Forging Change – Labor’s Cautionary Tale

Go Lean Commentary

Forging Change by doubling-down on the Labor Movement – that sounds so 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s or maybe even 1960’s. This cannot be how the stewards of the Caribbean plan to Forge Change in 2020’s.

Those times – 50 years ago and beyond – have past; now we must be concerned with Best Practices. The full history of the Labor Movement gives us lessons in the Art and Science of Forging Change … and also the Cautionary Tale of the backlash of Going too Far, Too Fast.

Yet still, there have been many social revolutions that have spurned from Labor Movements, around the world and here in the Caribbean. This has always been a model for Forging Change. In fact, the 2013 book Go Lean…Caribbean highlighted how the Labor Movement Forged Change in 2009 in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. See the highlights from the book here (Page 17):

In January/February 2009, an umbrella group of approximately fifty labor unions and other associations called for a €200 ($260 USD) monthly pay increase for Guadeloupe and Martinique’s low income workers. The protesters had proposed that authorities “lower business taxes as a top up to company finances” to pay for the €200 pay raises. Employers and business leaders in Guadeloupe had said that they could not afford the salary increase. The strike lasted 44 days, during the high season, and escalated to “the verge of revolt”, finally ending with an accord in March 2009 in which the French government agreed to raise the salaries of the lowest paid by the requested €200 and granted the petitioners top 20 demands. Tourism suffered greatly during this time and affected the 2010 tourist season as well; the islands were believed to have lost millions of dollars in tourism revenues due to cancelled vacations and closed hotels. The strikes exposed deep ethnic, racial, and class tensions and disparities – discord – within the French Caribbean territories.

This was not the only time that the Labor Movement Forged Change in the Caribbean; though not mentioned in the Go Lean book, these incidences are of high notoriety:

  • British West Indian labour unrest of 1934–39 – Various starting points for the cycle of disturbances have been proposed: the February 1934 labour agitation in British Honduras [today’s Belize] (which ended in a riot in September)[1] the May–July 1934 sugar estate disturbance on Trinidad (which broke out on several estates in the central sugar belt, involving over 15,000 Indian estate labourers)[2] and the January 1935 Saint Kitts sugar strike.[3]
    In any event, after St Kitts (which turned into a general strike of agricultural labourers) came a March strike in Trinidad’s oilfields and a hunger march to Port of Spain.
    In Jamaica labour protests broke out in May on the island’s north coast. Rioting among banana workers in the town of Oracabessa was succeeded by a strike of dockworkers in Falmouth which ended in violence.
    In September and October there were riots on various sugar estates in British Guiana [today’s Guyana]; there had been strikes the previous September on five sugar estates on the west coast of Demerara.
    In October rioting also took place on St Vincent in Kingstown and Camden Park. The year ended with a November strike of coal workers in St Lucia.
    After a relatively tranquil year in 1936, there was widespread unrest in Trinidad (extraordinary because blacks and Indians cooperated in working-class activities)[4] and Barbados in June 1937 and in Jamaica in May–June 1938.
    The 1937-38 disturbances were of greater magnitude than the 1934-35 ones, which had been more localized. In Trinidad, for example, the protest began in the oilfields but eventually spread to the sugar belt and the towns. In Barbados the disorders which started in Bridgetown spread to the rural areas. In Jamaica most areas of the island experienced serious strikes and disturbances. At least two ending points have also been suggested: the Jamaican cane-cutters’ strike of 1938[5] or the major February 1939 strike at the Plantation Leonora in British Guiana, which led to further disturbances.[6]
  • Bahamas: Burma Road Labor Riots – June 1st, 1942, the Burma Road Riots was a short-lived impulsive outburst by a group of disgruntled laborers. “In those days it was illegal for workers to ‘combine’ or unionize against their employer”. So this riot was the first sign of a popular movement in the Bahamas that led to long overdue reforms, and eventually, Majority Rule.

Civil Disobedience was effective then and can be effective again … now. The key has always been: Collective Bargaining.

The workers ‘combined’ or unionized and as a result “set-off the dominoes for change”. This aligns to the Art and Science of Forging Change.

This is the conclusion of this series of ‘teaching commentaries’ by the movement behind the 2013 book Go Lean … Caribbean. This January 2020 focus is about more than just the Art and Science of Forging Change in society, but also on how to ensure the change is permanent by neutralizing the resultant backlash. This is entry 4 of 4 for this series, which details the Community Ethos that is first needed to ensure that the societal change is palatable. Otherwise there is the pejorative declaration:

Keep the Change!

