There's no denying the congressional Democrats and President Obama have been major disappointments, and there's no denying that the forces arrayed against America's unions have done considerable damage. Those are facts. But despite the hype being generated by Fox News, and the self-serving propaganda being spread by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the anti-labor crowd has pretty much run out of steam. They've lost their mojo. Here are 10 reasons why organized labor will ultimately win.
1. Necessity. The dynamic that exists between management and labor hasn't changed since the Industrial Revolution. Despite those catchy New Age slogans about "synergy" and "symbiosis," people who earn a wage and people who pay a wage don't want the same thing. They want different things, divergent things. One wants a larger slice of the pie, the other wants to keep the pie to itself. Hence, the necessity of workers collectives (which is why they've been around for more than 200 years).
2. Numbers. Regardless of all the hand-wringing over declining union rolls, there are still (as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) 14.7 million union members in the country. That's twice the population of Israel. On Nov. 15, 1969, when an estimated 500,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War, it was hailed as an historical turnout. Half a million? Not bad. But just think what 14.7 million could do if mobilized.
3. Citizens. When those "heroic" workers in the community -- cops, firemen and nurses -- finally step up to the plate and remind the public that unions aren't the monsters the Koch brothers and the Mitch McConnell wing of the Republican Party make them out to be, it's going to change everything. These people are our neighbors, our friends, our benefactors. Demonizing firefighters and nurses was a dumb tactic, one that's guaranteed to backfire.
4. Exposure. The drive to privatize public schools will stall. In fact, those grandiose accounts of how brilliantly charter schools are performing -- how charter schools will be the educational template for the future -- have already been challenged. Let's not forget: privatizing the public schools was never about helping America's students; it was about busting the teachers' union, and making money for sharp-eyed entrepreneurs.
5. Politics. Obama will win re-election (Who's going to beat him... Romney?) and, as a lame duck president with nothing to lose, he will surprise and delight his detractors by making the "Reinvigoration of American Labor" the centerpiece of his second term, proving that those inspirational promises he made on the campaign trail in 2008 weren't just empty rhetoric. Don't laugh. It's a long-shot, but Obama could surprise.
6. Merger. Without a clear agenda or recognized leadership, the Occupy Wall Street movement will fizzle out, and the volunteers who fueled that noble experiment will eventually come to the realization that the only institutional opposition to corporate America is organized labor. The OWS faithful will embrace the AFL-CIO, and together they will bring the pain. It's a coalition made in Heaven.
7. Opportunity. Fast food and retail workers will be the target of the next big union membership drive. Not only are these workers underpaid, underappreciated and fed up with being marginalized, the jobs they do are jobs that can't be shipped to another state or another country, so those tired old management threats of pulling up stakes can't be used against them. They're ripe for organizing.
8. Patriotism. America will inevitably realize that, unlike Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs, union members are the country's true, flag-waving patriots. Union workers not only earn every nickel in these United States, they spend every nickel here as well. And unlike "situational capitalists," America's unions don't root for the success of foreign economies to the detriment of our own.
9. Culture. Conservative and evangelical Republicans will wake up and realize that, across the board, unions tend to be fairly moderate when it comes to social and cultural issues. Despite being linked to the Democratic Party, organized labor isn't the hotbed of radical liberals it's made out to be. Don't confuse the AFL-CIO with the ACLU; they're different cats. It's only a matter of time before that phony stigma collapses like a house of cards.
10. Money. This time around, labor will take most of the reported $400 million it spent on getting Obama elected in 2008, and spend it all on congressional and senatorial races, winning decisive majorities in both chambers, gaining chairmanships of all the committees, and eliminating the threat of Republican filibusters.
And that's how labor will get its groove back.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor"), was a former union rep. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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