US labor law gives employers carte blanche to replace striking workers with scabs, like the Big Three automakers are doing against the UAW right now. But history shows that workers can create their own “law” of the workplace through a culture of solidarity.
Matthew Dimick is professor of law at the University at Buffalo School of Law.
An NLRB decision delivered late last month substantially lowers the legal hurdles to union recognition. But using that opening will require unions to build strong cultures of shop-floor solidarity in the face of employer intimidation.
From the US’s beginnings, progressive forces have tried to use the Constitution to expand democracy and resist rule by the rich. But overcoming oligarchical threats to freedom and democracy requires understanding the structural basis of capitalist domination.
Most proposals to revive the labor movement focus on expanding labor’s rights. But the “rights” framework hampers working-class solidarity and makes unions subordinate to the state. To build working-class power, we should focus instead on labor freedoms.
Bernie Sanders’s Workplace Democracy Act would be a major step forward for the labor movement. But what the movement needs most isn’t stronger government support for unions — it’s greater freedom for workers to strike.