what is the union bureaucracy?

14 11 2009

by Alberto Durango, a Colombian cleaner activist whose involvement in militant organising initiatives has earned him the wrath of sub-contractor cleaning companies and the Unite union bureaucracy alike. Leerlo en castellano.

burocracia

There are very few means by which the working class can arm itself with a political tool which educates the class and helps it fight the crooks who, disguised as its defenders, betray it, sell it out and make deals over its interests with the bosses. With this tribune I want to contribute something, so that those workers who come across this information might use it as a starting point for directing a discussion about the trade union bureaucracy, this great enemy of the working class, so that they can organise to combat it. First of all therefore we have to understand what characterises the trade union bureaucracy.

The trade union bureaucracy does not practice democracy among the workers. It does not consult the workers affiliated to the union, or those being represented, on its actions, attitudes and decisions, but always reaches deals with the bosses on the backs of the workers. The union bureaucracy conducts its discussions with the bosses and collective agreements without witnesses in flash restaurants: or for less important problems, in the bosses’ offices, behind closed doors. They sign deals and contracts without workers’ participation.

The trade union bureaucracy terrorises union members. When workers criticise them they are hounded, threatened and intimidated, and subjected to psychological terrorism: or else they make sure they are put out of work. The bureaucracy is the enemy of workers’ assemblies and participation on the part of the workers.

The trade union bureaucracy does not itself organise, nor does it allow the workers to fight, and when it does allow an action on the part of the workers it is because it feels pressured. When the demands are sufficiently justified and it fears the workers will supersede it, then it acts as a straitjacket. In other cases when the bureaucracy allows an action on the part of the workers it is simply to exact pressure on the boss so that the latter caves to the bureaucracy’s own desires. The bureaucracy always seeks to contain workers’ struggles, telling the workers not to fight and to maintain an atmosphere of peace and harmony, accepting the norms and conditions imposed by the bosses.

The trade union bureaucracy is demagogic, always offering things to the workers it never delivers on. It sells out the workers, as it is bought-off and corrupted by the privileges and bribes it receives in return. They also participate in labour inspectorates. If your union leaders behave in anyway like this, well, that is bureaucracy for you. The first task we as workers have is to fight them and kick them out of our unions. With this statement, we take sides with all workers ready to begin a fight to kick these parasites out of our unions.

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12 responses

17 11 2009
odinaka igbokwe

this is a very useful commentary. a helping tool for focusing trade union struggles.

30 11 2009
Judas

Ha Ha …………. ‘subjected to psychological terrorism’ What a joke!

Oh the betrayal, oh the sell out, oh the bureaucracy………… yawn.

Mr Durango which anarcho -trot ghost writer wrote this article for you ?

30 11 2009
David

“Judas”, your comment is ridiculous. Its political substance is that there is never any sell out, that there is never any bureaucracy… so I presume you have not read any of the details of Alberto’s case or the Mitie/Willis dispute. How Alberto was prevented from speaking at the Unite United Left meeting. How they accused him and other cleaners of being paid by the bosses to undermine the union!

Alberto wrote the article himself, what are you talking about?

30 11 2009
Judas

If Alberto Durango wrote this article then i am gabriel garcia marquez.

You also might want to get your facts right because believe me you obviously have absolutely no idea of the T&G/Unite cleaners organising campaign.

Alberto and who has been temporary adopted by Chris Ford for his own sectarian uses gate crashed the United Left meeting, which they had never attended before and demanded to heard. Quite rightly this was turned down by the chair who doesn’t like meetings of trade unionists being hijacked by ultra left opportunists.

Your cults distorted view of the Unite cleaners campaign is a joke and the fools being led by Jake etc have damaged the LAWA which is a real shame because once the anarcho-trots have found fresh carrion to prey on they will be left to rot.

Unite organisers organised the cleaners at Canary Wharf with the help of London Citizens and then the City and the LAWA were late comers, but they were welcomed with open arms. Unite has organised thousands of cleaners and allowed them to organise, gain recognition and gave them a collective voice. At dozens of workplaces they have seen their pay and holidays improve and the culture of hire and fire subside. No-one outside your deluded cult thinks that it has been a disaster and its model has been copied by many other trade unions in the UK and Europe.

As for the other parts of this ghost written article it is pure undulterate BS. Deals done in flashy restuarants? No i remember organisers out at all hours 2am, 5am in the freezing cold being assaulted by security guards and threatened with arrest from the police.

Funny how most of the LAWA volunteers who lets not forget were given a rent free office and paid expenses applied to become full time organisers and part of the bureacracy! When some of them weren’t good enough to make the grade it appears that jealousy and pettiness against their colleague who did make the grade made them vunerable to anarcho-trots to do what they do best by posioning what was something that was positive and based on solidarity into something destructive and twisted.

Unite has a long history of solidarity with workers of the world and currently rents office space to the very successful Cuba Solidarity Campaign. Fortunately they have never allowed themselves to hijacked by a cult.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds – why don’t you get some anarcho-trot organisation to fund you now. No even better why don’t you white middle class boys set up your own trade union from the bottom up, its not that difficult and as long as you don’t breach TUC poaching and encroachment rules i wish you luck.

1 12 2009
David

So the Unite bureaucracy support bureaucrats in Cuba but not workers in Britain – what a surprise! Sorry, is that meant to be evidence of left-wing credentials?

“Cult” – I don’t understand. I also don’t understand the claim that Alberto didn’t write the article, to me that assertion stinks of a patronising attitude.

14 12 2009
ricardo gallo

Judas Scarioty or Jose Vallejo, How much did you get paid for this articule????

14 12 2009
ricardo gallo

jajajajaj, Judas i,it’s time you are hung your self, you already betrayed you own class. Jack dromey will paid you well.

