Mark Schmitt recalls being asked the question:
“Do any of you seriously believe that it is possible to have a real progressive movement in this country that doesn’t have a strong labor movement at the center of it?”
His memory was jogged after reading a David Broder column in which the seasoned Congressional reporter remembers when “the most influential lobbyists did not represent business or trade associations but labor unions.”
Back in October of 2003, Nathan Newman wrote about “why supporting unionization campaigns should be a top priority of any progressive concerned about electoral results in this country.” And that is just from a study about the voting behavior of Americans. In 2000 Ralph Nader compared the situation for low-wage (non unionized) workers in Europe and America:
The need for fair labor laws goes beyond the interests of the unions themselves. As union membership falls so do the wages of all working people, union and non-union alike. This is particularly true for low-wage workers in the United States which historically have earned less than their counterparts in advanced European economies. The typical low wage worker in Europe earns 44 percent more than in the United States. One in five children exist at a poverty level in the United States, more than twice the rate of child poverty in western Europe.
All of which begs the question as to whether or not we will ever see unions return to their former strength. One thing progressives can do is to make repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act as high a priority as they’ve made getting out of Iraq. If Bush wins in November it is going to take some real populism to reverse the fortunes of the Democratic Party.
(via Labor Blog)