Target Unionization Drive Opens Up a Realm of Possibilities

This original article by Toilers’ Struggle’s author is being republished as part of the reorganization process. 

Despite the setback in Madison, the working class has remained resilient in its fight to defend its organizations. Even Target, one of the largest retail corporations in America, has been besieged recently by frustrated workers clamoring for the right to join a union.

In Valley Stream, New York, 260 Target employees fought to join the largest retail union in the nation, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), claiming that Target was illegally “intimidating” them. Such measures included the threat of dismissal to those who discussed unionization and the banning of any pro-union buttons.

Accusative fingers have been pointed back and forth between Target and the union – Target claiming that the unionization movement was merely an attempt by a fired employee to “get back” at Target, while the union claimed that dozens of workers themselves pushed for an election.

Statements from both sides have further outlined the defined sides of the issue.

UFCW president Bruce Both said that “Target did everything they could to deny these workers a chance at the American Dream. However, the workers’ pursuit of a better life and the ability to house and feed their families is proving more powerful. These workers are not backing down from this fight. They are demanding another election.”

As for Target, spokeswoman Molly Snyder rebutted with: “Target absolutely believes we have followed all the policies and procedures that are outlined by the National Labor Relations Board in a completely lawful manner.”

If the vote had favored those in support of unionization, and the pro-union workers had won, Valley Stream’s store would have been the first of 1,700 Targets throughout the nation to get organized. It is from this event that a key question comes to light: how can workers fight back against exploitation and get organized without getting hemmed in by the class collaborationist policies of the labor bureaucracy?

Bob Hess, a UFCW labor organizer in Minnesota, gave a statement on this phenomenon saying that: “For unions to effectively confront corporate behemoths, we’ve got to quit playing by the National Labor Relations Board rules. We have to build something in the store that can achieve victory without having to go to the board every time someone sneezes.” Hess is more than right when it comes to what is needed to efficiently fight the bosses, because he refers to “something in the store that can achieve victory without having to go to the board…” and this “something” is the key to being successful in the “guerrilla warfare,” as Marx termed it, that is the struggle between the workers’ unions and the bosses.

So what exactly is this special means of asserting power that is needed? It’s quite simple: a rank-and-file movement embracing democratically elected committees of workers committed to carrying on the fight independent of the interests of the bureaucracy.

There can be no reliance on “passive” means of pressuring investors and corporations from the sidelines, separate from the place of actually profit production; the surest way for workers to win union recognition is to establish committees of action in the workplace, uniting all those in struggle regardless of broader political affiliations for the attainment of the immediate goal and winning through the use of militant tactics like strikes, job-site occupations, and picket lines. This would certainly be a way to “quit playing by the National Labor Relations Board rules.”

Battling for unionization at a time of capitalist instability and market pressure leaves no time for bureaucratic speechifying. The unions are weapons in the hands of the workers; they need to utilize them as such. And the only way of doing so and winning the unions back from the bureaucracy is to build a rank-and-file movement that can organize the fight independently of the leaders when they need to and for communist leadership to kick out the reformist bureaucrats and revitalize the unions, transforming them back into organizations of class struggle.

Target workers, and all workers in general, must keep these key ideas in mind as they continue on with their resistance to the capitalists. Quit playing by the National Labor Relations Board rules! The sooner organized labor assimilates this call the better.

July 9, 2011

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