When Fletcher and Gapasin wrote Solidarity Divided, the worldwide financial panic was just on the horizon but not yet visible to working people. With the panic and the now increasing unemployment, homelessness, cutbacks in hours, home foreclosures, dwindling savings and bankruptcies, is this book outdated? No! Exactly the opposite!
We need more than ever to debate the ideas in this truth-telling book about the labor movement because we need more than ever a reinvigorated worker's movement that can challenge the injustices of our political and economic system, here and around the world. A few honest economists are telling us that until millions of working people have more economic security and actual, not borrowed, money in their pockets (in their words, until economic demand increases), recovery is impossible. If we want a recovery, we need to work for justice. Despite what the new President has been told and the corporate media echo, it is going to take more than confidence to start a robust recovery. Confidence, as in confidence game, is what got us to where we are.
Fletcher and Gapasin have between them several lifetimes of experience in the labor movement. They wrote Solidarity Divided after the split in 2005 when the Change to Win federation formed after several unions walked away from the AFL-CIO. This split came after the AFL-CIO elected John Sweeney and other reformers to leadership in 1995. At that time, their election was greeted with great hope. However, organized labor has continued to decline in numbers and political relevance. There have been a few bright spots like our King County Labor Council's role in the WTO in 1999, but too many of the stories in the book are of missed opportunities. The problem is bigger than failed leadership and loss of union membership. The structure and the culture of the unions is the problem. While financial capital is driving a reorganization of the world economy, the labor movement has been slow to react. Taking the initiative, which is needed for real change, has been out of the question. Fletcher and Gapasin have many ideas about how to trigger the change workers need and they are asking for the help of union leaders, union members and others on the left. The financial panic and the deepening economic crisis should give their proposals more traction.