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Nation Topics - Economy

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Oklahoma pushes yet again for 'right to work' legislation.

The facts about Bush's tax cuts are being kept from the public.

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.

Blogs

In the face of a changing climate and a constrained domestic budget, the lunacy of fossil fuel subsidies is hard to overstate.

April 15, 2014

There’s no objective explanation for why black women make less than white women.

April 15, 2014

On Tax Day, it’s worth thinking about the ways to make the American tax system better. 

April 15, 2014

Why we still need a “Freedom Budget for All Americans.”

April 15, 2014

Do limits on after-hours e-mail reflect French culture’s laziness or American culture’s malaise?

April 14, 2014

Stephen Black appears on Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss how predators set up shop and grab a cut of their victims’ tax refunds. 

April 14, 2014

The struggle for fair pay isn’t captured in wage statistics; it’s part of a struggle against the asymmetry of knowledge that divides management and labor.

April 11, 2014

Expanding energy access makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is using a failed scheme—like carbon trading—to pay for it.

April 11, 2014

Whatever setback they’ve encountered, poor people don’t need more “incentives” to lift themselves out of poverty.

April 9, 2014

Despite devoting forty to sixty hours per week to their sport most of the year, Division I football players lack basic economic rights under the NCAA’s cartel restrictions.

April 9, 2014