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Courtney Love's plea to fellow recording artists
to join her in the creation of a new musicians' guild, printed below,
is the latest blow to the beleaguered "Big Five

Finally, President Bush is "deeply worried" about the economy. Yep, in remarks last week, he even went so far as to observe that "the recovery is very slow in coming."

Nothing in modern times has symbolized the scourge of racism--and the potential for overcoming it--more than South Africa's recent history.

John Sweeney sees the AFL-CIO through some growing pains.

Unions know what has to be done. Now they have to do it.

When The Red Queen boasts in Through the Looking-Glass that in her country, "it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place," she could have been talking about today's labor movement. To turn their long slide into a winning streak, unions need to add millions of new members each year. The terrain seems only to get more treacherous, with a White House in thrall to business assaulting labor at every turn, a worldwide economic slowdown, increasing layoffs and plant closings, growing economic inequality.

But hold the sympathy cards. As various reports in this special Labor Day issue attest, unions have been organizing more boldly and effectively in recent years, making inroads into new constituencies, like immigrants, and opening up the once-scorned service sector. Election 2000 aside, more adept political organizing has boosted the union-household share of the electorate from 19 percent in 1992 to 26 percent in 2000. Unions have forged promising new alliances with students, religious communities, anti-WTO activists and environmentalists. There have been tactical stumbles--and most unions have yet to shake old bureaucratic habits--but the stepped-up investment in organizing by the AFL-CIO and its aggressive affiliates has begun to show the way forward.

The challenge now is for all unions to wield their resources and power more strategically, to engage their members as organizers and campaigners, and to articulate a social vision that will inspire hard daily slogging but also elevate eyes to long-range goals beyond paycheck issues, important as those are. Such a vision can impart unity and strength to the progressive movement. Teamsters can't be expected to hug a sea turtle daily, but their embrace of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was destructive, as was the United Auto Workers' endorsement of the weaker fuel-efficiency standards in the Bush Administration's energy plan.

The "blue green" coalition is currently facing another important test in George W. Bush's demand for fast-track trade promotion authority. Big business will spend $20 million lobbying for fast track, which would grease the way for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas through Congress. The crucial fight is in the House, where the Administration will dangle all sorts of phony "side agreements" before Democrats and moderate Republicans. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch is on the road, fanning out into home districts of key representatives. Labor is ready to jump into the fray, guns blazing. Recent ruptures notwithstanding, progressives have formed a united front to block fast track twice before, under Clinton, and they can do it again.

But labor's political success will be short-lived unless it is driven by an energized rank and file and animated by a morally compelling mission that resonates with workers at home and abroad. Labor will thrive to the extent that it acts not as a "special interest" but as a new civil rights movement--rallying union and nonunion workers alike around their rights to dignity and democracy in the workplace, to economic justice and a living wage, and to the voice and power that union representation can bring. The rest of us can't stand on the sidelines. Despite its frustrations, the labor movement remains the backbone of progressive politics in this country.

Responses by Adolph Reed Jr., Kim Moody, Andrew E. Stern, Jorge Mancillas, Jennifer Gordon, Sherrod Brown, Bruce Colburn and Nelson Lichtenstein.

Milwaukee's home-care workers discover each other.

The Labor History of a Gap Sweatshirt

US employers like Coca-Cola are implicated in Colombia's brutality.

Blogs

Eric on Smithsonian's Jazz anthology and Reed Richardson on the S&P's rating of the bond market.

April 22, 2011

A major new poll shows that Americans do not believe cutting the deficit will create jobs. So why have leaders of both parties become deficit hawks?

April 22, 2011

As the effects of budget cuts begin to sink in, hundreds turn out to protest their local leaders and the president himself.

April 22, 2011

Republicans tried to use the recent budget compromise to hurt the CFPB, but came away almost empty-handed.

April 21, 2011

Students on both coasts protest deep cuts to education budgets.

April 21, 2011

Here in the US all we seem to hear about is deficits and debt. Yet even the countries that hold a lot of our debt are concerned for our lack of investment at home.

April 20, 2011

We are in a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis, and activism groups like US Uncut have taken to the streets to help change this dialogue.

April 20, 2011

The Shock Doctrine is at play in Michigan where budget cuts and fiscal chaos are exploited by Gov. Rick Snyder, who has sent his henchmen into communities to do his dirty work.

April 20, 2011

Is there a journalism school somewhere that teaches up-and-comers to put stories into little boxes? Half our job in independent media, it seems to me, is putting the connections back.

April 19, 2011

Melissa Harris-Perry discusses the GOP's reaction to the S&P's lowering of its outlook on the US federal debt.

April 19, 2011