Cassandra Klewicki builds things. Train platforms. Bridges. And international labor organizations.
Cassy is a concrete carpenter with Local 290, and how she got there was quite a journey. “I’ve worked all over, in six states and 24 countries.” she said. “I worked at a coffee farm in Ecuador. I took seasonal jobs where you live in camps, and afterward I would just travel until I ran out of money. I did a lot of work in state and national parks, doing things like putting up and taking down barriers. That’s where I learned to use hand tools. I worked on hiking and ATV trails, I did some natural resource management—planting bushes and such—as well as doing environmental presentations for kids.”
What is she doing now? “When I moved back to New York I got into the union, with the help of a friend,” she said. “I’ve been with Local 290 for almost five years. It’s great because the carpenters’ union covers both the U.S. and Canada, so I can work in many different places and still pay into the same pension and benefits system. Most recently, especially since COVID, I’ve been working on-site at transportation venues like the LIRR.”
Continue reading Building Bridges with Cassy Klewicki →
On July 3rd, we posted Part II of Nick Unger’s series on union structures, labor history and union member consciousness. As with the first installment, the responses have been rolling in. Here’s a sampling:
From Martin Morand, Professor Emeritus, Industrial and Labor Relations, Indiana University of Pennsylvania:
Nick is painfully correct — as far as he has gone. Since he promises, “Glimpses of new possibilities that might make one less forlorn,” my cavils may be premature. But, “fools rush in…”
As critique this is brilliant — painfully so. Until I see the “new possibilities,” I remain forlorn. As with Occupy, it exposes and labels the enemy without quite providing a solution. Continue reading Response to Nick Unger’s “Unions as Consciousness Builders – Part 2” →
By Nick Unger
Why would one expect American unions to foster a broad insurgent culture? The legal framework, political and organizational for today’s unions goes back almost 80 years. It has always encouraged a culture of accommodation with the needs of production, output and efficiency and discouraged a broad insurgent culture of conflict, turmoil and disruption.
The Wagner Act strictures were not imposed on labor but rather demanded by it. The AFL in the 1930’s was not looking for social conflict and industrial strife but for stabilization. The CIO was looking for the same thing, institutional standing for unions, though they were willing to use disruption as a tactic to get it. The New Deal gave labor what it asked for, institutional protection. Labor gave the New Deal leaders what they needed in return; relatively stable production.
Unions viewed the Wagner Act as a fundamental pillar of American society, almost on the level of the Bill of Rights, like Social Security. Unions were here to stay this time. Public sector unionism’s growth comes from the post-World War 2 expansion of America’s version of a welfare state. Unions treated both the welfare state and the unions of workers who administer it as permanent features of American society more than as contested terrain. Union structures made responding to the growing contest over the terrain more difficult. Continue reading Another go-round on Unions as Consciousness Builders – Part 2: Hello & Goodbye with Far too little In Between →