Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keith Brooks comment on Organizing the Unemployed

comment given as part of a Left Forum Panel discussion March 19, 2011

transcribed from Youtube video 3/31/11

"Organizing the unemployed is a multi-dimensional, multi-pronged problem. Manny and I organized the unemployed in New York in the early 90s, and I've organized the unemployed in Baltimore and also in New Jersey.

"I would say that one of the main lessons that I would put forward is that nothing happens unless the unemployed themselves get organized and don't rely on the unions, the other community groups. Things happen when the unemployed themselves go into political action. You know, you organize the unemployed, you need to do everything people here have talked about, from service-type stuff, to support groups, to political action meeting/lobbying...[to] direct action. You know, direct action?

"Uh, John in Philadelphia, I think that a little bit of what gets lost in your presentation is: "How did you get some of those things?" You were at the offices, you were demonstrating, you were creating a social upset.

"People have to be willing to do that. The unions are not going to take the lead. I was in the Steelworkers' union in Baltimore in the early 80s, we were laid off. We had to fight to get our own union to actually set up a food bank, even the service stuff, and then to get steelworker unions to support actual political advocacy was another battle itself. So to me, the main lesson in terms of organizing, is that unless the unemployed themselves - union and non-union - are mobilized to be visible, to be public, to be in the face of these agencies and institutions, that the rest isn't gonna happen.

"But it also means stepping on a lot of toes. And it means that the Democrats are sometimes the toes you're going to have to step on. The Republicans are an easy target, but if you pull your punches on it, you're not going to wind up getting what's needed.

"Obviously, the problem of unemployment is a major colossal problem in a capitalist society, but at the same time you can win real gains. We did. In Philadelphia they did. Elsewhere. So the main thing about the unions is: nobody should assume or expect that the unions will take the lead, take the initiative. It will always be in response to the activity of the unemployed."

1 comment:

  1. Keith Brooks comment on Organizing the Unemployed

    Posted: 31 Mar 2011 08:34 AM PDT

    Hi Keith & 99ers & all!

    My apologizes for my unavoidable absence; however we are back now and
    with a major since of urgency!

    I think we all agree with Keith, the unemployed are a multi-dimensional, multi-pronged problem and nothing happens unless the unemployed themselves get organized!!

    Even though the unions are a big part of the equations, no one group is solely responsible for everyone else and it’s about organizing “all of the unemployed” and “It takes a

    It perplexes to me that so many seem oblivious to the fact that unemployment crosses all boundaries -gender -ethnicity -social -religious – economic -political-disabilities
    and that the unemployed are in the same boat no matter what groups, organizations or clubs they belong to.

    Most groups we talk with have the same unemployment related issues; yet are not talking
    with each other or sharing ideas or information.

    It’s about jobs to support families, keeping jobs in America , not wanting to be discriminated against in any way or form , not being discarded at 50,
    wanting a fair playing field in the work place, safe work environments, companies to honor our contracts, affordable health care and no longer willing to reward Wall street- big business for failing while many are denied even basic needs- like extending unemployment benefits- housing-food-basic human and civil rights.

    Keith, you have leaned many of the hard lessons and organized successfully in the 80's.You validated that getting mobilized - being highly visible to be public, - staying in the faces of agencies and institutions -media of all forms-direct political action -meetings/lobbying is where to start!! We agree and are committed to help in any way we can!

    Please invite us to the next meeting.

    Joan Freeman, Gray Matters Coalition ®
    a coalition to end age discrimination in the work the place

    Blog talk with Gray Matters Coalition!!