Some welcome news yesterday from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), courtesy of the AFL-CIO Blog: the Board released proposed changes in the way union representation elections are conducted that it says will “reduce unnecessary barriers to the fair and expeditious resolution of questions concerning representation.”
The changes are minor, of course. American labor law desperately needs to be updated, with card check and other reforms. Recent events in Wisconsin and elsewhere have made it abundantly clear that the decline of the American labor movement over the past 3 decades has not been the inevitable result of structural and global economic shifts, though these things have played a part. Rather, it has political (and legal) roots. One has only to look at union density numbers for other wealthy nations to see this. While many other countries have experienced declines too, the drop has been particularly sharp in the United States. Canada, which has different labor laws than we do, retains a union density of over 30%. And union density closely correlates with rates of income inequality...which is itself strongly related to other seemingly unconnected social measures like infant mortality, life expectancy, mental illness, violence, social capital, obesity, and so forth.
But for those of you on the left who continue to insist that there is little daylight between the two parties, yesterday's rule changes should make it clear that the occupant of the White House matters enormously. Where do you think the countervailing power to financial capital is supposed to come from? Bloggers?
- Mark Santow
- I am Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. I am also the Academic Director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, in New Bedford MA. Author of "Social Security and the Middle Class Squeeze" (Praeger, 2005) and the forthcoming "Saul Alinsky the Dilemma of Race in the Post-War City" (University of Chicago Press), my teaching and scholarship focuses on American urban history, social policy, and politics. I am presently writing a book on home ownership in modern America, entitled "Castles Made of Sand? Home Ownership and the American Dream." I live in Providence RI, where I have served on the School Board since March 2015. All opinions posted here are my own.