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Nation Topics - Economy | The Nation

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Nation Topics - Economy

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As Teamster/turtle ties fray, Hoffa faces Tom Leedham in his re-election bid.

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.

Blogs

Senate cloture vote limits debate, restricts amendments and erects another barrier to honest discourse about trade policy.

May 21, 2015

Nominated for mayor of Philadelphia, a progressive teaches a lesson about coalition politics.

May 20, 2015

Employers exploit legal loopholes to keep poverty-wage workers from earning overtime wages.

May 18, 2015

Focusing too much on regulating retail workplaces and safety practices could let the products industry off the hook.

May 15, 2015

“We need to get started fixing all this,” says Wisconsin progressive.

May 14, 2015

A conversation with the Roosevelt Institute’s Mike Konczal.

May 14, 2015

Why does the White House keep telling reporters the public is lining up behind the trade push?

May 13, 2015

In a victory for the Fast Food workers movement, New York’s governor has created a path for wage increases through executive action.

May 13, 2015

The White House has been going hard against Elizabeth Warren for making this claim—but she’s right.

May 12, 2015

The “reach across the aisle” was going according to plan... until the Populist Avenger showed up.

May 12, 2015