Harold Meyerson’s piece on the future of labor unions is a worthy read on an important topic (which, ftr, is pretty much always the case with Harold’s commentaries). Harold’s thesis, one that the economist Richard Freeman (dean emeritus of labor economists and one of my heroes) hypothesized about years ago in his book “America Works,” is that employers’ opposition to collective bargaining in most industries has become too steep. They block union organizing with impunity.
Instead, unions are organizing actions for progressive change that may not boost their membership but instead helps to boost one of their central goals of a more equitable distribution of growth. For example:
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has detailed dozens of organizers to fast-food joints in a number of cities: There have been one-day strikes of fast-food workers in New York and Chicago, and such actions are likely to spread. The goal isn’t a national contract with companies such as McDonald’s but the eventual mobilization of enough such workers in sympathetic cities and states that city councils and legislatures will feel compelled to raise the local minimum wage or set a living wage in particular sectors.
But allow me to add this, learned from my many years as a DC wonk in that rarified space where economics, politics, and power intersect. The problem unions face in Washington can be summarized thusly: the Republicans dislike them a lot more than the Democrats like them.
I suspect Harold would agree. Harold?