The DISSENTING DEMOCRAT has previously commented on the need for the Labor Movement to restructure themselves as part of a mass movement for social justice. Unions achieved recognition with the support of organized farmers, progressives, school reformers, feminists and community activists. As they succeeded they tended to stand apart from others in society, protecting their own turf and standing apart from what should have been their natural allies. Now as organized labor is beset on all sides it is harking back to its roots and reviving the model of “Community Unionism”. We are encouraged. The following is abstracted from a news item in the New York Times as distributed by the Solidarity Information Service.
For the delegates at the convention, which ended on Thursday, there was a burning realization that the status quo was not working for the nation’s labor unions. Wages for union and nonunion workers alike have flatlined in recent years, while the percentage of private sector workers in unions has slipped to just 6.6 percent. That is less than one-fifth the level during organized labor’s prime, when union leaders were confidants of presidents and the mighty Teamsters threatened strikes that could cripple much of the nation’s commerce.
Desperate to figure out how to stop labor’s descent, the A.F.L.-C.I.O., a federation of 57 labor unions, invited scores of nonunion groups, including the National Organization for Women, United Students Against Sweatshops and Arts and Democracy, to the four-day convention to brainstorm. They debated how to shore up the sagging labor movement, how to raise wages and how to persuade Congress to pass legislation that would help 11 million undocumented immigrants gain citizenship.
Even the use of art as an inspirational tool was discussed. The convention’s motto “Dream, Innovate, Act,” festooned in multicolor signs around the hall seemed like something one would expect from a dance troupe and not an often plodding movement lacking in imagination.
At times the convention seemed like a mass group therapy session, with a consensus reached that major changes were needed and soon.