By What Authority:

May 2001

By What Authority

Corporate Crime Reporter interview with POCLAD's Peter Kellman

Volume 15, Number 19 Monday May 7, 2001

Corporate Crime Reporter —

asked scholar and labor historian, Peter Kellman, about what he learned as he researched "Building Unions: Past, Present and Future." This new publication from POCLAD describes a fundamentally different theory of organizing, one that gets labor out of the straightjacket imposed by the National Labor Relations and Taft-Hartley Acts. Kellman presents a compelling case for labor law and organizing to be based on the constitutionally-protected, fundamental human rights of free speech, freedom of association, and freedom from involuntary servitude. More than just for labor audiences, "Building Unions" is about leaving behind a regulatory agency (here, it's the NLRB, but it could be the EPA, OSHA, FCC, NRC, ad nauseam); withdrawing hopes and dreams from laws which corporate operatives designed to screw people and vacuum out the planet. Following is the CCR interview:

Since 1953, the percentage of union workers has declined from 26 percent to less than 14 percent.

Yet, given the choice of joining a union or not, 48 percent of workers in this country would join.

So, why isn't the number of unionized workers higher?

According to Peter Kellman, a member of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, getting a corporation to recognize a union is neither a right nor a protected activity.

If it were, the 48 percent of the workforce would become union members, elect officers and start negotiating in a heartbeat, Kellman says.

Americans have the right to strike, true.

But under a little known 1938 Supreme Court decision (NLRB v. Mackay), corporations have the right to permanently replace those workers.

So, what right do workers have?

They have the right to quit.

The right to quit?

Well, remember slavery?

Slaves didn't have the right to quit. We do. So, it's a step up from slavery, Kellman says.

Americans have little understanding of labor history, about the Knights of Labor, about Norris-LaGuardia (labor's Magna Carta), about the "labor amendment to the Constitution" (the 13th), about how the 14th Amendment has been used to protect corporations far more than to protect African Americans.

Hoping to remedy this problem, Kellman and POCLAD have published a booklet — Building Unions, Past, Present and Future.

We interviewed Kellman on May 4, 2001.

CCR: What is your work?

KELLMAN: I work with the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD). We look at the history of corporate power and the people's resistance to it.

CCR: How long have you been working with POCLAD?

KELLMAN: About four years now.

CCR: You have an extensive labor history.

KELLMAN: Yes, I have worked as a construction worker and project superintendent, an air conditioning technician, a painter and rubber mill worker.

In the 1960s, I was a civil rights worker and in the 1970s and 1980s, I was a local union president in a shoe shop and a steward in the painter's union on construction jobs.

I first became involved in organized labor back in 1976 when I was working at Converse Rubber in North Berwick, Maine. They made sneakers. I worked in the rubber mill department of a factory that employed 500 people. We decided to organize a union and went through a campaign in which we were defeated. That was my first taste of organized labor.

A couple of years later, I was working in another shoe shop and became president of the union that was there, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Local 82, Shoe Division. Later I was on the staff of the Maine AFL-CIO and was involved in the 1987-88 strike against the International Paper Company in Jay, Maine.

Over the years I've thought a lot about unions, their future and their past.

CCR: You edited a book about that strike called Pain on Their Faces.

KELLMAN: Pain On Their Faces is a series of essays written by people who participated in the 1987-88 strike against the International Paper Company. After the strike was over we came to the conclusion that the history of that strike should be told, at least in part, by the people who waged the battle. That usually doesn't happen.

Generally, if a strike is looked at all, it is people from outside who come in and take a look at it, which is certainly a worthwhile thing to do.

But when it comes time for the next generation to take a stand they need to hear from the last generation to really learn what they are going to be up against.

CCR: What is POCLAD?

KELLMAN: It's a group of eleven long-term activists who got together to take a new look at what progressive activists do in this country.

We seem to be going around in circles. Most of us contest corporate power within the regulatory process - either with the National Labor Relations Board, or the Environmental Protection Agency. And no matter what we do, or how many victories we have, the big picture just seems to get worse.

We thought it was time for a group of activists to just take a step back and start to look at the whole history of movements and of social change and also at the institutional oppressor, which in our day and age is the corporation.

CCR: What has POCLAD accomplished?

