Unions need to take a page from the Tea Party

A long, cold winter should have labor rethinking its political strategy

Labor unions protest, Michigan
(Image credit: (REUTERS/James Fassinger))

Not so long ago, the American labor movement faced a make or break moment. Facing internal dissension and a continuous hemorrhage of members and clout, it managed to elect a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. Tilting federal labor laws back in favor of unions, and passing legislation that would allow so-called "card check" elections to establish them in workplaces, were vital. If not then, with that political configuration, then when?

Five years later, organized labor considers itself to be even worse off. Though a friendlier National Labor Relations Board has helped fix contract disputes, the economic recession slashed more than 600,000 jobs from the ranks of public sector employees, at least half of them union jobs. And where the private sector is growing, unions aren't. Politically, labor is toxic. The Democratic governor of New York has found in labor a steady opponent. Where Republicans have taken on labor power, they've won, too. Anti-labor folks have impressed upon the media how bloated public sector pension funds are the single largest source of potential economic peril in cities spanning from San Jose to Central Falls, R.I.

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