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Lowell Five Dollars
Slavery, child labour and exploitation of seasonal and part time workers, a long tradition of two-tierism.

What can we do about It?

An assembly worker in Illinois writes:-
I have read almost every letter on your website and find it very interesting. My fellow workers and I are experiencing the same treatment by our employer right here in Melrose Park, IL. Some of the employees are collecting unemployment. We work only one day of the week, while non-union workers are doing our jobs for half the money. The union is allowing this to happen.

With your permission I would like to post the "Short People" story at work. This way, there would be a sense of awareness that we are not alone, that this problem is not just local.

I have tried to get the attention of the newspapers to write something about our situation, and sent e-mails to local Channel news, but my petition has fallen on deaf ears.

I think we have a case primarily against the union and secondly the company. But personally, I believe the Union is to blame for allowing it to happen.

What can we do about it??

Cordially yours,

David Olavarria

NoMoreTiers replies:
There is no magic formula that I know of, but I do believe that it is important to talk it up. Talk it up with the fellow worker on the same machine or assembly line as you, talk it up with people you meet during lunch and coffee break, talk it up with the Union stewards, talk it up with the business agent, talk it up at union meetings, encourage others with similar views to talk it up with each other and other workers. Be friendly with privileged workers on the upper tier and ask them what they think of the issue, reciprocate by sharing your own ideas about solidarity and the effects of two-tierism, you may be surprised by how many will indicate sympathy with your views. Don't rush people, give them time.

Post information on notice boards. Depending on your employer, corporate regulations and the general atmosphere, it may be possible to post stuff openly, this is always preferable as it tends to add credibility to the material, but if the atmosphere is oppressive and poisonous, there is no point in getting yourself fired, so a little secretive discretion may be advised. And you are welcome to use material from

Check out your Union constitution. You should be able to get a copy from the Union Hall or one of the Union officers. Maybe it contains language like the following:

Aims and Objectives

The aims and objective of the Union are:

  1. To promote the general welfare of all workers.
  2. To organize the unorganized.
  3. To represent, protect, maintain and advance the interest of workers within the jurisdiction of the Union and to see that its members are treated justly in their dealings with their employers.
  4. To improve wages, hours of work and conditions of employment.
  5. To engage in legislative, educational, civic, political, welfare and other activities of the membership of the Union and of workers everywhere and the improvement of general social and economic conditions.
  6. To strengthen the Union and the membership of the Union by promoting the unity and solidarity of Unions and their members.

Careful study of the constitution may help you to come to conclusions like the following (corresponding point by point with the above):-

  1. The union is supposed to look after the GENERAL welfare of ALL workers, and NOT the SPECIAL interests of a SELECT group such as those hired prior to a specific date, or those within the boundaries of an artificial "core" or "compliment" number, or above a particular seniority number negotiated in collusion and collaboration with the employing class, your boss.
  2. We are to organize workers into a UNION, not into various disparate groups.
  3. It is an objective of the Union to advance the interests of ALL THE WORKERS IN THE UNION and to see that they are treated JUSTLY. Surely JUSTICE in a free and democratic society means EQUALITY, equality regardless of race, sex or religion, and perhaps just as importantly equality amongst UNION BROTHERS and SISTERS (does not brotherhood imply equality?). How can our elected Union officials, negotiate and ask the members to ratify, agreements that divide the workers into groups with varying levels of privilege? How can we, as Union men and women support two-tierism when it is the very opposite of unity and solidarity, and can only serve the boss's goal, of eroding the very foundation of the Union?
  4. Our Union is supposed to fight for improvement of wages and conditions; it is fundamentally UNJUST and COWARDLY to permit the erosion of the wages of our most vulnerable workers, those who already suffer the indignity of being frequently laid off for lack of more permanent work.
  5. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights demands Equal Pay for Equal Work for all workers. Why does our Union not put this HUMAN RIGHT into practice and be a shining example to our legislators, employers and other Unions?
  6. Divide and conquer is a maxim for the bosses. How can we call ourselves a union if instead of promoting SOLIDARITY we promote DIVISION through the TWO-TIER SYSTEM?
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Even if this stuff is not in your constitution, don't worry, these are basic union principals, so they should still be good starting points for generating debate at union meetings or elsewhere.

Just make the bald, but undeniably true statement that "it's the job of the Union to promote solidarity, so how come we have a two-tier system? ......etc".

Do everything you can to become knowledgable about the subject, and develop your thoughts so that you can confidently defend your views and opinions when called upon. Don't air dogmatic opinions about ideas that you can't confidently defend.

Don't forget this is a democracy, and the way to win is to gain friends to the idea, making enemies gains nothing.

Don't expect much from the media, the media is owned and run by bosses. But be polite if they call you.

Don't expect change overnight; be prepared for a long term struggle.

Keep in touch.

In Solidarity,
John Barker

Your comments, questions, ideas and opinions are important!

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June 2004