Workers unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

I would, being experienced in such matters, like to preface this entry with the following disclaimer:

I have no interest in changing CWA's constitutional preamble, even if I could, nor would I support any effort by others to do so, beyond simply agreeing with it. This entry is simply meant as another Englishman's mad perspective on America.

The perspective is this:

Americans, by and large, seem to have this need to publicly wave their religion and their religious convictions at every opportunity, even when it is unnecessary and illogical, not to mention contradictory, to do so, as this example illustrates:

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is a union that represents people in America's communications industries, from 411 and 911 operators to cable layers, from ISPs to television. They are one of America's largest unions, with over 700,000 members nationwide.

As is usual for unions the world over, they have a manifesto, it's just that over here they call it a constitution.

The constitution comprises a statement of intent (the preamble) followed by the union's rules and organisational regulations.

The preamble reads:

"We, the Communications Workers of America, believing that as an integral part of society we are entitled to an equitable share in the products of our labor and realizing that our welfare can best be protected and advanced through the united efforts of all workers, do, through this Constitution, under God, seek to form a more perfect means of securing for ourselves and labor generally full enjoyment of the inherent rights and dignities which our institutions were ordained to preserve."

Astute readers will already see what caused this entry.

But I want to deal with this in two parts.

The first is the syntax. Apart from the fact that many probably had to read that last part again and again in an attempt to glean some sense from it (it seems that there really should be a comma after the word "generally", and the word "labor" seems to refer to workers, not working. Make sense now?), the "under God" bit seems out of place, at best.

This is a simple literary criticism. It's almost as if the preamble were finished, ready to go to print, and someone suddenly decided that The Big Guy had to be in there somewhere, and shoehorned the phrase in wherever it would fit. I'm an atheist, and I could write that piece with far more fluidity.

On to the second criticism. A union is supposed to be workers working together for a better workplace. Even the name - union - implies unity, togetherness, working as one.

So why include a phrase which is so exclusive and divisive?

Admittedly, on pure probability, the vast majority of CWA's members do believe in God*, but unions are supposed to represent all of their members, not just some, even if those some are in the overwhelming majority.

And it seems silly. Why bother putting your religion on the union's face anyway? I've checked out quite a few British unions and there seems to be an absence of the desire to proclaim the union as somehow religious.

But it's not just the CWA. The IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) declares "We will support our God, our Nations, our Union" in the preamble to their constitution.

It's not all the same, though. Take a look at how the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) does it:

We resolve to fulfill the yearning of the human spirit for liberty, justice and community; to advance individual and associational freedom; to vanquish ­oppression, privation and cruelty in all their forms; and to join with all persons, of whatever nationality or faith, who cherish the cause of democracy and the call of solidarity, to grace the planet with these achievements.

"Whatever nationality or faith"?

I like that. THAT'S unity.

*I don't think it can be stressed often enough that the term "God" is inclusive only of Christians. The Moslem god is called Allah, the Jewish god is Yaweh, Hindu gods have many names, Buddhists don't believe in a diety at all, and neither do many other religions. People try to blur the distinction between God and "a god", but it is extremely disingenuous to do so.

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