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High Court Killing of Closed-Shop Public Employee Contracts a Needed Wake-Up Cal for Business-Model Unions

Stop whining and start organizing!

By undermining the ability of unions to collect that much revenue from members and non-members at workplaces, Justice Sam Alito, who wrote the Janus opinion for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, and the right-wing movement to attack unions whose attorneys supported this case, may have actually done the slowly vanishing US labor movement, such as it is, a favor with this swift kick in the head.

Unions, which back in 1954 represented 35% of all workers in the United States, today represent only 10.7 percent of workers. In the private sector, the number is a truly pathetic 6.5 percent (and it’s still falling), while in the much smaller public sector, it is 34.4 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

No wonder things have been getting harder for unions and for workers in general, with legislatures ignoring or even attacking them with, for example, so-called “right-to-work” laws, anti-worker measures like more restrictive unemployment benefits, frozen minimum wages that have long ago stopped being adjusted to account for inflation, etc.

No wonder the Democratic Party, once solidly pro-union, has long-since ceased being a party of labor, turning instead into an openly pro-business party like the Republicans. President Obama, for example, while running for office in 2008, posed as a pro-union candidate, claiming that he would be out on the picket line with striking workers as president, and specifically vowing to support a “card check” union organizing law as one of his first acts if elected. Such a law would have made it so workers could win representation at a workplace by simply obtaining union cards from a majority of the workers, instead of requiring a secret ballot election, with alll the legal delays that employers typically throw up in the way of such a process, allowing them to, in the mean time, harass and fire union activists and their supporters. Once elected though, Obama dropped that promise, and never even attempted to get “card check” passed by Congress through his entire two terms, even though he had big majorities in both houses of Congress.

It just wasn’t a big issue for him, or for the Democrats controlling House and Senate, even though it is critically important to embattled unions.

Democrats, while still needing unions and their money to get elected, long ago discovered that they could stiff what was left of the labor movement, just like they could stiff minorities, and still count on their members, or most of them, to still vote for Democratic candidates. And if they didn’t go to the polls and vote Democratic, so what? They still only represented a small percentage of working people, and indeed because many union leaders have been so unconnected with their workers, unions haven’t even been all that good at delivering their votes on election day.

To survive, the US labor movement needs to undergo a sea change, from being basically a collection of “business unions,” to again becoming a mass political movement of workers. They need to be led by committed activists not by people looking for salaries, benefits, perks, a nice paid office staff and the opportunity to rub elbows with the rich and powerful, They need leaders who worked their way up through the ranks of fellow workers, earning their positions because of their selflessness and militancy, not because they went to college and got a degree in labor law or management.



story | by Dr. Radut