Labor-Management Partnerships Will Not Revive the Union Movement

Source: Chris Maisano, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, January 12, 2015

As late as 2008, it was not unreasonable to think that the stars were aligning for a long-awaited revitalization of the U.S. labor movement. The financial crisis focused popular anger on the Wall Street financiers whose speculative activities brought the global economy to the brink of collapse. The election of Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress raised labor’s hopes for the passage of an economic recovery program and long-sought labor law reforms. …. It didn’t happen. Labor law reform was sidelined in favor of health care reform, and the Republicans rolled up big electoral wins at all levels in 2010 and 2014. Despite widespread popular anger at the multi-trillion-dollar bank bailouts, the financial sector has come out of the crisis stronger, and corporate profits are at record levels. Economic inequality has continued its upward path. …. But what if the labor movement gave up on the practice of exclusive representation and embraced members-only unionism, as was common through the 1940s? What if it scrapped the winner-take-all approach and organized workers even when they didn’t have majority support? Doing so would relieve unions of the requirement to represent everybody and allow them to bargain for only those workers who voluntarily chose to be members…..