The first submission in this series stressed that change must Build-up to a Momentum; this allows for evolutionary change and not just revolutionary change. This means affecting the heart … or as the Go Lean book states (Page 20) affecting the Community Ethos:

The fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period.

Other Forging Change considerations are presented in this series; see the full series catalog here:

  1. Forging Change – By Building Momentum
  2. Forging Change – Opposition Research: Special Interest
  3. Forging Change – Public Private Partnerships (PPP)
  4. Forging Change – Labor Movement Cautionary Tale – Backlash: Going too far

Beyond these, we see that the thought of Forging Change had been a common theme for the movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean for more than 5 years. See the full catalog here of the previous 13 blog-commentaries – before this series – that detailed approaches for Forging Change (in reverse chronological order):

  1. Forging Change – ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ (July 9, 2019)
  2. Forging Change – Corporate Vigilantism (March 29, 2018)
  3. Forging Change – Soft Power (February 21, 2018)
  4. Forging Change – Collective Bargaining (April 27, 2017)
  5. Forging Change – Addicted to Home (April 14, 2017)
  6. Forging Change – Arts & Artists (December 1, 2016)
  7. Forging Change – Panem et Circenses (November 15, 2016)
  8. Forging Change – Herd Mentality (October 11, 2016)
  9. Forging Change – ‘Something To Lose’ (November 18, 2015)
  10. Forging Change – ‘Food’ for Thought (April 29, 2015)
  11. Forging Change – Music Moves People (December 30, 2014)
  12. Forging Change – The Sales Process (December 22, 2014)
  13. Forging Change – The Fun Theory (September 9, 2014)

As related in the foregoing, what was so powerful for Labor Movements is the strategy of Collective Bargaining…or else! No doubt, there is the need for more Collective Bargaining today and always, as related in a previous blog-commentary from April 28, 2017:

There is the need to Forge Change in the Caribbean; the same as there was the need to Forge Change in 1960’s America. Consuming cruises is just one of the challenges that we have to contend with in our region. This is reflective of the disrespect that exists in our society. We have dysfunctions in our economics, security and governing engines. We are 2nd class citizens on the world stage! We have the greatest address on the planet – demonstrated in that 80 million tourists consume our marketplace every year, 10 million via cruises – and yet our own people have to break down the doors to get out to find the respectful life that they need, want and deserve in foreign countries.

What is the Cautionary Tale that we must all learn from the historicity of Labor Unions? “Going Too Far Too Fast”; this why evolutionary change is preferred. The Cautionary Tale of Unions is depicted here, in this Economics Journal, as the final consequence:

Title: What’s the point of unions [anymore]?

Unions are associations that allow workers to approach their employers not as individuals, but as a more powerful collective. This power makes unions pretty controversial; some people think they’re necessary for keeping employers in check, but others think they’re too powerful and hurt the economy.

While some economists think that wages are mostly determined by how productive a worker will be in a given job, others think it has more to do with the bargaining power of each side. Workers generally want higher wages and better working conditions. Employers on the other hand usually want to keep costs down. Wages, and working conditions in this theory are determined by how much power each side has to make the other give in to their demands.

Employers are in a pretty powerful position because they can hire and fire people. When there are tons of jobs to go around this is less of an advantage, because fired workers can just get jobs somewhere else. But when there’s high unemployment, being fired can be a really serious problem for workers. Unemployment gives employers some leeway in deciding how much to pay workers; if one person won’t accept a lower wage, someone else probably will.

One way workers limit this power is by organizing into unions which allow workers to speak out together and bargain collectively with employers. Within a union workers can vote to stop working in order to put economic pressure on the business (called going on strike). The idea is that it would be very costly for a business to fire or discipline all the workers at the same time, so they’ll hopefully agree to compromise and raise wages instead.

Historically unions have been really important for creating a lot of things we see as basic working rights in rich countries, like safe workplaces, 8 hour workdays, weekends, and the end of child labor. Unions and collective bargaining have played a big role in the creation of middle class jobs in most well-off countries.

But unions also draw a lot of criticism. A lot of people agree with the basic premise of unions, but think in practice that they have gone too far. In many rich countries, the decline of manufacturing has been blamed on unions that wanted to keep wages high, even when competition increased from overseas. Some people say that unions make it harder to fire bad workers, which hurts employers, customers and other employees. Public sector unions create even more debate, as wage increases for government workers can mean higher taxes for everyone else.

