldtraveler.com/Parenti/Walter_Reuther_DT.html

    The Wonderful Life and Strange Death of Walter Reuther

    excerpted from the book

    Dirty Truths

    by Michael Parenti PhD

    In other news…

    https://chicago.suntimes.com/2021/4/12/22372417/undercount-hate-crimes-fbi-agencies-chicago-editorial

    How the FBI fails to count hate crime in America
    The FBI’s annual report simply can’t be trusted. It fails to tell the full story. The Justice Department and the FBI must strengthen the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act.
    By CST Editorial Board Apr 12, 2021, 12:21pm CDT

    https://news.yahoo.com/skilled-predator-fbi-boss-harassed-164318917.html

    ‘Skilled predator’ FBI boss harassed 8 women, watchdog findsN

  3. DanC

    Hi Matt:
    Agree that Bernie was a small-scale disaster. Here’s the thing: The union estimates that 85 percent of the workers at the Bessemer plant are black. And Bernie just doesn’t appeal to most blacks. You saw this play out in the Democratic primary, when black leaders and voters, by and large, flocked to the Biden banner. Joe’s campaign only got off the ground because of the strong support he received from black voters in South Carolina.

    1. msfreeh

      DanC

      https://theintercept.com/2021/04/12/pro-act-mark-kelly-angus-king-dsa/

      SEN. MARK KELLY IS EMERGING AS AN OBSTACLE TO THE PRO ACT
      Sen. Angus King, meanwhile, has been “inundated” by supporters and opponents of the sweeping labor law reform.
      Ryan Grim
      April 12 2021,

      In other news

      http://internationalcure.org

      Prisons

      https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/04/08/sanders-slams-big-oil-ceo-who-refuses-testify-senate-climate-hearing

      Published on
      Thursday, April 08, 2021
      byCommon Dreams
      Sanders Slams Big Oil CEO Who Refuses to Testify at Senate Climate Hearing
      “These companies are producing a significant percentage of the carbon that we use, which is destroying our planet, and we want to know what they are doing to transform their companies away from fossil fuel.”

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/trumps-ties-to-an-informant-and-fbi-agent-reveal-his-modes-of-operation/2016/09/16/6e65522e-6f9f-11e6-9705-23e51a2f424d_story.html

      Trump’s ties to an informant and FBI agent reveal his mode of operation

    2. DanC

      Permit me to drift off topic by mentioning another shock to the Catholic Church. The Rev. Daniel Lahart, the Jesuit priest who runs Regis High School in Manhattan, has been fired for sexual misconduct. The all-boys school on the Upper East Side is the No. 1 Catholic High School in New York. (Its graduates include Dr. Anthony Fauci.). Even after all the U.S. Church has been through, this was a jaw-dropper. Fortunately, no students were involved. The Regis board said Fr. Lahart had, by words and actions, sexually harassed a number of adults, including members of the Regis staff. What was he thinking?

  4. WILLIAM CONNOLLY

    I worked as a union laborer (summers ’65-66).

    Today, some say Democratic liberalism is akin to socialism is akin to Marxism is akin to Big Brotherism. Are we sliding towards a Socialistic State? At least Bernie honestly defines himself as a socialist. Biden denies it. Biden essentially promotes and imposes almost all of Bernie’s policies. For now, let us not linger upon Biden’s Clean Green Policies and Globalism. Let us ask, “Has America become a Socialistic State; is Biden edging us closer to the brink?”

    Domestically, Biden wants to redistribute wealth, raise taxes on businesses, and expand the power and reach of Government. His autocratic “reverse racist” Executive Orders have already filtered down to Harvard Medical Hospitals ( Brigham & Women’s) which now have adopted a program of “preferential treatment of minorities” See, https://thefederalist.com/2021/04/08/harvard-doctors-promote-race-based-discrimination-in-boston-hospital-in-order-to-be-antiracist/
    (You should read that article, in full)

    Biden and Pelosi are engaged in reverse racism and wealth distribution. For example, HR 1 gives billions to Black farmers and zero to White farmers. Most Americans are opposed to race-based legislation. Most favor helping the poor, regardless of race. Most favor helping businesses hit by Covid, regardless of race.

    Big Brother Biden abets reverse racism, silently endorses the suppression of free speech and free association (ABA and Academia’s “hate speech” codes), and implicitly endorses the suppression of religious freedoms (one Biden appointee has long been after the Little Sisters of the Poor).

    By Biden’s promotion of tax-funding abortions, he imposes his pro-abortion values on all of us. Former Speaker John McCormack, lifelong pro-life, (Congressman from 1927-1971) is responsible for inserting in Civil Rights Acts earlier a similar Hyde Amendment (effective 1980). Hyde prohibited using our tax dollars for abortions.

    Biden embraced Beto O’Rourke, saying he would put Beto in charge of gun regulations, ATF. Biden did not but during primaries openly favored Beto’s rhetoric proposing not just bans but seizure of Americans’ most popular rifles. Biden’s recent “benign” anti-gun executive orders foreseeably portend further encroachments upon the Second Amendment.

    Biden, once pro-life, is now a notorious pro-abortionist (reversing Mexico City Police, Hyde Amendment, proposing codification of Roe v. Wade). Biden is an unprincipled man, a waffler, with a history of war mongering (Kosovo, Iraq), interventionism, and expanding overreach of the Federal Government.

    Biden disrespects Federalism. He thinks he was elected President of the World and Supervisor of all States. Biden forgets the Tenth Amendment which left most powers to the States and People.

    Biden encourages private corporations to support his left-wing views. Biden’s ever encroaching liberalism is now infesting the private sector. Is not aligning and solidifying the liberal Government in lockstep with the leftists in Media, Academia, and Big Businesses the essence of Big Brotherism? Are not we already Socialist-Marxist, or on the brink?

    Do you support BLM’s Marxist policies? Biden apparently does. Do you support “reparations”? Why not first give reparations to the families of those killed in service to America (soldiers, police, firemen, doctors)? Why not reparations for Irish, Jews, Poles and other immigrants discriminated against by No-Nothings?

    When a young man, Thomas Sowell had studied Marxism, he found some merit in it. After his life experiences, including in the U.S. Marine Corp, and working his way through schools to acquire his Ph.D., Doctor Sowell came to understand the evils of socialism and Marxism.

    See, for example, Socialism for the Uninformed, Dr. Thomas Sowell (2015)
    https://www.creators.com/read/thomas-sowell/05/16/socialism-for-the-uninformed
    thanks to a welfare model funded by high taxes, but in spite of it.
    See, too, NBC’s cited article: “Bernie Sanders is wrong on democratic socialism in Sweden and everywhere else. Scandinavia’s success story wasn’t achieved thanks to a welfare model funded by high taxes but in spite of it.” (3/15/2020) Well worth perusing:
    https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/bernie-sanders-wrong-democratic-socialism-sweden-everywhere-else-ncna1158636

    Renounce slavish, knee-jerk loyalty to today’s Democratic Party’s liberalism akin to socialism.

  5. Khalid

    wa-llahi! Gompers and his ilk were not union men. They were labor brokers to the capitalists. Those stuffed suits were almost as bad as the owners they were supposed to be fighting. Up the Wobblies! Our day will come. All praise to Bill Haywood. All power to the dialectic.

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