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Wed Dec 26, 2012, 10:02 AM

For Unions, It Was a Very Bad Year

American labor can begin the new year with thanks that 2012 is over. Not that the unions didn’t win some big victories in 2012. Their political programs in key swing states played a major role in President Obama’s re-election, both by turning out minority voters in record numbers in Ohio, Nevada, and Florida and by winning Obama a higher share of white, working-class voters in the industrial Midwest than he won in other regions. Their efforts also helped liberal Democrats hold key Senate seats in Ohio (Sherrod Brown) and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin), and pick up Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren). In California, the nation’s mega-state, unions beat back a ballot measure designed to cripple their political programs by a decisive 12.5-percent margin, turning out so many voters that they also helped a key tax-hike measure pass at the polls and enabled the Democrats to win super-majorities in the state legislature.

But for labor, 2012 will chiefly be remembered for two major defeats in industrial Midwestern states that had formerly been union strongholds: Wisconsin and Michigan. In Wisconsin, a union-initiated effort to recall Republican governor Scott Walker, who had pushed through the legislature a law stripping public-sector unions of collective-bargaining rights, failed badly at the polls. In Michigan, after voters (in the same election in which they gave Obama a clear victory) decisively rejected a union-initiated ballot measure that would have enshrined collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution, the Republican legislature passed, and Republican governor Rick Snyder signed, a right-to-work law in the cradle of American industrial unionism. What makes these defeats more bitter was that both involved unforced errors—actually, the same unforced error—on labor’s part. On the evidence of polling, many union leaders and political directors believed from the start that the Wisconsin recall and the Michigan ballot measure were fights that could not be won, but their cautions went unheeded by well-intentioned unionists in both states. It’s not clear that Snyder, who had previously disavowed any interest in enacting a right-to-work law, would have changed his mind had the measure not been put on the ballot and defeated, but its defeat certainly set the stage for the Republicans’ sudden and unheralded push for right to work during the legislature’s lame-duck session.

Labor’s defeats in Michigan and Wisconsin provide one of the unions’ chief goals for 2013—keeping their ground game in place so they can oust the Republicans who swept to power across the Midwest and in other key states the elections of 2010. Michigan’s Snyder, Ohio’s John Kasich, and Florida’s Rick Scott head the list of GOP governors who have sought to diminish labor’s political power in their states and who are polling badly as their 2014 re-election campaigns draw nigh. Behind the anti-union push in Republican statehouses over the past two years has been the GOP’s concern that unless unions were dealt a body blow that diminished their numbers, the Republicans’ 2010 victories could be overturned in 2014. Despite all the rhetoric about right-to-work laws leading to an increase in jobs (they don’t), local business was absent from the campaigns to enact the legislation, and for good reason: Wages throughout the industrial Midwest have declined along with union membership to the point that they’re already much closer to wage levels in the historically right-to-work South. The push for the legislation came entirely from right-wing ideologues (Amway’s Dick DeVos and the Koch Brothers) whose businesses would be unaffected if such laws passed, and from Republican pols who’d prefer to go into 2014 with the unions’ ability to campaign against them diminished.

California will be the only major state next year where significant pro-union legislation could pass (though it’s not clear that crusty Democratic governor Jerry Brown will entertain many such measures). The state’s farm workers, excluded from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act but given the right to form unions by the the state’s own Agricultural Labor Relations Act—passed when Brown was governor in the 1970s—could win card-check elections. Several Democratic-controlled states could also raise the minimum wage and mandate better working conditions for groups such as domestic workers, who’ve been traditionally excluded from wage and hour legislation.


http://prospect.org/article/unions-it-was-very-bad-year

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Reply For Unions, It Was a Very Bad Year (Original post)
Redfairen Dec 2012 OP
daybranch Dec 2012 #1
rso Dec 2012 #2
Gman Dec 2012 #3
madrchsod Dec 2012 #4
limpyhobbler Dec 2012 #5

Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Dec 26, 2012, 10:22 AM

1. Yep we were winning Vietnam too-

Currently you have the situation where Unions and democrats , and community organizations are organized and aligned. We will not stop until we win measures to ensure survival of the unions and growth of the middle class which we know are synergistic. Sometimes you lose some but grow stronger with the losses. Unions grew more committed in Wisconsin and Michigan and here in Ohio. Other groups concerned about the middle class and the environment work with the unions now too. We lost in Michiban and in Ohio to a rigged system. We are advancing again. Watch 2013 for our actions against gerrymandering and you will see what we do across the Nation. Bye Bye Repubs.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Dec 26, 2012, 10:50 AM

2. Unions

I disagree. I believe that Obama's victory was a literal life-saver for unions which more than compensated for the setbacks that you mention in your post.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Dec 26, 2012, 12:02 PM

3. I wouldn't at all call it a "very bad year"

It was a pretty good year that was marred by Wisconsin and Michigan.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Dec 26, 2012, 12:15 PM

4. not really....

we were caught off guard and we organized and fought back. this war is far than over but we know our enemy and their tactics.

we are not going to let anyone turn us around!

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Dec 26, 2012, 03:09 PM

5. and also Indiana,

it the first state to go right-to-work in 2012.

There was also the transportation bill made it harder for airline workers to unionize. Protections for working children were offered but then withdrawn after the agriculture industry complained.

The only thing people seem to be counting as a win is that Obama won the election. That's fine but Obama also wrote Trans Pacific Protocol into the party platform so I'm not sure if that's a real win or just that he is not quite as bad as the other guys or what.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-02-01/indiana-right-to-work-bill/52916356/1

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