KELLMAN: We've been writing and researching. We've gone around the country and talked with people. We've held hundreds of meetings, which we call "rethink meetings." We get groups of activists together and we say - let's look at our history and let's look at the history of the corporation. We spend many weekends with groups of people just looking at that history. And of course we have written about it. We have a publication called "By What Authority?" where we publish our writing. And we have a web site:

We still go around the country talking to people about what we find. Over the last couple of years, I've been working with the Labor Party. The Labor Party at its founding convention passed a resolution called - "Bringing the Bill of Rights Into the Workplace." We asked - why is it that workers don't have constitutional rights in the workplace? Why is it that on private property, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association are denied?

CCR: Most recently, you have published a booklet — Building Unions: Past, Present and Future. The booklet is illustrated by Matt Wuerker. Who is Matt Wuerker, by the way?

KELLMAN: He is a well known illustrator. He's published in weekly journals and daily newspapers. We talked to him about this project and he agreed to do it.

CCR: What was the idea behind this booklet?

KELLMAN: There is a committee within the Labor Party that has been taking some of these ideas that are in the booklet and others around to labor people, saying — we have to do something different. This booklet is an original piece that was written to stimulate people to question the present theory that organized labor operates under. There is a new article out in Working USA, written by Jim Pope, myself and Ed Bruno. In this article, we point in the direction of a new labor theory.

Most people in this country have no idea of any labor history to speak of. And within unions, labor history seems to begin with the CIO. This was an attempt to go back to the colonial period and the constitutional period and to look from a working class perspective at what was going on, what did the founders really mean when they said — We the People. And so we look at these men, like Washington and Madison, and ask: Who were these people, where did they come from, and who were they protecting?

And how would it have been different if people who worked in the home or on the farms, or made shoes, or worked on the docks — wrote the Constitution?

CCR: We will go through your view of that history. But on the question of unions today, isn't it the case that the big unions in Washington have betrayed their members by becoming bureaucratic institutions? They don't reflect working people's sentiments.

KELLMAN: I wouldn't put it that way. The institution we know today as organized labor was created primarily by the government. The National Labor Relations Act forced unions to be representatives of workers, rather than working class organizations.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, unions can only deal with issues of wages, hours and working conditions — those are the protected activities. Unions are not protected in the workplace if they deal with broader issues and workers inside the workplace don't get to assert constitutional rights they have outside the workplace.

So, when you go from a period where working class organizations dealt with broader issues, represented the community generally, to a situation where the union institution now just represents workers in the workplace, then a lot of changes take place. And one of the things that happens is a bureaucracy is built, which is just set up to run this process.

On the other hand, since the 1950s, the big corporations have more and more refused to deal with the unions — and the conflict there is ongoing.

But in the meantime, the unions haven't developed a new strategy. It's been half a century and a new strategy hasn't developed to deal with the reality of the workplace.

Unions are one of the few working class institutions in this country. We will change to meet the challenge of today.

CCR: What is the new labor theory you are writing and speaking about?

KELLMAN: It's actually an old labor theory. We've gone back and looked at the theory that labor operated under prior to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. That theory was based on the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. When it was passed, it was known as the labor amendment. The 13th Amendment says that slavery and involuntary servitude are illegal. We're saying that if you go to work, and you don't have freedom of speech and freedom of association, then you are in a condition of involuntary servitude.

And that is a violation of the Constitution, it's a violation of the 13th Amendment. Our theory is that the 13th Amendment makes the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment real. If you go to work and you can't exercise freedom of speech, association and assembly, and you don't have due process and equal protection, then your employer is in violation of the Constitution.

And that was essentially the operating theory of organized labor, from the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 to the passage of National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

CCR: The 13th Amendment reads in Section One: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States." And in Section Two: "Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

You write: "Many workers believed this language applied to them and called it the labor amendment." So, workers thought this was not just an anti-slavery amendment.

KELLMAN: Well, first, slavery is a worker's issue, right? The condition of slavery means you can't quit your job. Slavery is a working class issue — as clear as you can get.

CCR: You are saying that the 13th Amendment was a people's amendment. But in the first part of your booklet, you argue that the Constitution was written by wealthy people. Why would wealthy people, people who desire to put property above labor — why would they pass a people's amendment?

KELLMAN: They didn't. In fact, the people who wrote the Constitution didn't include any of the amendments in it. It was the anti-Federalists who were essentially responsible for what we call the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments.

Why didn't the people who wrote the Constitution just include the Bill of Rights in it? Why did there have to be amendments?

