Magazine article Tikkun

Letters

Magazine article Tikkun

Letters

Article excerpt

LABOR AND MEANING

To the Editor:

Joe Uehlein's "Reflections of a Trade Unionist" (November/December 1996) is the most exciting news yet from the labor movement. I was once an activist in AFSCME, and was very disappointed by my experience. Union meetings were dominated by boring business that almost nobody cared about. The men who dominated each meeting loved to maneuver with parliamentary procedure. They never cared about what we were experiencing at work. And they never paid any attention to any issues that arose for us that were not covered by the contract (i.e., if they couldn't find a way to "grieve" it as a violation of the contract we had with management, the problem simply didn't exist as far as our business agents were concerned). The union was totally tone deaf when it came to issues like the instability lots of us were feeling in our family lives, the frustration we were experiencing with meaningless work, and even the frustration we were experiencing because, although we were working for the pubic sector, our work rules really prevented us from being creative in finding ways to serve the public.

People sometimes talk about unions as being "corrupt," as though the problem is that the leaders are getting cutbacks from management. I don't think that is it at all. Rather, labor and management have been in bed together in a different way-they both think the same way about things, they both are insensitive to the feeling level of our lives, they both think that all we (employees and union members) care about is money and benefits.

Eventually I stopped caring about the union, and when I went on to another workplace that wasn't unionized, I refused to give much support to people who came around singing the praises of unions and trying to organize us. I had had it.

What a surprise for me to read Joe Uehlein and see that someone in the top levels of the new AFL-CIO is really taking meaning issues seriously! I could hardly believe my eyes when Uehlein talked about the importance of "a compassionate union culture," said unions must address "the poetry of work," talked about expanding the goals of the labor movement to include "creating a society based on love and caring," and said that there are labor leaders who "share the vision and values of the politics of meaning movement." I had heard about the Labor movement's involvement with intellectuals at its recent conference at Columbia, but frankly wasn't very impressed, since it seemed to be just Labor reaching out around its old agenda to get more allies. But this sounds like something very new, and if this new orientation really catches on in the Labor movement, you can count me in the next time labor tries to organize a place where I am working.

Sally Diaz San Francisco, California

CLINTON

To the Editor:

It's interesting that your list of shortcomings and accomplishments of the Clinton administration did not include among the disasters the gross destruction of the Bill of Rights perpetrated by Clinton's introduction pushing and signing of the so-called Anti-terrorism legislation. What could a Dole Supreme Court appointee have done to top that? Does your concern about terrorism in Israel distort your vision so that you are willing to close your eyes to the dangers to our civil liberties that this legislation creates?

Jean Glasser Van Nuys, California

Editor responds:

We would never have supported that legislation. It was an oversight not to mention it.

ISRAEL

To the Editor:

A recent news report stated that the Israeli High Court has just officially sanctioned the use of "force" in interrogating Palestinian prisoners. What this means is that U.S. taxpayers send approximately $3 billion a year in foreign aid to a government that routinely and now openly tortures political prisoners. Is this what you want your tax dollars to be spent on?

As demanded by the UN General Assembly every year, Israel should withdraw all forces to their pre-1967 borders immediately. …

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