In last week's New Yorker, James Surowiecki has penned a pessimistic picture of unions in the US – declining numbers of union members and the lowest popular support for the labor movement on record. He makes the case that union demise in today's recessionary economy sits in contrast to the depression era, where the adventurous tactics of growing unions were widely applauded.
He argues that the lack of popular support for unions could be a death spiral: as the public's embrace of unions has consistently correlated with successful labor organizing, its absence could make a revival near impossible.
From a national perspective, despite hard working attempts to revitalize and grow unions, Surowiecki rightly points out that the statistics haven't improved. But the reports of the labor movement’s death are greatly exaggerated: the statistics show the need for a dramatic change in direction for unions.
Its difficult times for progressives in the United States with Tea Party reaction, state budget deficits, escalating foreclosures and unemployment. So it is an inspiring step to see a multitude of over 170 organizations coming together in the One Nation Working Together coalition to demand the change that was voted for in 2008. At the moment – this network’s immediate goal is a mass mobilization in Washington on October 2 2010 (known as "10-2-10").
But like all coalitions between different community-based organizations, there is the question of if and how it can work to build change for the long haul –through the November elections, and for years and decades to come. If the history behind the Team Party movement teaches us anything – a sustained effort is needed to build a progressive movement for change.
On Tuesday, after two weeks of negotiations, Australia confirmed that the Gillard Labor Government would be returned. It’s a motley coalition of independents, greens and the Australian Labor Party.
But this new open alignment, similar to what we have seen in the new liberal-conservative coalition in the UK highlights new political opportunities for the power of community-based coalitions of community organizations, religious organizations and unions.