Blue about November 2? As a labor lawyer in a Blue State, I’m ready to give up. Not because Bush will repeal the Wagner Act–I almost wish he would. The act is so screwed up, management could hardly have it any better. Worried about the National Labor Relations Board? Not really. No union serious about organizing uses it anymore.
The problem is, unions represent only about 8 percent of the workforce (private sector). When the airlines finish with Chapter 11, we could be even smaller. In four years, could labor in the private sector be more or less gone? I hope not. Anyway, I suppose someone will always be on strike at Yale.
The worst part about the next four years is that labor will be tied down, on Capitol Hill, fighting privatization of Social Security. We will be too bloodied, after that, to do much organizing in “the backlands.”
Still, am I really that discouraged? You bet I am.
Let the real me step aside, then, and bring forward a me who pretends to believe why our defeat on November 2 is, or could be, a good thing. Because now, after November 2, we know that we are Two Nations. We should give up on DC.
Let’s govern from the Blue States.
If we govern from the Blue States, it may be possible to bring the labor movement back. What do I mean by “governing from the Blue States”? Use state law as much as possible to set up the kind of social democracy we would like to see for the country as a whole.
How are we going to do this? It won’t be easy, but it’s a whole lot cheaper and easier than doing what we just did in the Kerry campaign. Let’s keep intact America Coming Together and MoveOn. Let’s give the kids who worked the streets something to do.
This will cost money, but if the voter breakdowns are right, the Democrats have dough, big dough. If the rich of the GOP can fund the Christian right, maybe Harvard can give a little more to labor, since at least a labor union is an institution of the Enlightenment.
First, we need places for people to meet. Instead of unions that people can join only if a majority of workers at a workplace decide they want to be members, we should have organizations, or clubs, that could include associate members, people like you and me who never dreamed we might have a union card. Let people, individually, one by one, sign up as union members, and not only as part of a “bargaining unit.” In Europe, that’s how they do it.
We need some place to go, and meet, and hang out, the way they do in the rural counties on the Christian right. Democrats will always be shy of a majority until we have places where we can be citizens. While the voting rate may have gone up, I have a hunch the number of real citizens keeps dropping. And the reason is that, as John Dewey wrote long ago, the last and least important thing about citizenship is voting. More important is to live a certain way of life. When many evangelical Christians went to the polls in 2004, they may have been voting for the first time. But they already were citizens, albeit not of this world, perhaps.