November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
First, my apologies to this blog.
I haven’t been writing, mostly because the time I would be spending doing that has been taken up with Occupy. This is not an acceptable compromise for me. I have to do both.
So, here’s some words about the two things that, as an anarcho-roundball fanatic, I think about all the freaking time: the Occupy movement and the NBA lockout.
Most of the people who read my blog probably don’t even know this, but for those of you who missed it, the NBA locked out the players’ union (referred to hereafter as NBAPA), stopping all basketball-related activities until the union agrees to concessions that the league says will help it become profitable and keep individual, small-market teams from losing money.
Of course, there being billions of dollars at stake, there’s a lot more to it than that. Lots of writers on the internet have had fantastic coverage and analysis on the lockout, talking quite a bit about how this money should be split, about what’s fair and who’s right, and what the true stakes of the lockout are for the game of basketball. I’m not going to duplicate that work. I implore you to read Ziller and Truehoop for that.
And while I’m interested in following the lockout because I love watching basketball played at the highest level and I can’t wait for it to start again, I am also dreading the end result of this beast. Because the NBA lockout has very real consequences for me, my family, and the rest of the 99%.
What seems to be lost in the shuffle in all the discussion over the lockout is that, even though this is a struggle between millionaires and billionaires over how to divide an obscene sum of money, the NBAPA is still a labor union, and this is still, fundamentally, a conflict between workers and business owners. Not only that, but the NBAPA is on average the highest paid union in the world. NBA owners love to trot out this factoid, as if when labor is paid more than other labor, all of a sudden a disparity in wealth is unfair. But it is significant if for no other reason that most of these NBA team owners have multi-billion dollar interests owning just about anything and everything else. Forcing the players’ union to take a collective 22% paycut, as the owners have been fighting for all along, sends a strong message to the employees of their other businesses.
The message is this: “Listen, I don’t like cuting your wages by almost a quarter any more than you do, but times are tough right now. Even the NBA players had to tighten their belts, and now it’s time for everyone to do the same. (Me? Oh god no. I’m eating filet-de-unicorn tonight).”
Unions are precarious right now — just ask state employees in Wisconsin, or Ohio, etc. –and the current recession(1) is being used as an excuse to cut benefits and roll-back wages for employees of all businesses, whether the business itself is going underwater or taking in money hand over fist (see the Verizon strike). As the old slogan goes, an injury to one is an injary to all.
On the other hand, the protests in Wisconsin earlier this year were the most effective public labor mobilization in this country in over a decade, and through Occupy Oakland we just had the first (“)general(“) strike in the US since 1946.
Occupy has begun to look at labor, too, though I’m not sure if Occupy knows why or how other than that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re trying to build a people’s movement against entrenched and inflexible corporate/capital power. Union mobilization saved the Wall St. encampment on Cleaning Day a few weeks ago, and the aforementioned general strike is, to date, the most significant action that’s come from the Occupy movement.
While the solidarity of purpose is present between labor unions and young ne’er-do-wells, for the optimist looking like an echo of France in ’68, this association could very easily fall apart for the same fundamental reason: Labor is a strategic means by which people organize, not a visionary means as Occupy is. Labor, while it certainly has the visionary goal of improving the lives and situations of working people, is by definition strategic: it must at some point focus on the next contract, the one after that, and so on.
This is not a critique of labor, though — in fact, it’s the opposite. From labor, I think the Occupy movement can and must learn strategic, campaign-based organizing. Not because the Occupy movement needs a strategy, but (as I’ll get to in part 2), by positioning itself as leaderless, Occupy is creating many leaders, and has the potential to empower many people to enact many strategies, simultaneously. While Occupy has power and legitimacy from the fact that it doesn’t focus around one campiaign, this doesn’t mean that campaigns are bad. It means that it has the size and the organizational freedom to wage, essentially, infinity campaigns.
Now, in my opinion, the most important successes of the Occupy movement have already been accomplished, and they have nothing to do with strategy (as I’ll discuss in part 3, the finale of this missive). But developing campaigns and strategically assessing how to accomplish them is a necessary part of leveraging power and turning the types of cultural shifts Occupy is creating into tangible and empowering social change.
First, though, we’re going to need all of our numberless leaders to learn how to do campaigns. And to do that, I’m going to pull out one of my favorite organizing tools in the whole wide world: the Midwest Academy strategy chart. And I’m going to fill out selected sections of it here after the jump, using the NBAPA’s campaign to achieve a more favorable contract from the NBA as our blueprint model. Note that this is from the NBAPA’s point of view. Yes I realize that this whole exercise is more than a bit silly.
Hopefully, though, I can both demonstrate to Occupistas how to plan a strategic campaign in order to accomplish specific goals, as well as maybe explain to NBAniks from outside the world of community organizing what the NBAPA has been, could be, or should be doing during the labor struggle. (continued after the jump).
(1) Or as I like to call it, “The Really Good Depression”.