A lot of people think labor is poised for a resurgence, in the wake of Wisconsin. Not everyone agrees. Harold Meyerson reports on some unfounded pessimism from the people who should be making that happen.
Many union activists viewed the 2009-10 battle for the most recent iteration of labor law reform — the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — as labor’s last stand. EFCA could never attain the magic 60-vote threshhold required to cut off a filibuster, despite the presence, at one point, of 60 Democratic senators. Given the rate at which private-sector unionization continues to fall (which in turn imperils support for public-sector unions), many of labor’s most thoughtful leaders now consider the Democrats’ inability to enact EFCA a death sentence for the American labor movement.
“It’s over,” one of labor’s leading strategists told me this month. Indeed, since last November’s elections, half a dozen high-ranking labor leaders from a range of unions have told me they believe that private-sector unions may all but disappear within the next 10 years.
The failure of a Democratic White House and record Democratic majorities in Congress to even make a serious effort to attempt to pass EFCA was a travesty. But EFCA was never the only way to revive the labor movement, nor was it going to be very effective without strategic changes within the labor movement itself. (For more, see Julius Getman’s Restoring the Power of Unions: It Takes a Movement, or my quick hits here and here.) That supposed leading strategists and thoughtful leaders believe otherwise is truly disturbing.