Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Decertify the Sellout ACTWU – Gardena Shoeworkers Will Be the Model!

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, July 5, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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LOS ANGELES, Ca.–Latino workers, of the Gardena Shoe Company in Los Angeles are fighting to decertify the sellout ACTWU, Amalgamated Clothing & Textile Workers Union. After years of intense exploitation, Gardena workers are saying. Ya Basta! That’s Enough! In a matter of days, 120 workers out of a work force of 200 signed a petition calling for the decertification of the sell-out union, even though only 30% was required.

This historic struggle, supported by the Communist Workers Party, is aimed at both the capitalists and the labor aristocrats. It is aimed against the brutal national oppression and wage slavery that allows the bosses to pay workers minimum wage, about $3.10 an hour. Workers take home about $100 for an exhausting 40 hour week. Those who kill themselves to surpass the quotas set by the bosses take home a few dollars more. The time clock controls workers’ lives, and the bosses even require them to punch out to go to the bathroom.

Workers Organizing Independent Union–Gardena Will Be The Model!

At Gardena and at other shoe factories, a drive is being launched to decertify the sell-out ACTWU and organize an Independent Union that will fight for the real interests of the workers. The call is being put out to unite both documented and undocumented workers, and to organize the unorganized.

These workers face not only class, but national oppression as Latino workers. In the midsl of the deep economic crisis, the bourgeoisie is trying to scapegoat undocumented workers as the cause of unemployment. Not only are Latino workers forced to take the most oppressive and low-paying jobs and face constant harassment from the bosses, but they also must contend with the hated La Migra, the immigration department. Workers, who dare resist the bosses, are threatened with deportation. La Migra has also intensified Gestapo-like raids in the communities, where workers are dragged from their homes in the middle of the night, handcuffed and beaten.

The history of ACTWU collaboration with the company to undermine the workers’ organization into independent unions comes out clearly at the Cone Mills White Oak Plant in Greensboro, N.C. After years of sweetheart contracts, Bill Sampson, member of the Communist Workers Party, started a campaign to decertify the union and to organize an independent union. The ACTWU tried first to falsify membership records and dues records to undermine the campaign. Finally, ten days before the election, the ACTWU slapped the union into receivership, so that the local came under the international union’s grip. It is no coincidence that Bill Sampson and two other Communist Workers Party textile organizers were assassinated on Nov. 3 in Greensboro, N.C. with two other CWP members.

The Communist Workers Party and friends have been leafletting shoe factories across the city. It is clear that the workers have much more on their minds than fighting for a wage increase or more benefits. Workers, especially from this strata of Latino and mainly undocumented workers, are wide open to socialism and the prospects for proletarian revolution in this country. That’s why the drive for the Independent Union must be integrally linked with the Party’s 1980 campaign and communist propaganda.

The Independent Union will serve as a model of the power of workers when organized and united. It will also serve as an example of what organization will be like under workers’ dictatorship, when workers ourselves will be able to determine our destiny.

Decertification Drive Puts ACTWU on Defensive

In the face of the decertification drive, the ACTWU is running scared. They began to call weekly meetings to try to talk the workers out of decertification. In the past, union meetings were held once every four months! After the decertification petition was filed, two new union organizers were brought in to try to sweet-talk the workers, and redbait the active workers and leaders of the drive. One of the union organizers cried about how he was “shocked” that there was support from the Communist Workers Party and Comite de Igualdad. A CWP supporter stood up and denounced his redbaiting attempts, saying that communists don’t sell out workers like they do! Other workers joined in, demanding to know why after all these months they decided to come out now with their empty promises.

The company was up to their tricks too. They knew they had a good deal going with the labor lieutenants of the ACTWU and didn’t want any communists and militant workers rocking the boat. First, they brought in a big shot lawyer from New York. Then, they stepped up production quotas for everyone at the factory. Workers who cleaned 24 pairs of shoes an hour, were now forced to clean 36 pairs. Workers who packed between 150 and 170 shoes in boxes, were now forced to pack 228. And when the workers fell short of the quotas, they were laid off.

But the decertification drive continued. On May 21, a hearing was called by the National Labor Relations Board. The company came forward to defend the union for the good job they’ve been doing!

On May 22, the union held another meeting. This time, they stepped up redbaiting even more, trying to isolate one of the leaders of the decertification drive and a CWP supporter. They charged the CWP with “using the workers” for their political interests. The union was forced to respond to the ACTWU boycott of the historic wildcat strike at several shoe factories in Los Angeles last fall (See WV, Oct. 15. 1979). The ACTWU bureaucrats had the nerve to blame CWP and the Comite de Igualdad for the firing of 80 workers by the money-grubbing bosses! But the workers themselves all knew that it was the ACTWU that had worked hand in glove with the bosses to undermine the strike. The bureaucrats tried to block any hopes of setting up a new union, by saying that it would lead to wage decreases and loss in benefits.

But all their lies and slander couldn’t hide the truth. The ACTWU had done nothing for the workers but drain them of $9.00 a month in dues. Two years ago, the workers at Gardena had tried another decertification drive, but the company and union collaborated and used similar dirty tricks, so the drive failed.

Workers Fight to Overcome ACTWU Obstacles

On May 23, the day after the union meeting, the union and company collaborated again to try to stop the workers. The union sent a notice to a leader of the decertification drive and CWP supporter, discharging her of her position as shop steward and member of the contract negotiating committee. The notice was sent at 2:30 p.m. At 4:00 p.m., the company laid her off, claiming “lack of work” and violating her seniority rights.

The ACTWU and Gardena hope in vain to squash the decertification drive by harassing and firing the leaders. But the workers are clear on their tricks, and the momentum for the decertification continues to build. And on the very next day, the CWP supporter came back to the factory: not to work, but to hand out leaflets and speak to the workers over a bullhorn on why they must continue the fight. The fight to decertify the sell-out ACTWU, to organize the Independent Union, and to prepare for workers’ dictatorship has only begun.