After Wisconsin: How Can Labor Bounce Back?

Dear Commons Community,

Richard D. Kahlenberg, author and senior fellow at The Century Foundation, in his weekly blog post for the Chronicle of Higher Education, comments on the failure of organized labor and the Democratic Party on Tuesday to recall Governor Scott Thomas.  He makes two key observations/recommendations.

“First, the public sector needs a strong private-sector union movement to survive. For years, the public sector has been the bright spot in an otherwise declining labor movement…While private-sector unions declined, public-sector unions flourished, to the point where unions in the public sector now represent more members that unions in the much larger private-sector economy…

Second, the Wisconsin vote underlines the need for unions to energize fellow progressives to understand what is at stake in the attack on organized labor. According to exit polls, labor did a good job of turning out members of union households. In the 2010 election between Walker and Barrett, union households constituted 26 percent of voters, but in yesterday’s recall, they constituted 33 percent of the vote. But Democrats generally were not similarly energized and actually declined slightly as a percentage of voters from 37 percent in 2010 to 34 percent yesterday. President Barack Obama, although traveling in the Midwest before the vote, chose not to put his moral authority behind collective bargaining, which may help explain why 18 percent of voters who said they supported Obama nevertheless voted for Walker.”

In sum, the public unions will continue to lose influence and more without a strong private sector labor movement and the Democratic Party needs to put its weight behind organized labor.  The Democratic Party leadership including President Obama should especially take note of the latter otherwise it might be a very sad November.




Comments are closed.