14 12 2009
ricardo gallo

I recommend every one to read “latin american workers in unite: from heroes to pariahs” and take your own conclusions

9 01 2010
Jake.

As Alberto says, these issues are explained more fully at http://thecommune.wordpress.com/?s=pariahs

Could ‘Judas’ be the same union officer who openly told Unite cleaners branch members that workers who protested Alberto’s dismissal and fitting up by Lancaster and UKBA, as well as being involved in other protests such as those against the SOAS and Willis immigration raids were in the pay of the bosses? Or perhaps he is just a very close ally. Either way, it is really difficult to treat as credible something written by someone who would say or support that kind of thing.

I presume Judas also supported an organised campaign within sections of Unite’s officialdom to attack the Willis cleaners pickets? In contrast to the solidarity of workers and activists who supported the Willis pickets, we had the ‘solidarity’ of officers and their bag carriers trying to persuade members and other trade unionists that they should turn on their own brothers and sisters. Of course, all this time, effort and money was only spent because they noticed that this campaign had a strong degree of support, as made evident for example at the Latin American community meeting in Elephant and Castle in April 2009. And the campaign was directed at the companies involved, not the union – “Mitie, Willis – shame on you” was the chant. But when a petition was raised to ask for union support, that could not be tolerated. How dare they! War was declared.

Judas talks about organisers being out in the cold at two in the morning, which is admirable. But being out every week in rain or shine for six months without being paid for it, under attack from your own union leaders as well as two corporations and their lawyers, that’s bravery too. By the way, bureaucrats can actually work very hard: climbing the ladder and slandering and expelling anyone who gets in their way. One thing they are good at is making themselves appear the victim while using every buraucratic means at their disposal (position and influence) to attack their opponents. They dont call it the bullyocracy for nothing.

And these attacks have led to what we have now: attempts to discipline or expel anyone who doesn’t follow the line. First LAWAS is expelled from Unite’s offices for supporting an unofficial dispute (Willis) and a papers for all position (on the May 4 amnesty march); then attempts are made to expel individuals in closed committee meetings. The bad news for Judas is we’re not going anywhere just yet – although we’re sure he’ll try his best. There are still too many good, supportive people still in Unite, including officers and organisers, for us to want to leave!

Judas puts forward two conspiracy theories which show that despite his position he really doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know, the facts.

The first conspiracy theory is that LAWAS was somehow ‘ok’ until taken in an extremist (‘anarcho trot’) direction. The recent disputes involving latino workers. These began in the workplace. They were driven by the workers involved who believed they had no option but to fight, with union support preferably, but without it otherwise. LAWAS and others supported them just as it had supported officially backed disputes in the past. Union officers made statements about ‘small groups’ or ‘radical groups’ being involved, yet never named these groups. A classic case of ‘redbaiting’ perhaps. People like ‘Judas’ can’t believe that migrant workers might think for themselves and even dissent – that is why he doesn’t believe Alberto could write the above article!

The second conspiracy theory is that the whole problem between LAWAS and Unite arose because LAWAS members were jealous that one of their comrades (Jose Vallejo) got a job with the union and they didn’t. This is an attempt to distract from his own appalling part in organising a top-down public campaign against the Willis workers, Alberto and eventually LAWAS, as well as being extremely patronising to all the workers active in LAWAS over the years.

The fact is Mr Vallejo got a job with Unite in 2005, around the same time some of us applied and didnt get organisers jobs. But so what? Years went by without any serious personal conflict. However after his appointment as the union’s link person to LAWAS in 2008, and the departure of other key organisers who worked closely with LAWAS, there was a breakdown in communication between Justice for Cleaners and LAWAS. In 2009, he and fellow officers went on the offensive against LAWAS and others for their support for the Willis workers and the demand of papers for all. Alberto in particular was viciously victimised – by both his employer and his union officer.

The United Left meeting at which he was prohibited from speaking is an example of that. The request for Alberto to speak had actually been made plenty of time beforehand by a branch, but it was wilfully ignored and instead preparations were made to ensure it could not happen. Hence the vote against him speaking – although there was an admirable level of support for him too.

It is laughable that Judas should mention that Unite paid expenses to LAWAS volunteers as if the union was doing them a favour, when these volunteers were recruiting people hand over fist, and doing difficult work with members that officers did not have time for. LAWAS’s mistake was probably to allow this situation to go on for so long, and to remain in such a vulnerable position whereby Unite could ‘employ’ these volunteers on expenses but then ‘sack’ them in the manner of the worst employers out there and close down the operation as soon as any dissent appeared, only to the reopen the office with handpicked staff. Such are the dangers of clientelist relationships.

Finally noone is saying the Justice for Cleaners campaign was a disaster, after all everyone in LAWAS took part in different ways. But it is not above criticism, and last year its leaders seemd to take a vicious turn that made them look like the same old tinpot dictators rather then the leaders of anything different from what had gone before.

Latin American Workers Association:
http://www.lawas.org.uk

10 01 2010
LIZCANO

they can not denied ,what they are ! everything they do

is in their benefit and again of the workers.

they have prostituted themselves for money ,power and the labour party.

the used empty words like solidarity ,but do not practiced.

hey old boy judas / vallejo ! is time 4 you to retired !
THE UNION IS THE WORKERS !! NOT JUDAS/ VALLEJO/HART/DROWMY /TRAITORS !

10 01 2010
ricardo gallo

Que viva la clase trabajadora “Saquemos de nuestros sindicatos a los traidores de nuestra clase”…..

!Fuera Burocratas……..

11 01 2010
Mario Marin

No wonder why the grass root members every day feel more distant from their union representatives and idenfitied the union’s big bosses as representatives of a burocracy rather than their members. Any similarity with the Labour party?




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