Communists are out of the closet more than they have been since the 1930s. Here is how they are infiltrating unions again.
Back during the Cold War of the 20th Century, after infiltration by Communists in the 1930s, many unions recognized the threat that Communism was to liberty.
In the 1950s, most unions became staunchly anti-Communist—even to the point of enforcing bans within their ranks.
However, as the decades progressed and the “red scare” dissipated with the fall of the Soviet Union, many unions have moved away from their opposition to Communism.
Indeed, many unions today have embraced, albeit in varying degrees, Socialism as a economic model.
While most in unions do not overtly support Communism, there are instances where Communists have openly infiltrated unions and the labor movement again.
In a post entitled Coalition building with labor at its center, Communist Party USA writer Steve Valencia explains how Communists in Arizona have integrated into the labor movement.
There are many forms, such as workers’ centers, that function as bridges to connect labor, community and mass movements. Our experience in Tucson has been centered through our work in Jobs with Justice, and we have practiced its model of movement combination.
Jobs with Justice Coalition (JWJ) was created in 1987 as a bridge between labor, community groups and mass movements. The coalition, whose leadership collective includes historically excluded workers, is involved in struggles around immigrant rights, domestic workers, Fight for $15, day laborers, collective bargaining, LGBTQ rights, opposing racist violence, transit issues, opposing the DAPL, and solidarity with the indigenous community.
Local JWJ groups are chartered by a vote of the national board if they meet a list of requirements. In addition to having a decision-making process, a budget, a leadership collective, and regular meetings, each local group must have five labor unions and five community organizations affiliate to it. JWJ classifies coalitions into three types: solidarity, leadership and flagship, based on their capacity to develop and implement a project or campaign.
In Tucson, the Jobs with Justice Coalition was founded in June of 1990. We have two meetings per month, have been involved in the majority of union campaigns, and actively assist community groups. The majority of local unions in our county are affiliated to the local Jobs with Justice coalition. We do outreach and table at mass actions from MLK Day festivities to May Day and Labor Day. Despite having no staff, we are one of the longest running local JWJ coalitions in the country. We are an affiliate of the recently established Pima Area Labor Federation.
“Socialism holds nothing but unhappiness for the human race,” the founder of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, said in 1918. “Socialism has no place in the hearts of those who would secure the fight for freedom and preserve democracy.”
Unfortunately, today, there are few (if any) people like Gompers who recognize the threat to unions.