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Union Corruption 4/21/06

PEACESMITHS MONTHLY COMMUNITY FORUM & BOOK PARTY CELEBRATING ROBERT FITCH'S PATHFINDING NEW BOOK ON UNION CORRUPTION: Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America's Promise BY ROBERT FITCH

THE AUTHOR WILL SPEAK ON THE TOPIC OF HIS BOOK AND THEN HAVE A DISCUSSION WITH THE AUDIENCE. HE WILL ALSO SIGN ALL OF THE BOOKS THAT ARE PURCHASED BY MEMBERS OF THE AUDIENCE

FRIDAY APRIL 21 , 2006 AT 8 P.M.
AT FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
25 Broadway/Route 110, Amityville, NY
(southmost end near Montauk Highway/Merrick Road)
The last church on the left

Suggested Donation $8, more if possible, less if necessary
More information call (631) 798-0778

PeaceSmiths is proud and honored to have Robert Fitch speak at our next forum about his new book. We especially invite rank and file members of labor unions to come and join in the discussion.

Solidarity for Sale will challenge all of our previous conception of the nature of the American labor movement and why it is so weak in comparison to unions in Europe. We believe that Robert Fitch's book, Solidarity for Sale, will also pose a challenge for Left-wing union activists, because he asserts in the book that they have also been effected by the feudalistic structure of the American trade union movement: "Call it the Roach Motel syndrome. The leftists go in but they don't come out. They enter as revolutionaries determined to create a social movement. Those who survive the ordeal of industrialization become plain and simple union reformers. But eventually, if they build a base or move up in the hierarchy, it's because they're adjusted pretty thoroughly to the demands of a corrupt patron-client system."

See also the interview of Robert Fitch in the current issue of Monthly Review, Michael D. Yates, "What's the Matter with U.S. Organized Labor? An Interview with Robert Fitch".,

SOLIDARITY FOR SALE, How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America's Promise by ROBERT FITCH is a fascinating, definitive history and analysis of American labor union corruption, and an urgent call for social justice, that reads at times like a thriller.

American labor unions have been, it turns out, shot through with corruption from their very inception. They never really had a Golden Age. From "Big Jim" Colosimo, the patron saint of Chicago's Mafia, to Brooklyn's Sammy "The Bull" Gravano a century later, organized crime has controlled huge swaths of the mainline labor movement. It still does.
Impassioned, revelatory, prodigiously researched and reported, and thoroughly convincing, Solidarity for Sale shows how the American labor movement's decent ends are continually undermined by its tawdry means – a diet of daily corruption longer than the menu at a Long Island diner.

By telling the untold histories, uncovering the covered-up scandals, and even recommending a way forward, Robert Fitch builds a devastating indictment and goes beyond it to show that union corruption, stagnation, and decline are not our national destiny. Labor could regain its needed place in American life. But it would require a set of reforms deeper than anything now being proposed; nothing less than a revolutionary overthrow of its culture of corruption and its replacement by a civic culture of accountability and consent.

Robert Fitch joined the Laborer's Union, Local 5 in Chicago Heights, Illinois when he was fifteen years old. He eventually traded his shovel for a briefcase and has since taught at Cornell and New York University, organized for the unions, and written for The Baffler, Newsday, Village Voice, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The Nation . Still a union member, he lives in New York.

Here is an brief exceprt from the book:

Just as the kings of the House of Atreus could never tell their subjects about the curse that had been levied upon them by the gods, leading to five generations of family crimes and mayhem, the leaders of the House of Labor cannot talk about the crimes of their ancestors because they owe their rule to those ancestors. There can be no recognition that they have been beset by five generations of racketeering, mob rule, bribery and extortion, job selling, and simple thievery.

Of course not all the members of the fiftyfour-member AFL-CIO Executive Council are corrupt. But silence undermines even those leaders who foreswear kickbacks and manage to survive on their six-figure salaries. Because while it is completely unmentionable, corruption is most often at the root of the mentionable problems. Understood properly, it could reveal why American union leaders cannot organize, win strikes, offer a progressive political agenda, keep labor standards from falling, or reform themselves.

Corruption, properly understood as the private use of public office, has been built into the labor movement from its very inception. When union corruption appears in the press, it's usually because of illegal acts: the outright pilfering of union assets or collusion with the boss, selling the members' jobs or giving away their benefits. But a lot of corruption is legal – hiring your relatives, taking excessive salaries, hiring hall favoritism.

It was the same for the rulers of unions like the Teamsters, the Laborers, and the United Food and Commercial Workers. After Jim Hoffa regained the "Marble Palace" Teamster headquarters of his father, James R. Hoffa, the new Hoffa-hired Ed Stier, a former U.S. Attorney to head an internal anticorruption task force. Stier tried to probe alleged second-generation Chicago mob ties but had to charge Hoffa with stonewalling the investigation. The scams were traditional?kickbacks to allow companies to hire non-union drivers, kickbacks from members to get favored jobs. Mobsters even communicated with union dissidents in traditional Outfit style – a .44 caliber bullet in an envelope meant "Stop passing out leaflets." In case dissident John Pavlak, who'd criticized incumbent president Dominick Romanazzi, missed the symbolism, the envelope also contained a written message: "You are dead."

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