Some people may think of building a trade union within the company and isolating themselves from the bigger labor movement is good enough. The considerations are more often to avoid conflicts with employers and refusing to involve with the dynamics of the bigger labour movement which considered drain too much energies.
However, many trade unions have realised that is needed unity and politics in building a success labour movement as illustrated below.
The first, it is almost impossible for most trade unions to be isolated or to isolate themselves from the whole labor movement. Labor unions generally carry out external relations or join to labor organisations as affiliates that are outside the company or outside of themselves.
This is related to the main tool of the workers in collecting their strength, which is unity that arises from real (objective) and inevitable needs. The workers are an entity that do not own the means of production, but they are the real producer of surplus value and profit for the owners of capital. Without workers, factories are only haunted houses and machines are only junk.
Because the entire structure of society, including in economy, education, media and political power, are conditioned to justify exploitation of workers, including by paying the smallest wages as possible. Usually, the labour wages are only a much smaller portion of the total results of production. In increasing bargaining power to obtain rights or a greater share of the results of their work for the sake of survival, workers must rely on their own strength.
The working class is connected each other in the work of producing goods and services, even though the workers work in their respective parts (specialisation). Without one part, it is impossible or difficult for the others to walk. Even though a worker can think of working only for his or her own sake, the work of workers as a collective is linked in a giant chain of production. This also applies to other workers outside the company or factory in the same production chain. For example: workers who make car lamps, are connected to the work of other workers who make plastic components of the cars, and are also connected with workers who make the car factories.
It is not surprising that the united of the labor movement takes the form of international unity. The character of the labor movement is internationalist in the form of international affiliations, following the character of capital which is expansionary throughout the world both in the supply chain and/or controlled by the same owners.
Hence, it is more impossible to build a trade union only in a company without making connections with others. Unity and solidarity are not a moral concept only, but are born out of necessity of the workers, following the relationships developed by capital in the global chain of production and corporate ownership. Multinational corporations influence policies globally and in various countries systematically and structurally. So that inevitably, in strengthening themselves in the face of this powerful capital, the workers must also develop internationalist networks.
Unity itself has a common ground in programs and methods of work which cannot be forced from one to others, but it has to be voluntarily. This explains why there are various unification platforms that differ from one another in their programs, methods and final goals.
Secondly, workers’ rights depend heavily on political policies, so that the trade union struggle must also be political in itself. Again, this is not just jargon, but has a realistic explanation in how the political policies determine labour rights protection. The workers have realised this by remembering only a small example, each year the policy of hiking the minimum wage is determined by a government decision.
As a propertyless class and the creation of large-scale unemployment by capitalism, the bargaining power of workers is mostly weak when entering the labor market, especially for workers who are production operators or blue collar workers. Individual negotiation is almost impossible in this situation, so that the protection of the state is needed through policies and political decisions.
Political decisions can strengthen or weaker labour rights. For example, the government has recently eliminated price-based wages for the decent living component. It is performed by issuing the Government Regulation Number 78 Year 2015 concerning Wages and passing the Omnibus Bill (Job Creation Law) recently. Because of the composition of the parliament members, almost entirely are representatives of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs themselves, they could pass the regulations based on their interests.
That is why every year workers take actions to demand a hike in the minimum wages, in order to push the government of increasing the workers’ welfare. This struggle is still limited by influencing the political policies of the government only, not to the extent of determining political policies yet because there is no real working class representative in power.
The growing of the labor movement will usually enter the political arena to participate in formulating political policies that could benefit the working class and marginalised groups who are under exploitation and repression. This has happened a lot in Europe and Latin America where the working class has been able to build its own political party. The working class creates political programs and their activities, so as to be able to place its representatives in parliament and in various public offices. However, they need to be very careful with the culture of corruption that might be perform by their members and activists, which can be prevented by having a strict policy in addressing an internal corruption in their organisations.
Thus, labour unions that tend to isolate themselves will only develop a short-sighted character, mostly filled with pro entrepreneurs officials and do not develop broad solidarity.