Labor Unions

Tweet From Country's Largest Labor Org Encourages Workers to 'Seize the Means of Production'

The AFL-CIO's Twitter account appears to endorse a workers' revolution.


The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) has taken a radical turn in a few of its recent social media postings, winking at the idea of airline workers executing their bosses and encouraging the proletariat to literally seize the means of production.

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO tweeted out an explainer video from self-described "anti-capitalist, worker-owned" streaming platform Means TV featuring Dan Whelan, identified as a "Marxist, roofer", explaining that the middle class is actually an illusion spread by the owners of society to divide the working class.

"All workers under capitalism are subject to the same conditions of constantly producing more for as little wage compensation as possible," says Whelan.

Differences in income, type of work, or lifestyle that we use to draw distinctions between working- and middle-class wage earners are all a fiction, he goes on to say, created by "the rich and the media" to divide and distract workers from the inherent class conflicts in our society.

The country's largest labor organization apparently found these textbook Marxist talking points convincing enough to tweet out the video, along with the caption "we all need to seize the means of the production."

That tweet, taken on face value, seems to endorse some form of workers' revolution aimed at taking ownership of capital currently held in private hands. This understandably raised a few eyebrows.

This is not the first time the AFL-CIO has courted controversy in the past few days with some of its social media content.

Last week, in response to a widely circulated picture of a Delta Airlines poster suggesting its workers would have more money for video game consoles if they didn't pay union dues, the AFL-CIO tweeted out a meme suggesting that deprived of a union, workers would be spending that money on a guillotine instead.

The post was eventually taken down, and an AFL-CIO spokesperson issued a statement to CNN saying "we strive to keep our Twitter account actively engaging and real to advocate for working people," she said. "We came across and shared this Internet meme. We realize it was in poor taste, that [it] doesn't reflect the values of the AFL-CIO and it has been taken down."

Whether this latest invocation to seize the means of production is representative of the AFL-CIO's views as a whole is unclear. In recent years the organization has stuck to more incrementalist goals like raising wages for its members, not abolishing wage labor altogether.

Reason's request for clarification on this latest tweet was not returned by the time of publication.

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  1. Thank god for the glibs or how would you harvest news to present?

    1. That’s been a pretty standard MO around here for several years now. The one time they did try to HT a commenter, the writer ended up using the commenter’s real name rather than their handle.

  2. Oh, fuck off, commies.

  3. Does the AFL-CIO know how to run the capital side of a business concern? How to maintain and expand the means of production? When to upgrade and how manage the capital to accomplish those things? Or are they just going to eat the seed corn and leave the fields unmanaged?

    1. Considering they don’t do that now, and so envy those who can and do, the answer is obvious.

    2. No, it’s one of the many things that commies get wrong. They assume there is no value in actually organizing capital and the factors of production.

    3. Had a union funded project ask for a bid from us, an evil merit shop. They couldn’t make the numbers work with their people. We turned them down. As far as I know the project never got out of the ground.

      1. If I remember correctly, a local union in Houston used non-union labor to build their new building a few years back because it was cheaper.

        1. Can you find a link? I have a very hard time believing that. Only because the guillotining that would have ensued would be even more memorable.

          Unions have earned their modern reputation as strong-arming thugs. They observed the tactics of the strikebreakers, and the moment they had the power, they adopted the most effective of those tactics to keep it.

          1. I can believe it as long as the union in question isn’t one connected to construction, since it wouldn’t be harming their own members

            1. Correct, I was thinking of repercussions of a union not using its own workers. Where there is no quid pro quo available, unions have little influence.

        2. UAW spurns union labor to build home for ex-president

          Instead of using more expensive union laborers, the UAW has hired a nonunion electrician, a nonunion excavation company and is in talks to hire a nonunion plumber to work on the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath, 1,885-square-foot stone home at the UAW Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center in Onaway.

          1. Just goes to show, there is no honor among thieves.

        3. Unions have been hiring people from outside to carry picket signs for many years now – that’s non-union temporary work, minimum wage, and no benefits

  4. One thing seems clear — giving someone a Twitter account is much more revealing than a polygraph. 🙂

    1. Giving someone a Twitter account is also much more revealing than an IQ test.

      1. Yeppers

  5. So a criminal conspiracy to commit racketeering and Grand Larceny?

    Hm. I wonder if the FBI will investigate.

  6. United Airlines employees took over the means of production. They continued to act as disgruntled employees instead of owners.

    1. Remember the UPS strike in the 1990’s? That was a strike against a worker-owned company, called by the Teamsters union even though the members voted to accept the contract.

      One journalist noted that at the bargaining table, everyone on the management side came up through the company from the workers. Every one of them had driven either a stepvan or semitruck for UPS somewhere in their career. On the Teamsters side of the table, everyone had a college degree and no one had ever driven a truck.