Most of the amendments to the Constitution were pushed through by people's movements. The 13th, 14th and 15th amendment are good examples. So is the 19th Amendment where women get the right to vote, and the amendment requiring Senators to be elected.

In 1913, the 17th Amendment was passed which

required that U.S. Senators would be elected by the people rather than appointed by the states.

If you look at the Constitution itself, it is a document that was written to protect the wealthy. It took vast people's movements to pass the amendments I just mentioned.

CCR: The labor story of your book begins with the 13th Amendment?

KELLMAN: No, it begins with the opposition to the colonial class. It begins with slaves and indentured servants escaping, sometimes forming new communities, sometimes organizing insurrections — all of which were eventually crushed.

The booklet lays out a history where people have always been resisting the concentration of wealth and power.

And that goes back before Europeans came to this country. One of the questions I raise in the book is — why did all of these people come to the new world? Some of them came because they wanted to be wealthy, they wanted to exploit the resources.

However, the vast majority came here because they had no choice. They were either driven out of their homelands, or in the case of slaves and many indentured servants, they were captured, placed on ships and brought over here to work in the fields and cut down the trees. They didn't come here to get wealthy. They were exploited to extract the wealth for the wealthy few. The wealthy few wrote the Constitution and the wealth few manage our major transnational corporations.

CCR: Tell us about the Dartmouth College case.

KELLMAN: In 1816, the New Hampshire legislature passed a law which changed the charter of Dartmouth College. Prior to the revolution in this country, all of our universities were private schools. But they were all private schools which had been given a fair amount of public money.

So, after the revolution, there were no public colleges. They were all private schools from the colonial period — like Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale.

CCR: These were schools chartered by the King of England.

KELLMAN: Yes. In that period most institutions were chartered either by the King or by the colonial governments of the King.

After the revolution a group formed around Thomas Jefferson. They are known as Jeffersonians.

They are anti-federalists. They become what we know today as the Democratic Party. They said that education should be public. There shouldn't be any such thing as private education. Education is just too important to be left in private hands. You can't have private institutions training the leadership of a democracy.

That was the theory that they operated under. It hit the ground in a number of places. One place was in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire legislature passed a law which made the private Dartmouth College a public school. The idea was the new school would be a public university that would set up colleges around the state.

The Jeffersonians wanted to be able to train people to run a government, but they wanted to do that as part of the public process. The board of trustees of Dartmouth College, represented by Daniel Webster in the U.S. Supreme Court case, argued that it was illegal to do this. It was illegal because the corporation — Dartmouth College — was in fact a contract. And as a contract, it was protected under the Contracts Clause of the Constitution.

They said the state could not just take a charter the King had issued and make it a public charter. The state of New Hampshire agreed with the legislature and the Governor, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state court and said that Dartmouth College was a private contract between the state and a group of people and was therefore protected by the Contracts Clause of the Constitution. So, public Dartmouth College once again became private Dartmouth College.

And so the Dartmouth College case gave constitutional protection to corporations.

CCR: Next comes Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad.

KELLMAN: By 1886, the railroads had become the most powerful private institutions in the country. Railroad lawyers ended up on the Supreme Court. Santa Clara County in California put a tax on these railroad corporations. The corporations resisted.

In deciding that tax dispute, the Supreme Court says that as far as they are concerned, corporations have protection under the 14th Amendment. There is no discussion about it.

CCR: That's the first time that the Supreme Court gives protection to corporations under the 14th Amendment.

KELLMAN: This is the seminal decision. This is the turning point. It is very clear. And there hasn't been much discussion about it by the courts since.

CCR: The 14th Amendment says that no state shall make a law which denies any person equal protection of the laws or due process. In Santa Clara County, the Supreme Court says that a corporation is a person. What is the argument that a corporation is not a person under the law?

KELLMAN: The corporation has almost always been referred to as a person in that it is the way a group of people can act as one. Those are the words that are used. In fact, the way the law deals with corporations prior to Dartmouth is very different. It's kind of like you can call something anything you want to call it — but is it fact really that? You can say a blue wall is red — it doesn't make it red. The terminology has existed for a long time. But the reality is different.

If in 1800, you wanted to get a corporate charter you had to do it by having a specific law passed that spelled out what that corporation was supposed to do.

