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Recent Union Victories

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There’s been a surprising number of union victories of late. I discuss several of them in my new piece at Alternet and consider their possible implications.

With all of this pretty good to great news all of a sudden, one wonders, is this coincidence? Or is it a sign of a rejuvenated labor movement ready to take on aggressive corporate attempts to destroy worker organizations in order to promote an increased profit line? It’s important not to overstate the impact of the labor-led protests in Madison against Scott Walker’s anti-union bill. Lowell Peterson noted, “What we witnessed in Wisconsin was very inspiring but the voting at nonfiction basic cable production companies was mostly done before the Wisconsin gov started slinging his six-gun. Organizing requires hard, patient work, and folks have to believe the union can make a difference in their lives. I think we have made that case to folks.”

That’s absolutely true, but at the same time the climate of unionization is important. Workers have historically joined unions when the media reports positively about them and when the government plays a neutral role in union elections rather than openly supporting employers. The Republican overreach in Wisconsin, Ohio and other traditionally pro-union states led to a great deal of attention for unions. Obama’s NLRB is making a real difference in working people’s lives.

But while these factors are important, the real credit goes to the people bravely risking their jobs to improve their lot and that of all workers. Workers may have tough employment prospects if they lose their jobs through union organizing, but the increasingly desperate economy has also helped many understand that employers will not take care of them and that their best chance for a respectable paycheck lies in uniting with their fellow employees. We must work to build off these recent victories to make the labor movement a force in America again. The survival of middle-class America depends on it.

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