      Unions are parasites.

  7. My guess? The union’s taken on some progressive college student as an intern to co-ordinate their social media presence and strategy (probably some union official’s idiot kid). And the little social justice warrior is more interested in fighting their little revolution than ginning up support for the union. He, she or it should</b get fired. More likely, duties will be switched to filing.

    1. I don’t think you are right about that. This reeks more of a millennial recruiting campaign. The trades in general have suffered immensely from the millennials’ unwillingness to soil their hands with manual labor that profits corporations. Speaking to them using the same language that flooded college campuses and poisoned a whole generation of teachers, who nearly unanimously have passed it on to the millennials, is just effective marketing.

      They won’t get their hands dirty for the man, but they might for the proletariat.

  8. I work a middle-class job in the service sector, what “means of production” should I be seizing? Or does this middle-class “illusion” only apply to people who work in manufacturing?

    1. The moment Marxists achieve their goals, there is no need for a service sector.

    2. My company does software development. Does seizing the means of production mean that I can enslave our developers?

      1. I think it means your developers seize their means of production, IE their computers. Which would, in turn, means that BYOD policies are communist

        1. Well I think everything is seized by “the proletariat” only in name, because a central bureaucracy actually owns* it all and adminsitrates it all in an incredibly inefficient and highly corrupt way which benefits only the few and therefore left wing politics ultimately creates what they cynically thought was the oligarchical corporate structure they hated so much in the first place.

          *as much as private property that is stolen can be owned

    3. Your middle class job in the service sector does not fit their narrative.

      Marx wasn’t an idiot though. Which is why he advocated eliminating private property in total. Kill the small shop owner while the masses were focused on the eebils of large factories.

  9. Given the grand experiments the world has had with this sort of thing, that went terribly wrong, why would anyone think it is still a good idea?

    1. By definition, socialism will result in a government-less Utopian worker’s paradise. Those other experiments ended in mass starvation, corruption and oppression so they were not experiments in socialism. QED

      1. Therefore socialism doesn’t exist. So why do people keep talking about it?

      2. Well we did have a government-less socialism. It was called anarchist Spain. The anarcho-syndicalists took over. It was a real proprty-less anarchy. And it failed when some factories ended up doing better than other factories and the committees could not have that. The slacker workers in the crap factories didn’t like the industrious workers in the productive factories.

  10. George Meany merged the AFL-CIO and led it for 25 years.

    “One provision [of the Taft-Hartley Act] required union officials to sign loyalty oaths affirming that they were not communists . . . . Meany replied that he would “go further and sign an affidavit that I was never a comrade to the comrades” since he had always ostracized communists.[4]”

    . . . .

    In September 1972, Meany criticized McGovern’s statements that the US should respect other peoples’ rights to choose communism by pointing out that there had never been a country that had freely voted for communism. Meany accused McGovern of being “an apologist for the Communist world.”[27]

    George Meany is rolling in his grave right now.

    1. I found Mr. Meany’s discussion of collective bargaining agreements with Krusty the Klown to be quite informative.

  11. Meany’s successor was Lane Kirkland. Kirkland led the AFL-CIO for 16 years.

    “Kirkland quickly put his own stamp on the organization. He took up the cause of Solidarity, funneling more than $6 million in aid to Polish workers in the form of cash and communications equipment. This aid was considered instrumental in Solidarity’s successful effort to end 50 years of Communist Party rule in Poland. In 1994, President Bill Clinton recognized Kirkland’s efforts by presenting him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.”


    Lane Kirkland is rolling in his grave right now.

    1. Like I said above, this has all the markings of some official’s idiot social justice warrior kid got an internship that was way the hell out of his or her league. I mean, think about it. The Delta poster should have been a slam dunk for the union. Delta management came off as contemptuous of their employees. It was an open invitation for the union to play the adults in the room. Instead, they managed to look even worse than Delta’s management. Even from a simple self-interest standpoint, it was a blunder.

  12. It’s understandable that we Koch / Reason libertarians would disagree with this tweet. We might even be tempted to wonder if it was merely an innocent mistake, or a clear indication of American progressives’ dramatic leftward shift on economic issues.

    However, we must keep one thing in mind — the socialists are on our side on immigration, which is our #1 issue. Until the progressive / libertarian alliance has permanently defeated the alt-right, we cannot allow petty in-fighting (whether it’s about seizing the means of production, or raising the minimum wage) to distract us.

    1. I’m not convinced that Democrats are pro-immigration per se.

      They’re against building a wall because Trump promised to do so, but they’re against anything Trump promised to do.

