Nathan Newman offers a new report on declines in unionization by state, and makes – by ranking states by unionization and coding them by 2000 election results – what should be a succinct, compelling, and visceral arguments for why progressives should prioritize unions and unions should prioritize organizing so that both can build over the next decades.
Much of the recent coverage of the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides has contextualized them as a last-ditch effort by an anemic American labor movement to scrounge for new members and national attention. They’re right perhaps to the extent that a departure from the priorities and strategies of the old CIO bears partial responsibility (along with hostile governments, destructive international trends, and such) for the weakening of American labor over the past few decades. What the corporate media tends to miss is that what the rides represent, as much as anything else, is a historic return to the values and approaches which have brought every triumph that labor has acheived – organizing the unorganized, whoever they are, wherever they work, and building durable coalitions based on common interest and shared vision. Has a sense of crisis in the AFL-CIO played a role in making the “old guard” receptive to the focus on organizing and political mobilization that Sweeney – who won the first contested race for his post in a while – and even more so the “New Unity Partnership” – represent? Certainly. But they stand for is an old idea, not a new one, and in returning to it, the AFL-CIO is only catching up with the locals that compose it.
This is the future of the labor movement.