[Spain] Is "Somos Sindicalistas" new or progressive?

Written by Ángel Luis Parras – CR
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 16:12

Last November, Podemos unionists presented Somos Sindicalistas (We Are Unionists), which according to its Declaration of Principles aims at being “an innovative and modern union to be created without any structural or ideological conditioning. It is the direct line with citizens.”
Regarding their ideological background: “It is so open and multiple as society is. We understand that ideology must remain in the individual realm to not conditioning social objectives.”
An old unionism that shares the ideology of Vertical Union
The first “non-ideological” assertion is that the unions has no class independence, they are interclass unions, of “citizens” not of the working class. That’s why they seek to broaden the definition of “worker” to incorporate the “entrepreneurs”.
But this conception is neither innovative nor modern, but is based on an old concept opposed to the independent organization of the working class. Francisco Franco’s ideology [1] of the Vertical Union had a similar basis to deny the “Marxist ideology of social classes” and encourage national unionism “that encompasses all agents of production, workers and employers alike, in a single union structure.” It was precisely against this vertical union that the class based unions were independently forged by workers.
A unionism… for social pact
If anything has marked the actions of the CCOO and UGT leaders, to their discredit, is their policy of “consensus and social dialogue.” Employers and governments were backed by it to take rights out from us while the bureaucracy ensured social peace.
However, the Somos Sindicalistas promoters are using the same terminology as the bureaucracy when writing that the “essence” as a union is the “commitment to debate, negotiation and consensus [and that] our doors will always be open to constructive dialogue with the State and the employers.” There is not, instead, a single mention in their Declaration of Principles to repeal the pension or labor reforms, the fight against ERE and ERTE [2] or for a minimum wage and pension comparable to other countries in the EU.
A virtual trade unionism
It is curious that, without holding a constituent congress they have already detailed the statutes and a precise number of Federations. The statutes set the General Assembly as the main governing body and say that “all members currently paying their contributions” have the right to attend it. But this, which appears as a democratic mechanism, is actually its negation because, unless it is a union with a very small group of people, there is no possible democratic congress without previous meetings and elected delegates, as evidenced by the history of the labor movement.
It’s the same when they raise the convening of the General Assembly with 40 days in advance. It is impossible to discuss documents, make amendments and promote debate and proposals between members in such a short time… Unless Somos promoters think of virtual Congresses and online ballots.
What neither the union bureaucracy dared to impose
It’s particularly noteworthy that Somos set as one of their resources, “those coming from adherence to collective agreements by workers who do not belong to the union.”
This is called “mandatory negotiation fee”, a hugely controversial issue that once was rejected by the workers and also declared unconstitutional. Especially the UGT [3] tried to impose it to “compensate for the union management in favor of unaffiliated workers” when negotiating collective agreements. But that fee is supposed to either break the freedom of association or leaving unaffiliated workers out of the agreement, fostering division in the staff. What could not be obtained by respect and voluntarily was sought to be imposed by law, indirectly favoring agreements of limited scope between a union and the company, excluding from the improvements the unaffiliated or those who wouldn’t pay the fee.
Neither unity, nor new or modern
If they had had the slightest interest in helping sweeping from the panorama the old trade union bureaucracy, they would have been joining forces to unite the class and combative unionism, which has spent years denouncing and confronting the Mendez and Toxo [4]. If it is to refuse bad agreements and full-time union leaders it’s enough to note that unions like COBAS have been fighting for it since its birth.
We hope that the Somos members strongly committed with trade unionism to reject this project and be part of the battle to oust the union bureaucracy and join forces to build class and combative unionism.
[1] Francisco Franco – Dictator of Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975.
[2] ERE and ERTE are mechanisms that allow for mass dismissals by companies that claim to be in “economic difficulties.”
[3] CCOO – Comisiones Obreras, the largest Spanish Trade Union; UGT – Unión General de Trabajadores (General Union of Workers)
[4] Mendez and Toxo – UGT and CCOO leaders

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