      The Democrats are against scary walls, they’re against separating crying children from their weeping mothers at the border, they’re against they’re against ICE kicking puppies in sanctuary cities–but are they really pro-immigration?

      Has Pelosi introduced a pro-immigration bill? Which of the Democrat candidates for President is balls out (ovaries out?) pro-immigration? Seems to me that they’re happy to let Trump do all the tough talk, but they’d just as soon keep their immigration support on the down-low.

      1. Democrats are for illegal immigration.

        The Democratic Party is bleeding members, so they need to replace them and they hope freebies to illegals will get those votes.

        The Democrats made a choice of illegals over Americans and quite a few former Democrat blue collar workers noticed.

  13. And I was mocked here recently for saying that unions were communist organizations!

    1. likely it was for much more than that ha.

  14. somebody’s been watching South Park. there’s still an AFL-CIO?

    1. Or, as Archie Bunker called it, the UFO-CIA.

  15. “Conservatives pounce on joking tweets from low-level AFL-CIO staffers.”

    1. Alternate headline: “Conservative attacks on AFL-CIO are ‘classic red-baiting,’ experts say”

  16. “All workers under capitalism are subject to the same conditions of constantly producing more for as little wage compensation as possible,” says Whelan.

    Unless they’re planning on being out-competed by the competition and turning their workers into ex-workers, all companies under capitalism are subject to the same conditions of constantly producing more for as little compensation as possible.

  17. Always channeling Trumpelstiltskin.

    Seize = Grab them
    the means of = by the
    (re)production = pussy

    If only communists had really understood what Marx was saying.

    1. Yes!

    2. love it.

  18. Successful parasites figure out that you don’t kill the host.

    1. Evolve to form a symbiotic relationship like those Scandinavians people like so much.

  19. Sounds good to me.
    New law: All union pension funds MUST be 100% invested in companies where the union members work. 100% of union leaders MUST still be working for wages, and contribute their time to the leadership functions of the union.And they must still pay their own union dues.
    Cling on comrades.

  20. They always say that socialism is when socialists take over the means of production. Since no one seriously claims this, there’s no socialism. But here’s a union saying….take over the means of production.

    Beyond this, because socialists are liars and sociopaths, they’d never tell you that’s the ultimate goal.

  21. Okay. Trying a different version of this comment without the links to see if that’s what’s causing it to get held up in “moderation”.

    The funniest part is that the AFL-CIO and their members already have the ability to “seize the means of production” in almost any company they want. Just buy the company’s stock. Get a majority (or even a controlling minority) and you can put in whatever management you like and they can implement your preferred policies immediately. No bloodshed needed!

    For scale, the AFL-CIO claims to have just under 12.5 million members. Each subsidiary has their own pension fund but extrapolating from [one subsidiary I found], pension assets are on the order of $150,000 per participant. Call it somewhere between $1.5 and 1.7 trillion in total. That’s enough to buy both of the two largest companies in the world (Microsoft and Apple) outright. If they just wanted controlling interest, they could spread that quite a bit further.

    Of course, you will have to live with the consequences when those policies start to eat into the value of your retirement fund. But, hey, if you think it’s a great idea that will be better for workers, go for it!

    1. And finally the original got cleared. Apologies for the duplication.

  22. What is with the lie about union dues averaging $700 a year.

    Dues run 2-5% of gross wage. That is not even counting other deductions for vacation, training, and other programs which are another 2-5%.

    So, the minimum ‘dues’ on wages alone would be $700 on only $35,000 in wages, or $17.50/hr for 2000 hours. The trades I have worked with: carpenters, painters, laborers, electricians, equipment operators, plumbers, pipefitters, and teamsters all make in excess of $30/hr minimum in small markets like Portland, OR. In Seattle, SF and LA, they make $40+ minimum.

    An apprentice might pay $700 in dues, but a journeyman is going to pay 5 times that amount. Unless they work significantly less than 2000 hours…

    1. They might be including dues for public-sector unions, which are, in each case of which I am aware, much lower than other unions, thereby distorting the figure. Or they might just be lying.

  23. “All workers under capitalism are subject to the same conditions of constantly producing more for as little wage compensation as possible,” says Whelan.”

    Whereas under socialism, the workers are subject to the same conditions of constantly producing more for funny money, and ration cards.

    1. “We pretend to work, and you pretend to pay us.”

  24. Two questions:

    1. Why, exactly, are we paying attention to an organization that represents maybe 7% of American workers, and falling?

    2. Why aren’t these tweets being responded to with the same punishment that was meted out to the Twitter user who tweeted that journalists should “learn to code?”

  25. Union bosses have always been outright socialist, if not explicitly Marxist. They just kept it hidden and in the closet for decades. The whole premise of organized labor is about class.