If you and I wanted to set up a textile company in Lewiston, Maine, we would get a charter from the state of Maine through the legislative process. It would lay out how much capital we could raise. We could do things related to making textiles. We couldn't do anything else. What we could do was strictly defined by the corporate charter. If we wanted to set up another textile mill in another town, we would have to go back to the legislature. We couldn't use any corporate money to participate in politics.

Today, a corporation has come to be something that can do anything it wants, as long as it is within the law. The other thing that existed in these early corporations was that the stockholders were responsible for the actions of the corporation. The shield of limited liability didn't exist for the corporation.

CCR: It didn't exist until when?

KELLMAN: It varies from state to state. But it started to come in the early 1800s.

CCR: What brought about limited liability protection for shareholders?

KELLMAN: The business class came to the forefront as the country began to industrialize. People who ran the plantations and had a lot of land did not want to promote the corporation. The landowners held their power mainly as individuals. As industry became a reality, the wealthy looked for a new form of holding wealth and exercising power. The wealthy begin to push the legislatures for more corporate protections.

CCR: The 14th Amendment wasn't intended to protection corporations. This was a people's amendment.

KELLMAN: It was intended to promote the interests of freed slaves.

CCR: You quote Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in Connecticut General v. Johnson (1938): "Of the cases in this court in which the 14th Amendment was applied during the first 50 years after its adoption, less than one half of one percent invoked it in the protection of the Negro race, and more than 50 percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations."

KELLMAN: It's probably been worse since that decision.

CCR: Who were the Knights of Labor?

KELLMAN: The Knights of Labor was a union whose members believed that the society should be run by consumer and producer cooperatives. They believed that workers should exercise power through the ballot and the boycott. They believed in equal pay for equal work. They were integrated — black and white. They had about one million members in the United States in 1886. They were responsible for many changes.

They didn't organize just in the workplace. Anybody could

belong as long as you weren't part of the what the Knights called the "non-producing class" — people who obtained wealth through stock, for example. All others were members of the working class or producing class.

They had assembly halls all over the place. In the state of Maine, they had 120 assembly halls. At the same time, you find the rise of organized farmers — the populists in the south and west and the Grange in the north.

The Knights of Labor were involved in strikes, but they didn't want to be. They didn't see exercising power through strikes, but through political power and through the boycott. They knew the courts were rigged against them. The Knights of Labor and the Grange urged people not to participate in the courts. And they set up their own systems of arbitration.

Prior to the political agitation of the Knights of Labor, the ballot was an open ballot. You walked in to vote, and you voted on a table and everyone there knew how you voted. The Knights agitated for the secret ballot. The reason today you get to step behind a curtain, instead of voting in public, is because of the agitation of the Knights of Labor.

The Knights of Labor were the force behind the keeping of labor statistics in the state of Maine and nationally at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They said — if we want to create change, we have to know what we are trying to change.

I was looking for strike statistics about ten years ago in the state of Maine. I called the Department of Labor here and they said — we don't keep strike statistics, we keep statistics on work stoppages.

I started looking at the numbers. I knew that there were some big strikes in Maine and I realized these strikes weren't showing up in the statistics. The reason is — the difference between a work stoppage and a strike is that a work stoppage only exists as long as the company isn't producing at more than 80 percent.

Once the company has resumed production with scabs, even though there is a picket line outside and the strike is still on, the state stops keeping those numbers.

This reflects industrial influence over the statistic keepers. Back when the Knights of Labor were active — they kept statistics on the number of strikers.

CCR: The Knights of Labor also used boycotts.

KELLMAN: They used boycotts to support people who were organizing. But it was broader than that. It led to the union label. Union people would focus their energies on an employer who didn't have a union label. For a long time, the union label had meaning in this country. It is pretty much irrelevant today. The Knights perfected the concept of the union boycott and the union label in this country.

In 1886 a number of unions left the Knights and formed the American Federation of Labor.

CCR: Why the split?

KELLMAN: The early AFL didn't believe unions should be involved in politics the way the Knights were. The AFL unions represented relatively highly skilled workers who said they should exercise power through their apprentice programs and through the strike. They didn't want to be involved in politics. They weren't as tied to the promotion of the entire working class, the way the Knights were. They were in it for themselves and their unions were unions of primarily skilled workers like carpenters and cigar makers.

Back before 1900, workers had trade secrets, not the corporations. How a mechanic did his or her job was essentially a secret. And the way you learned it was through your union. The union developed particular standards and training programs. And if somebody wanted to hire a skilled person, that person often came out of an organization that upheld a particular set of standards.

