Tag Archives: Unions

What Occupy taught the unions (Salon)

SEIU and others are embracing the movement that has succeeded as they have faded

Unions and Occupy: who's leading who?

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Unions are in a death spiral. Private sector unionism has all but vanished, accounting for a measly 6.9 percent of the workforce. Public sector workers are being hammered by government cutbacks and hostile media that blame teachers, nurses and firefighters for budget crises. To counter this trend organized labor banked on creating more hospitable organizing conditions by contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democratic Party the last two election cycles. In return Obama abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made union campaigns marginally easier, failed to push for an increase in the minimum wage, and installed an education secretary who attacks teachers and public education.

The Obama administration’s dismal record on labor issues has been compounded by the rise of the Tea Party movement, which portrays unions as public enemy No. 1, and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the political floodgates to corporate money. By last year, organized labor realized that its days were numbered unless it took a different approach.

So it went back to basics. Across the country unions threw resources into community organizing, aiming to build a broad-based constituency outside of the workplace for progressive politics. In cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., newly formed community groups found ready support for organizing around issues of economic justice, but they were stymied by a national debate dominated by voices blaming government spending for an economic crisis caused by Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street changed that. It flipped the debate from austerity to inequality, uncorked a wellspring of creative energy and started taking creative risks that unions typically shun. Within weeks unions adopted the 99 percent versus the 1 percent and started organizing actions under the Occupy banner. One labor leader said “the Occupy movement has changed unions’” messaging and ability to mobilize members. Union-affiliated organizers around the country say it has helped workers win better contracts and bolstered labor reformers.

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The American Dream As We Know It Is Obsolete (Alternet)

Why progressives need to think beyond the mantra of creating a “middle class America.”

We’ve hit 14 occupations thus far. The latest ones being Charleston and Huntington, West Virginia, and Lexington, Kentucky. One common refrain is “the American Dream” is no longer possible, it’s dead or it’s a nightmare. The American Dream is shorthand for the middle class utopia. It’s the post-WWII ideal of well-paying working class jobs that can support a family, which have full benefits, and hope that the next generation will be better educated, have more opportunities and greater prosperity.

It’s a powerful mythology that ignores how socially deadening post-war society was. It was based on American Apartheid, virulent anti-Communism and suffocating notions of sexuality. Poverty was still widespread at home, Cold War militarism and the rise of advertising boosted the economy and plunder from the underdeveloped world allowed for increasing standards of living at home.

In the following article published before the occupy movement began I argue against the idea that “saving” the middle class should be the center of political or social struggles. Now, this is highly relevant to the Occupy movement because many people we have interviewed think we can just return to this post-war fantasy with a few policy tweaks and an election or two.

Just as the current crisis festered over many decades and is thus deeply rooted in our socio-economic system, creating a new world means radically restructuring our society and social relations, something that is not going to happen overnight or by electing some Democrats.

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Filed under Economy, Occupy Movement, Politics