What is Labor’s True Purpose? The Implications of SEIU’s Unite to Win Proposals for Organizing
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[Excerpt] That labor is in a crisis cannot be questioned. While there may be some labor leaders who are content to keep ministering to an ever less powerful, shrinking base, there were few in the room that day that would disagree with the words expressed by SEIU International Executive Vice President Gerry Hudson on the opening panel, that the U.S. "labor movement is becoming dangerously close to being too small to matter." For the first time in decades, both organizing activity and union membership numbers have dropped precipitously. Where in past years unions had to organize 500,000 new workers just to keep union density stable, this year unions may have to organize as many as 800,000 new workers just to stand still. And they will not even come close. In fact, after a year when unions shifted enormous resources away from organizing towards electoral politics, it is likely that we will see the lowest organizing gains we have seen in more than two decades, possibly fewer than 200,000 new workers overall. Worse yet, this has occurred at a time when we are faced with the most labor unfriendly political and legal climate that we have seen in nearly a century. As Bill Fletcher noted in his opening remarks at the conference, this is indeed "the winter of our discontent."
unions; organizing; labor movement; labor rights; contract; negotiation
Required Publisher Statement: ©2005 by the New Labor Forum. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.