The Labor Fightback Network
The national Labor Fightback Conference, held May 10–12, 2013, at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, brought together more than 100 labor, community, and student activists from all over the United States to discuss a plan of action to respond to big business’s assault on working people’s living standards, seniors’ earned benefits, the social safety net for the poor and disabled, and the right to organize and strike. In the last session of the conference, participants agreed to launch the Labor Fightback Network to promote ongoing communication, collaboration, and solidarity. Its Mission Statement follows. If you agree with the Mission Statement, please fill out the endorsement form at the bottom of this page.
In this period of austerity, economic crisis, debt and deficit, crackdown on labor’s rights, and horrendous income inequality — all thanks to the 1% and the politicians who do its bidding — the corporate class is doing everything possible to put the burden of achieving “economic stability” — as they define the term — squarely on the backs of the working class majority. The Labor Fightback Network (LFN), as an integral part of the labor movement, seeks to promote the fightback against the attacks and assaults and to fight for substantial gains in relation to our wages, benefits, working conditions, living conditions, and retirement security by urging a united labor response based on mobilizing the rank-and-file and our community allies in the streets of the country.
Toward this end, we call for ensuring that the labor movement functions independently of any political party or the corporate class. Building an independent labor movement that breaks with the strategy of “shared sacrifice” that is deployed by labor’s adversaries to prevent labor’s fightback is absolutely essential.
We propose mounting a fightback campaign around the following demands:
- Create tens of millions of good paying jobs through a WPA-type program, with emphasis on rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and rehiring laid off teachers and other public workers who are essential to the social safety net. Pay for this and other social programs by such measures as taxing the rich, transaction taxes on stock market exchanges, and slashing military spending;
- Defend labor’s rights and restore those rights trampled on under Taft-Hartley and other repressive anti-labor legislation;
- Return to what once was the bedrock of trade unionism — our unions championing the needs of the entire working class, including the unemployed, not just our dues-paying members. That approach was what enabled the historic labor victories during the depths of the Great Depression. This is not only the right thing to do; with union density at near record lows we cannot win the big struggles just on our own.
- Oppose the concessions and takeaways demanded by the bosses and the government. The key is labor unity starting with the workers immediately affected and extending to building labor solidarity as widely as possible. Community involvement in support of these workers is also a critical factor in waging and winning a struggle to preserve and increase wages and benefits, as well as improved working conditions. It is also essential to recognize that we can no longer effectively deal with such crucial issues as health care and retirement through collective bargaining alone.
- Defend, expand, and improve Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other vitally important safety net programs. No cuts to these programs. Rescind the sequestration;
- Defend, expand and promote civil rights and civil liberties. Stop voter suppression;
- Protect, expand and improve our system of public education — No to privatization;
- Defend immigrant rights with immediate legalization and a rapid and inclusive way for 11 million undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship; an immediate end to all deportations;
- Treat health care as a right, not a commodity. Establish a single-payer health care system that guarantees quality care for all residents, with the parasitic insurance companies eliminated from the system;
- Repeal the trade agreements which off-shore millions of good paying jobs from the U.S. to countries which serve as havens for corporations to exploit low-paid workers laboring under oppressive conditions. Stop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement;
- Redirect war spending to meet human needs. End the unjust wars and occupations;
- Preserve, protect and ensure a clean and healthy environment.
We also urge that the labor movement establish as a top priority organizing the South by allocating the necessary resources for a meaningful and effective campaign. We believe that such an effort must be made now, not put off for another day.
Regarding independent labor political action, we believe that the working class needs its own political voice. Subordination to the Democrats or the Republicans is destructive to the class interests of workers and the labor movement, and robs our movement of progressive ideas and the ability to speak them. The organizational form of independent labor political action will need to be established through a process of education and struggle over time.
The labor movement is in peril today because it has not fully utilized the power it has to fight uncompromisingly, in concert with its community allies, for the kind of program urged in this Mission Statement. Accordingly, we are faced with a stark choice — mobilize or risk extinction as a viable social movement. A united labor movement is critically needed to mount the largest possible mobilizations and to deepen solidarity in the process.
A crucial component of a successful labor fightback campaign is ensuring that our movement practices democratic decision making at all levels. Whether it comes to workers agreeing to or rejecting a company offer or determining a strategy to combat the employers’ offensive, it is the rank and file that must have the decisive say, based on an opportunity for free and full discussion.
We pledge our efforts to help bring about needed changes that will enable the labor movement — together with our community partners — to lead the way to establish a just society that reflects the interests of the overwhelming majority instead of the wealthy 1%. We can make a positive difference if we mobilize working people along with our allies and together fight for our collective interests.
(I) (We) endorse the Labor Fightback Network Mission Statement and agree that there is an urgent need to consider what the labor movement can more effectively do to counter the severe assaults coming down against us that undermine our right to function and impede the building of a strong independent labor movement. Please enter something into each blank space. If there is no information to add, please write “none.” This form requires a valid e-mail address.