    So what happened? College damaged kids have made socialism popular again. Being socialist is trendy right now. So union bosses decided to come out of their closet and start regurgitating Marxist talking points from a century ago. That is all.

    What the union bosses don’t understand is that unions are on the retreat as the rank and file union member finally cut ties with the Democrat Party who took them for granted for sixty years. The average union worker is NOT a dippy identitarian progressive.

  26. Workers should seize the means of production. Which were produced by other workers. Who gets to grab a factory? The factory workers or the workers who built the factory? And if socialism is so great, how come it can’t produce the means of production but instead has to seize it from the capitalists? Ask Bernie – socialism is better than capitalism because it eliminates both that nasty profit motive and the wasteful duplication of services (who needs 24 kinds of deodorant?) and yet somehow socialism can’t build a factory?

    I’ve said many times, capitalism is a system for producing wealth and socialism is a method of redistributing wealth so you can’t even compare the two. But you can ask where the hell socialism expects to get the wealth to redistribute without capitalism.

  27. Ha. If one is so envious of business ownership, why not start a business? Roofing and home improvement can do extremely well.

  28. It is always fun to watch marxists spread their idiocy on a capitalist platform, twitter.

  29. “… along with the caption “we all need to seize the means of the production.””

    The AFL-CIO might want to hurry before AI, automation, and robotics eat their lunch.

  30. Where is the outrage and calls to fire the AFL-CIO for a mis-fired Tweet?

  31. Look if they want it so much they can have it.

    Frankly, controlling the means of production and oppressing the proletariat is a lot of damn work.

    Just give me a double wide in Panama City Florida and a package store that delivers and it is yours.

    1. You and Ellis Wyatt?

  32. If the progressives do win congress and the presidency then there will be nothing to stop the unions with the help of government form taking over the means of production. We have seen what happens when that happens if we just look back to the old USSR. Then we can more recently if we look to Cuba and later to Venezuela. These last two examples are of what has in the past called “western” unlike the USSR which is not. Yet the economy in Cuba felled into the toilet and stayed there until the Castros opened to trading with the US and also allowed some private ownership. Now its economy is much better even it is a political to the US. Venezuela is another example and not nearly as old as Cuba’s socialism experiment so it is at this time much worse off than Cuba was even with the large wealth of crude oil. Its people are starving every day but Maduro has not yet given up his presidency and he would not be able keep his position without the Cuban and Russian solders and solders of fortune.
    But we can see what the US will turn into with the shortages of life necessities and nothing that is not absolutely necessary and talking about the economy there would not be any nor would there be any 401K for anyone. BTW the union members that take over the means of production will soon find out that it is the government that is behind the take over and the UNION members will be left out in the cold.

  33. Reason’s request for clarification on this latest tweet was not returned by the time of publication.

    They only respond to real news orgs, not fake news.

  34. Like many Americans, I seize the means of production all the time… one share at a time.

  35. […] week, the AFL-CIO promoted a video produced by “Means TV,” which bills itself as “the first anti-capitalist worker-owned […]

  36. How is this not “inciting violence”?

  37. Seize ownership of the means of production by INVESTING your CAPITAL just like the current owners did. Fucking commie losers.

    The last few years has been really nice since the commies are taking off their masks. I think it is waking up a lot of sane centrists to the threat the leftists pose.

  38. Any group with “Congress” in its title is probably up to no good.

  39. […] Tweet From Country’s Largest Labor Org Encourages Workers to ‘Seize the Means of Product… Christian Britschgi, Reason […]

  40. […] worker-owned streaming platform”). This is not your mom’s or dad’s AFL-CIO [Christian Britschgi, Reason; Noah Rothman, Commentary] Time for some member unions to begin thinking of […]

  41. […] Sounds great — but by Leftsplaining in this way, he was only showing how far behind the times he is (and no wonder; due to the tenure system, academia is the slowest to change of any major American institution). Internet socialism is old hat; this year’s New Socialism is an Uncle Sam–as–Santa Claus nostalgia act, seen most prominently in the Democratic presidential candidates’ Loud, Proud, Refusing to Be Cowed, At Least Until the Primaries Are Over program of free college, punitive taxation, and DMV-style health care, along with factory workers advocating seizure of the means of production. […]

  42. […] Sounds great — but by Leftsplaining in this way, he was only showing how far behind the times he is (and no wonder; due to the tenure system, academia is the slowest to change of any major American institution). Internet socialism is old hat; this year’s New Socialism is an Uncle Sam–as–Santa Claus nostalgia act, seen most prominently in the Democratic presidential candidates’ Loud, Proud, Refusing to Be Cowed, At Least Until the Primaries Are Over program of free college, punitive taxation, and DMV-style health care, along with factory workers advocating seizure of the means of production. […]

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