The Democrats Biggest Mistake

Posted on May 8, 2010 by

As the economy begins to “recover,” there is one great casualty of the first phase of the Obama era: the American wage-earner.

Even if the current unemployment rate drops several points, people entering or reentering the workplace will face bleak prospects.  While overall wages may rise slightly as labor markets tighten, tens of millions of willing but “under-skilled” wage-earners will be unable to find jobs which pay as much as $25 an hour or $45,000 a year.

Reforms in health care, financial markets, energy policy and immigration may have some residual effect on pay, but these initiatives do not tackle head-on the fundamental issue of income disparity.

Let’s be serious here.  People need to get paid more.  We have to flip the hour glass.

The Employee Free Choice Act – a modest effort to make private sector union organizing a little easier – was finished off by determined senate republicans and some of their pals on the other side of the isle.

Union leaders and advocates have been banging our heads against the wall to convince our political “allies” that a declining labor movement equals a diminishing democratic base and party.  But democrats listen, then nod, then nod off.

The American labor movement faces a strident and disciplined opposition but it’s the indifference from liberal elites that seems to really seal our fate.

This goes back to the 1960s and 1970s when racism, gender bias, corruption and gangsterism were found in many unions and the AFL-CIO defied liberal norms with its steadfast support for the war in Vietnam.

The cultural snobbery of the “new left,” snubbed “Archie Bunker’s” social conservatism (think Vietnam anti-war protestors beaten up by unionized construction workers in New York City) putting the American labor movement, according to historian and scholar Nelson Lichtenstein “on the wrong side of American political culture.”

Lichtenstein’s 2002 “State of the Union – A Century of American Labor” explains in convincing detail how the great social change movements of that era undermined the idea of class solidarity.

Lichtenstein doesn’t underestimate the intensity of corporate and political anti-union forces.  But he helps us understand the paradox of American liberalism, with its historic and contemporary aversion to real working-class power.

So chances are slim to none that the Obama administration and congressional leaders will resurrect EFCA before or after the 2010 midterm elections.  And despite heroic efforts of union diehards, it’s likely that union density will continue to erode and America’s working class will continue to sink.

Comments (4)


  1. Joe Hill says:

    Nah. You’re right that Obama and the liberal establishment will not do much to help workers – corporate liberalism has been the dominant ideology of US imperialism for most of the past century, and that has meant crumbs for the working class and war for our children. But you’re wrong that the US working class will “continue to sink.” We’re not gonna take it without a fight, and in that fight we are on the “right side of history.”

  2. Stephen Light says:

    You are seeing the effect of 40 years of shifting the burden of the safety net to individuals. Pensions, health care, contractor instead of employee, etc. There are many reasons for this, I guess, but the democrats and OBama have gone along and they leave us with only one choice:
    leave their party and start another.

  3. Power must be seized with our own hands, not collected from the spittle of bloated block head liberals.

  4. [...] failure in the Senate this year of the Employee Free Choice Act, a moderate reform in federal labor law which would have imposed some reasonable restraints on [...]

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