by Carl Proper
Photo by Dana Simon
[Author’s note]: This is a draft for a talk to a generally liberal and economically well-off audience in Arlington, Virginia.
The U.S. labor movement once had significant liberal support. Now, not so much. We need liberal support in the political arena – and they need us. This represents an effort to appeal for liberal support, to an audience with little direct union experience, in terms of our common interests.
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When people hear that I spent most of my working life in the labor movement, they often say to me, “unions are really in trouble today.”
My default answer: “the country is in trouble; democracy is in trouble.”
That answer is what I want to explain today.
My political belief, generally, is that the Founding Fathers were right to recognize the dangers of concentrating too much power in one person, or one institution. I believe in checks and balances. Applying that radical moderate belief to our economic system places me pretty far to the left in this country today.
I share the understanding of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, who faced the then-new phenomenon of giant corporations (“trusts” in Teddy’s day). These continental organizations wielded economic power great enough, if left unchecked, to overwhelm a weak and passive national government. The Roosevelts, from their lofty perspective, saw that American society needed the countervailing power of free labor unions as well as a strong national government to balance corporate power. Continue reading