Yes, congressional Democrats and President Obama have been major disappointments, and yes, the forces arrayed against organized labor have done considerable damage. But despite the damage, despite the hype generated by Fox News, and the self-serving propaganda disseminated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the anti-labor crowd has run out of steam. They’ve lost their momentum. Here are 10 reasons why organized labor will prevail.
1. Ideology. The dynamic that exists between management and labor hasn’t changed since the Industrial Revolution. Despite those catchy slogans about “synergy” and “team-building,” people who earn a wage and people who pay a wage don’t necessarily want the same thing. They want different things, divergent things. One wants a larger slice of the pie for themselves and their families, the other wants to keep the whole pie. Hence, workers collectives.
2. Numbers. Despite the hand-wringing over declining union rolls, there are still (as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) 14.7 million union members in the country. That’s twice the population of Israel. On November 15, 1969, when an estimated 500,000 people participated in an anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C., it was billed as a historical turnout. Think what 14 million could do if mobilized.
3. Citizens. Those “heroic” workers in the community—cops, firemen and nurses—are going to step up to the plate and remind the public that unions aren’t the horrible monsters the Koch brothers and Mitch McConnell wing of the Republican Party make them out to be. They’re our neighbors, our friends, our benefactors. Demonizing the firefighters and nurses is a tactic that’s guaranteed to backfire.
4. Exposure. The drive to privatize public schools will fail. In fact, those grandiose promises about how brilliantly for-profit charter schools are going to perform, and how charter schools will be the educational template for the future, have already been exposed as false. Make no mistake: privatizing the public schools wasn’t undertaken to help America’s students; it was undertaken to make money for a few early-entry entrepreneurs.
5. Politics. Obama will win re-election (Get serious. Who’s going to beat him….Romney?) and, as a lame duck president with nothing to lose, Obama will surprise and delight his earlier detractors by making the “Reinvigoration of American Labor” the centerpiece of his second term, proving that those inspirational promises he made on the campaign trail in 2008 weren’t just empty rhetoric.
6. Merger. Without a clear agenda or recognized leadership, the Occupy Wall Street movement will fizzle out. The volunteers who fueled that noble experiment will come to the realization that the only institutional opposition to corporate America is organized labor. The OWS faithful will embrace the AFL-CIO, and together they will go on the warpath. A coalition made in Heaven.
7. Opportunity. Fast food and retail workers will be the target of the next big membership drive. Not only are these workers underpaid, underappreciated, and fed up with being marginalized, the jobs they’re doing just happen to be jobs that can’t be shipped to another state or overseas, so those tired old management threats can’t be used against them. They’re ripe for organizing.
8. Patriotism. America will inevitably realize that, unlike Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs, union members are our true patriots. Union workers not only earn every nickel in these United States, they spend every nickel here as well. Unlike “situational capitalists,” America’s unions don’t root for the success of foreign economies (to the detriment of our own).
9. Culture. Conservative Republicans will wake up and realize that, across the board, union members tend to be fairly moderate when it comes to social and cultural issues. Despite being linked to the Democratic Party, organized labor isn’t the radical, godless hotbed the evangelical right pretends it is. That phony liberal stigma will collapse like a house of cards.
10. Money. This time around, labor will take the reported $400 million it spent on getting Obama elected in 2008, and spend it all on congressional and senatorial races, winning decisive majorities in both chambers, gaining chairmanships of all the committees, and eliminating the threat of Republican filibusters.
And that’s how labor will get its groove back.