I remember doing some historical labor research in Livermore Falls, Maine. I was talking to a woman who told me the story of her grandfather, who around 1900 was a union mason. He was asked to build a fireplace for a mill manager. The mill manager said — I want you to do this quick and good, and I want you to work Saturdays and Sundays. And the mason said — I'm a member of a union. We only work 40 hours a week. If we agree to work more than 40 hours a week, we get time and a half for Saturday and double time on Sunday.

This mason worked for himself. But he was a member of a union. And he had some power because of his skills. He didn't just train others unless they were going to be members of the same union and uphold that skill level. That's part of labor history that isn't very well known.

CCR: Eventually, there was a backlash against boycotts.

KELLMAN: What is a boycott? A boycott is somebody telling somebody else that they shouldn't buy something or go some place. It's an exercise of free speech. But the wealthy class saw that as a threat. So, they got their lawyers and their courts to say essentially — if you are going to harm the future potential profits of somebody else, that's a conspiracy against property.

When labor starting using the boycott, it was legal. But the companies went to court to enjoin these boycotts as conspiracies and many judges issued injunctions against boycotts. In effect the judge is saying — it's illegal for you to tell others what you think. That's a pretty audacious concept.

What were the Knights doing? They were telling others that they shouldn't buy a particular product from a company that was working against unions. They weren't destroying the product. They weren't razing the building. They were exercising free speech. That's one of the reasons why they made the connection to the 13th Amendment. If you tell people they can't speak about things that have to do with their working conditions, that violates the 13th and First Amendments. Nonetheless, the courts enjoined these boycotts. And laws were passed explicitly making them illegal.

But labor's position at that time, and it's position pretty much up until 1947, was that if the Constitutional rights of workers are being violated by laws, then the workers need to violated the laws. If the court enjoins a strike, then you go to jail. If the court enjoins a boycott, you go to jail. And thousands of workers did go to jail.

CCR: In fighting these injunctions, the people fighting them raised the 13th amendment — the labor amendment. But, almost universally, the judges ruled against them.

KELLMAN: Yes, but in 1932, Congress passed and Herbert Hoover signed the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which declared these injunctions illegal. It said that workers could strike and boycott as long as they didn't physically destroy property. Boycotts and strikes were to be protected by this law.

The law also made illegal "the yellow dog contract." That's an instrument that workers were forced to sign as a condition of employment which said if you did join a union you would be fired.

CCR: Why would Herbert Hoover sign such a law?

KELLMAN: I don't know. You had a Democratic House, and there were a group of progressives within the Republican Senate. The country was a couple of years into the Depression. People were agitating around the country for years to get rid of the labor injunction. It was a period in time where a number of forces came together and that law was passed.

The history books say that the country was tired of government by injunction.

But Norris-LaGuardia was never fully implemented. In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed. And in 1938, the Supreme Court said in NLRB v. Mackay Radio that a company can permanently replace striking workers.

CCR: Norris-LaGuardia and the National Labor Relations Act say workers have a right to strike. But the Supreme Court says — sure, you have a right to strike, but the company can replace you.

KELLMAN: So, the right to strike is really the right to quit, it's not the right to strike.

CCR: What is the right to quit?

KELLMAN: Under slavery, you couldn't quit. So, it's a step above slavery. Slavery was supplanted to some extent by the factory system. Slaves didn't make sense in a factory. It was much better to have people who you pay a wage to. And at the time, they called it "wage slavery." There was "chattel slavery" and "wage slavery."

Chattel slavery on the plantations and wage slavery in the factories. Many of the northern soldiers who fought in the civil war fought because they believed that both wage and chattel slavery would be ended.

CCR: What would be the alternative to a wage system?

KELLMAN: A cooperative system of work and government programs to guarantee primarily human needs and rights like health care, pensions, education and housing. Having your basic needs taken care of, not through wages, but as a right. In many countries, health care is a right. It's not a benefit you buy with wages, necessarily. It's there whether you are working or not. Pensions, in many countries are essentially a right. Free public education right through university can be seen as a right, rather than something you have to earn wages to get.

CCR: You called Norris-LaGuardia labor's Magna Carta. And it contained very broad language protecting workers. Yet, effectively because of these court decisions, and because of Taft-Hartley, which was passed in 1947, Norris-LaGuardia is a dead letter.

How did Taft-Hartley come about, and what does it do?

