What does Solidarity mean to you?
The past few weeks we have seen and heard many definitions of Solidarity. Everyone seems to have different ideas about what solidarity looks like or how it should work. I believe that solidarity means that we stand together. We are Union Brothers and Sisters and a harm to one is a harm to all. This belief I have about Solidarity has been challenged the past few weeks. The recent contract negotiations that took place with AT&T Wireline has brought to the surface issues that are breaking down the strength of our Union.
I recently read an article published by New Labor Forum, written by Charley Richardson, titled Working Alone: The Erosion of Solidarity in Today’s Workplace (The link is posted at the bottom of the page). I would ask you to take just a few minutes to read the entire article, it is eye opening to the fact that we don’t take the time anymore to build the relationships necessary to build true solidarity.
I’m talking about the kind of Solidarity that Union’s built their foundations. The kind of Solidarity that builds relationships that make us care about what happens to each other at work and beyond. The kind of Solidarity that makes us care more about each other as a whole, than how as individuals to out-do our peers.
When you read the article I believe you too will see how things such as home garaging, staggered start times, combining job responsibilities, constant monitoring has impacted our ability to build true Solidarity within our Union.
How do we change or make better the Solidarity within our Union? I believe we start by talking to each other. Be honest, do you know the people that you work with every day? Would you recognize a sign of something going on in their life that might need a shoulder, a hug or an ear to listen for a minute? Do you know enough about your co-workers that if they were in trouble you would be willing to help them out?
If you don’t know the people you work with everyday are you or would you be willing to put your job on the line and stand “In Solidarity” with them in a bad situation? Be honest. I know that in the old days, when I first started working for AT&T we had an opportunity to network within our work groups. We interacted with different departments, we were able to talk about kids or what we were going to be doing for the weekend. The opportunities are few and far between in today’s world.
We need to be prepared to stand with our Brothers and Sisters regardless if it is about a work issue or something going on at home. It’s not always about do we like the person we work with, often times we don’t and that’s okay but we need to recognize that most of us have the same work frustrations and that factor alone is a reason to stand together. If we find a way to get to know each other the solidarity begins, we have a foundation in which to build.
Solidarity builds the foundation and trust we need to move our union forward, that does not however mean that everyone will be happy with everything all of the time.
Our Union and Solidarity should never be confused with solitary. We are a large organization with many different needs so Solidarity cannot mean that we always agree. We are also a democratic organization.
Solidarity needs to begin with getting to know each other. We need to educate ourselves about our rights and responsibilities as union members. We need to understand and respect the different needs of our members, different job responsibilities, and different contracts. Solidarity should be more than a word that is tossed around. It needs to become a way of life, a way to build a bond and relationships that can be used to make a better life.