The past two years have seen sparks of surprising vitality—from the mass uprising in Wisconsin, to the Chicago teachers’ walkout, to the strike wave now roiling Walmart. But the big picture is bleak: our fastest-growing industries are virtually union-free. Strikes by workers are losing ground to lockouts. Concessionary contracts are rampant. The government’s New Deal–era promise to protect the right to organize has become a cruel joke. In politics, as at the bargaining table, unions are mostly playing defense.
When labor declines, our economy and our politics tilt ever further toward the rich. The Democratic Party becomes even less accountable to the working class. Progressive coalitions are stripped of crucial infrastructure and grassroots firepower. Corporate power goes unchecked. Productivity gains flow to the 1 percent. And Americans become ever more subject to the whims of managers: coerced to donate to a boss’s favorite candidate, forced to work while sick, or fired for defending an “ethnic” haircut on Facebook.
How can labor turn this dire situation around?
Forum participants include:
Kate Bronfenbrenner: ”Unions: Put Organizing First“
Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit: ”Make Organizing a Civil Right“
Suresh Naidu and Dorian T. Warren: ”What Labor Can Learn From the Obama Campaign“
Larry Cohen: ”Build a Democracy Movement“
Bhairavi Desai: ”Become a Movement of All Workers“
Maria Elena Durazo: ”Time for Labor to Mobilize Immigrants“
Karen GJ Lewis: ”Fight for the Whole Society“