Some economists also argue that when unions win wage increases, they actually create bigger problems for unemployed people, who are willing to work for lower wages than the high wages negotiated by the union. That’s called the insider outsider problem, because the insiders (workers with jobs) create a bigger problem for outsiders (people who want jobs). Other economists don’t think this effect is actually that big in practice, and is outweighed by the extra economic activity created by giving workers more money to spend in the local economy.

Source: Economy – – Making economics less confusing – retrieved January 31, 2020 from;

As related in this foregoing article, when Labor Unions win wage increases, they actually create bigger problems in society, so there is the need to be aware and be On Guard for the negative consequences of “Going Too Far Too Fast”. The employer must never be viewed as the enemy, but rather a partner in the stewardship of the region’s economic engines. However, there are enemies, adversaries and organized opposition – think Globalization, Technology, Crony-Capitalists or Plutocrats – for the progress our Caribbean general society must make. We must all be aware of these pressures.

See a related VIDEO here … from an American perspective, yet still relevant for the Caribbean:

VIDEO – Robert Reich: Why Unions Matter to You –

Robert Reich
Robert Reich [(former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton)] explains why labor unions impact the middle class and raise wages.

Watch More: Why Right to Work is Wrong ►►

The Go Lean book addressed this! In fact, within the 370 pages of the Go Lean book, many details are provided on how to reform and transform the economic engines of Caribbean society with the cooperation and partnership of Labor Unions and other stakeholders advocating for workers. The book features the new community ethos (attitudes and values) that must be adopted; plus the executions of new strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to Forge Change among workers (Blue Collar and skilled professionals) to work in harmony with market demands to elevate the Caribbean homeland. In fact, this actual advocacy on Page 164, in the Go Lean book, contains specific plans, excerpts and headlines; it is hereby entitled:

10 Ways to Impact Labor Unions

1 Lean-in for the Caribbean Single Market initiative: Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU).
This treaty allows for the unification of the region into one market, expanding to an economy of 30 member-states of 42 million people. The CU is a reboot of the economic engines of the region resulting in the creation of 2.2 million new jobs after 5 years of accedence. Jobs mean labor unions must be part of the discussion and part of the equation. The labor unions in the region have the potential of being part of the solution, as the CU advocates a “meritocracy” rather than seniority. For unemployment, the CU envisions the Ghent System with “Union” management powered by CU systems.
2 Labor Unions and e-Government

Under the CU plan, trade/labor unions will have access to e-Government services and functionalities, (same as Foundations). Therefore, the Unions will be able to access online account management and transaction processing systems to review, request CU services on behalf of their members. They will have the tools to service their charters.

3 Expertise Certification
4 Community Ethos – Automation & Partnership

The CU’s mission is to level the playing field for global competition by fostering and deploying technology to the fullest extent possible. Technology and Labor do not also align in objectives (think: The Legend of John Henry). But there are case studies of successful adoption of Internet & Communications Technology (ICT) embedded in the quality processes to maximize the outputs of the labor force. The ethos for Caribbean labor must be partnership with management.

5 QA Adoption
6 Work-At-Home Promotion
7 Federal Civil Service.
8 Self-Governing Entities (SGE)
9 Volunteers / Foundation
10 Emergencies – Martial Law – Union Suspension

This advocacy projects that Labor Union stakeholders can be partners in the stewardship of Caribbean society. They care about the workers; there is external pressure on those workers and the whole economic system; we are “all in this together”; we need “all hands on deck”. This is the attitude and value system that will foster societal progress.

We urge all Caribbean stakeholders to lean-in to this Go Lean roadmap … to allow us all – workers and employers – to work together as partners. This is one more way to Forge Change and make our Caribbean a better place to live, work and play. 🙂

About the Book
The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), for the elevation of Caribbean society – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Who We Are
The movement behind the Go Lean book – a non-partisan, apolitical, religiously-neutral Community Development Foundation chartered for the purpose of empowering and re-booting economic engines – stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 13):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xvi. Whereas security of our homeland is inextricably linked to prosperity of the homeland, the economic and security interest of the region needs to be aligned under the same governance. Since economic crimes … can imperil the functioning of the wheels of commerce for all the citizenry, the accedence of this Federation must equip the security apparatus with the tools and techniques for predictive and proactive interdictions.

xxi.  Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history.

xxiv.  Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.

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