Excerpt of the opinion piece, which a lot of us were wondering about:
Unions in America have been in a decline for over 60 years. Union membership has dropped from almost 35% of all workers in 1945 to less than 15% today. In fact, union membership has declined to almost exactly the same percentage as it was in 1930 before FDR took power and encouraged the growth of unions. The first crucial battle the unions lost came after FDR died, when over Truman's veto the Taft-Hartly Act was passed in 1947. Truman called the Taft-Hartly Act a "slave labor bill".
Since then unions have lost critical battle after battle; the mainline old unions centered around industrial concerns like GM and Ford have shrunk to a tiny fraction of their former self; and despite the efforts of the SEIU unions and others, new economy workers mostly have not been organized.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), created by the Wagner Act in 1935 as independent agency of United States Governments holds the official mandate to conduct elections for labor union representation and to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. Under the Bush administration, the NLRB has:
- made it impossible for large numbers of workers to join unions(pdf);
- potentially reclassified many workers as supervisors (including many nurses) in order to remove them from unions;
- passed numerous rulings which treat employers in one way, and unions in another.
Unions have spent the last 7 years under assault by the Bush NLRB.
The union movement, it is fair to say, is in many respects in its weakest position in over 60 years.
Another 4 or 8 years of a Republican presidency could doom American unions, pushing them below 10% and subjecting them to more and more hostile NLRB rulings, which will cripple what ability they have to organize. Even a moderate Democratic president who halts the slide at the NLRB but doesn't reverse it will leave unions in a shaky situation....(continued with paragraph omissions)
All of the Republican candidates would be awful for labor, and differ only by the degrees of the horror they would unleash.
Amongst the Democratic candidates it's safe to say that Hilary Clinton, who has as her main advisor a union buster and whose husband did very little for unions, would be a largely status quo President. Her board would be decent, she'd be bad but not awful on trade, and she wouldn't sink a lot of personal capital into union issues.
As with many things with Obama, it's hard to determine how good or bad he'd be, but one has to have their doubts about a Democratic candidate who argued that union advertisements in Iowa were unacceptable, and who acted as if union money were the equivalent of corporate money. Certainly there are those who see unions and corporation as little different--but they aren't friends of unions.
John Edwards has spent the last four years working with unions, walking their picket lines and making their cause his. He's clearly the most pro-union of the three remaining candidates; his primary issue is economic justice and he believes that corporations have too much power. His campaign, from the very beginning, was predicated on union support.
But unions didn't reciprocate..... (continued with paragraph omissions)
Neither Clinton (experience) nor Obama (non-partisan change) will come into office with a mandate to help unions.
I can only assume that labor read too many polls and made too many political calculations. Unsure of who would win they went with the "inevitable" candidate (Clinton) instead of the one who had spent 4 years working for and with them. And as a result, if Obama or Clinton win, Unions are going to get a Democratic president who appreciates their help (just like Bill Clinton did) but who isn't really willing to go all out for them (just like Bill Clinton didn't).
The irony here is that if labor had taken a strong stand and put their own best interests first instead of triangulating and currying political favor, the strongest pro-labor candidate would be in the lead today.
Unions would have had a good chance to elect a massively pro-union president--who would have owed them his presidency.
Imagine that alternate world.
Now instead, imagine what four more years without solid support for all American workers and radical reform at the NLRB will mean for you, your pocketbook, and your family.
Decisions like these are what has made the American union movement what it is today.
Full opinion piece can be found here