Labor, Democrats and the Third Way
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[Excerpt] This past winter the Massachusetts AFL-CIO made a striking gesture. Still smarting from the battle over the North American Free Trade Agreement, the state federation decided to withhold routine PAC contributions from Congressional members who had voted for NAFTA. The decision stood in stark contrast to the many decades in which organized labor offered fairly unconditional, uncritical support to the Democratic Party and its candidates, even when Democrats failed to behave as allies. And while the Massachusetts example is singular and perhaps not an example of broader currents, it should be seen in light of other phenomena: the dissolution of rank-and-file unionists as a predictable Democratic voting block; the assertive distancing by the Democratic Party from its traditional constituencies (for example, acceding to the popular image that minorities, women, and workers are "special interests"); the emergence of H. Ross Perot and his surprising appeal to some sectors of unionized voters; and the growing interest among local labor leadership in Labor Party Advocates, a pre-labor party organization. This is a moment in which old certainties about organized labor and the Democrats are becoming less certain; it is a circumstance that progressives within the labor movement should welcome and work with.