Union organizer Stephen Lerner, a former director of the Service Employees International Union's banking and finance campaign and the chief architect of SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign, made some startling admissions during a recent panel discussion sponsored by the City University of New York’s Left Forum.
“Unions are almost dead. We cannot survive doing what we do,” Lerner admitted. But he's not giving up just yet.
“It seems to me that we’re in a moment where we need to figure out in a much more, through direct action, much more concrete way how we really are trying to disrupt and create uncertainty for capital, for how corporations operate.”
Calling JP Morgan Chase “a really good company to hate,” Lerner announced that starting on the first week in May, union organizers would begin a 10-state mobilization of supporters to engage in mass civil disobedience.
If unions are already unpopular, they won’t get many PR points for Days of Rage, Part II. But there’s a method to Lerner’s madness. Named after its authors, Columbia University political scientists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, the Cloward-Piven strategy is described as a “strategy for forcing political change through orchestrated crisis” – such as mass civil unrest or another banking crisis.
“It may sound like that’s a crazy thing that in a moment of weakness we could deal with it, but the thing about a boom and bust economy, it is actually incredibly fragile…. And so there are actually extraordinary things that we could do right now that would start to destabilize the folks that are in power and start to rebuild a movement,” Lerner told fellow Leftists.
Lerner said that if unions could “put banks on the edge of insolvency again” if they organized a “mortgage strike” and doubled the number of strategic defaults by people whose homes are currently underwater. Of course, the economic consequences of a housing and banking collapse would be felt most acutely by the same workers Lerner and his SEIU pals are supposedly championing.
But Lerner makes clear that his real goal is not protecting the little people, but taking down the capitalist system that has created more wealth and rescued more people from poverty than any other in the history of the world:
“If we really believe we’re in a transformative stage of what’s happening in capitalism, then we need to confront this in a serious way and develop a real ability to put a boot in the wheel… We have to think not about labor community alliances, we have to think about how together we are building something that really has the capacity to disrupt how the system operates.”
Chaos and economic sabotage is very bad for business, but it's very good tactic for radical statists intent on bringing down free market capitalism.