Published: Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012 | By: Mark Koba, Senior Editor
Workers walk off the job at Walmarts, Boeing employees get the right to discuss unions during work time and Chicago teachers get most of their demands met.
Add to this a re-elected President Barack Obama—who’s meeting with labor leaders Tuesday at the White House for talks on the “fiscal cliff”—and some analysts say the time may be right for a rebirth for American labor activism.
“I do think it’s a favorable time for workers and the unions,” said Chris Rhomberg, associate professor of sociology at Fordham University. “What’s happening, including the election, is a push back on the reversal of worker’s rights that hasn’t happened since the New Deal.”
Obama’s return to the White House will put greater pressure on him to do more for a major constituency, said John Alan James, executive director for global governance at Pace University.
“He owes them big time,” James said. “The Democrats got a big labor turnout this election. There’s pressure on Obama to deliver on things like the Employee Free Choice Act, which makes it easier to organize unions.”
There’s no doubt labor belonged to Obama in his re-election. Union members voted for him in 2012 at a rate of 65 percent to 33 percent, according to the AFL-CIO. Obama’s support in union households was 58 percent, just 1 percentage point less than 2008. And union votes helped to defeat several state ballot measures, including ones in California and Idaho designed to cut education and public services.
Even before the election, workers and unions were pushing their agenda. The Chicago teachers’ strike ended in September in what the teachers union called a victory. The summer recall attempt of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker failed, but a state court in September struck down many of the laws he backed to end public union collective bargaining.
“Companies work hard to keep unions out when it comes to pay and benefits,” said John Malloy, an executive search consultant with Sanford Rose Associates. “Why join a union when you are making more money without them.”
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