Friday, July 29, 2005

More union articles

You may be sick of reading about it, but I still think it's a big deal and I'm seeing a lack of discussion about the union split among the mainstream liberal bloggers (maybe I'm just not looking hard enough?).

The first is an article by Robert Kuttner:
But the longer-term picture is more complex. If real resources are indeed shifted to organizing, that's a huge plus. There was hand-wringing in the 1930s when labor radicals founded the Committee on Industrial Organization outside the established (and enfeebled) AFL. It was CIO unions that organized new industries like autos and steel, where earlier efforts by craft unions had failed.


When Ralph Nader ran for president, it was out of sheer frustration that progressive politics was almost totally blocked by the influence of big business on both parties. The move did not exactly prove helpful to his larger cause, but you can understand the exasperation.

Last year, two young environmentalists published a paper titled ''The Death of Environmentalism," which rocked that movement. Their contention was that the coalition of mainstream Washington-based environmental groups were spending hundreds of millions of dollars and losing every major battle. Better to blow it up, they urged, and start over with a broader, fresher coalition.


It is always risky to tamper with liberal institutions when they are under assault, as the Naderites found out. It's also better to break some china than to fade slowly into irrelevance.
And another article from Rick Mercier:
John Wilhelm, an official in UNITE HERE, one of the unions in the coalition, said in a recent forum published in The Nation magazine: "It is not our preference to leave the AFL-CIO at all. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."


It's also important to note that the Democrats haven't exactly fought tooth and nail for workers in recent times. Why, one might ask, should the labor movement remain so close to the party?

It makes sense to build up a power base independent of the Democratic Party, formulate an agenda that benefits the people who make up that base, then pressure the Dems (and the moderate Republicans still out there) to fall into line. Historically, this is how meaningful change has occurred in our country.

No one should doubt that unions still have a crucial role to play in a just society. Workers who belong to unions get better pay and are more likely to receive benefits and pensions. Women and minorities in particular profit from union membership.

Many Americans might not know these facts, but employers do. And America's biggest employer, Wal-Mart, has acted on this knowledge with an anti-union zeal that's unrivaled among today's fat cats.

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