KELLMAN: The Second World War saw the greatest period of union growth in this country. By 1953, the decline begins. The big union drives came in the mid to late 1930s and 40s end just after the Second World War. After the war was over, the employers wanted to regain complete control of the workplace. They rode the back of anti-Communism, claiming that unions were run by Communists.

Taft-Hartley made it illegal for the unions to have Communists in the leadership. Unions who didn't bar Communists from their organizations couldn't participate in NLRB elections.

The red scare was a cover to make the unions into organizations that didn't question the corporate culture. The Taft-Hartley "Slave Labor" Act created the Taft-Hartley injunction, whereby the President can set in motion injunctions against "national emergency strikes" that "imperil the national health or safety," thus nullifying the gains made under Norris-LaGuardia.

The Act allowed state legislatures to ban the union shop. It outlawed the closed shop. It made sympathy strikes and secondary boycotts illegal for all practical purposes. It barred from participating in NLRB elections unions that didn't ban Communists from their membership. It took away union control of pension funds and health and welfare funds. It allowed employers the right to actively and vocally oppose having labor unions in their enterprises. It forced foremen out of the unions. And it created the decertification election.

In 1947, John L. Lewis, the president of the mine workers negotiated a contract with the mine companies in which so many cents per ton would go into a health and welfare fund for the workers. And Lewis said that he would use that money to start buying companies.

Taft-Hartley came along and said — workers can't control their own pension funds. A company can be 100 percent in control of a workers pension fund but the best workers can negotiate is 50 percent.

That means the unions can never really control those funds. And because of the prudent man rule, those funds must be invested primarily in blue chips stocks. Under Taft Hartley, pension funds — the largest pool of new capital in the country — can't be used by unions to buy companies, or to be invested primarily in things lake mortgages for workers.

CCR: You have been traveling around the country with POCLAD. And what's the pulse?

KELLMAN: A little bit less than 10 percent of the industrial work force is organized today, which is about what it was in 1930. Unions have generally not had good times. The only two times in the twentieth century when workers have significantly increased their numbers has been around World War I and around World War II. The rest of the time, you can say has been bad for labor, which has been most of our history.

To take a projection and say we are in bad shape because we only have 16 million members today — negates the fact that at least 16 million people are organized. However the oppression keeps coming. The less people are organized, the lower wages go, the fewer rights people have at work, — it's like a pressure cooker. It builds up, and eventually that pressure is going to be released.

If you take a long-term view of it, you can safely say that labor has never controlled the body politic in this country, as it has in other countries. Labor in the US has rarely been the force that it has been in European countries, Australia and Canada.

The concentration of corporate wealth in this country is probably greater than it is in any other country.

But I'm not pessimistic about it at all. I think we do a number of things very well. In the face of this corporate culture, we still organize workers. We need to redirect our focus. We need to change our operating theory.

The present theory says that labor needs to go out and elect Democrats, especially a Democratic president. That president will then appoint good people to the National Labor Relations Board. That will then make it easier for workers to organize.

The problem is that if you look at the last 24 years — 12 Democratic years, 12 Republican years — the percentage of the workplace that is organized keeps declining. It declined a little worse under the Democrats.

We need to stop thinking of electing Democrats. We have to support people, concepts and ideas that are going to fundamentally change the country.

CCR: The mainstream media argues that the reason labor unions are in decline is because corporations are taking care of their workers. Look at the millionaires, the kids who retire at age 35 with a couple of million in the bank.

KELLMAN: That argument has always been made and it is a lie. We work more hours today, real wages have been declining since 1973, and it's more difficult to get health care and child care.

If things are so good why aren't these dot.coms sending their lobbyists to Washington to pass a law giving all workers 30 days of vacation a year instead of trying to get tax breaks and subsidies for their corporations?

CCR: What do you make of the popular movements now against companies doing business overseas?

KELLMAN: People in the United States are organizing against the conditions that workers are laboring under overseas. But what about workers here? We don't have the fundamental rights here. Let's start at home. Students should be going into the workplace here and organizing workers. Do workers have rights here? No. If we fight for the right to organize, to have freedom of speech and assemble in our workplaces, to have due process and equal protection for all working people here, then and only then can we truly stand in solidarity with workers in other countries.

[Contact: Peter Kellman, 449 Maple Street, North Berwick, Maine 03906. Phone: (207) 676-3356. E-mail: Web:]

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