Why the Democrats Need to Take Sides in America’s Class–an excerpt

Harold Meyerson has an informative and insightful long-form essay up on The American Prospect.  It is, we think, an important analysis which should be widely read. The theme is “Straddling class divisions so last century. There’s a new base in town, and it includes a lot of people who used to be middle-class but aren’t anymore.” It is too long for a Talking Union post, so we present this excerpt.–Talking Union

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

This spring, a prominent Democratic pollster sent a memo to party leaders and Democratic elected officials advising them to speak and think differently. The nation’s economy had deteriorated so drastically, he cautioned, that they needed to abandon their references to the “middle class,” substituting for those hallowed words the phrase “working people.” “In today’s harsh economic reality,” he wrote, “many voters no longer identify as middle class.”

How many voters? In 2008, a Pew poll asked Americans to identify themselves by class. Fifty-three percent said they were middle-class; 25 percent said lower-class. When Pew asked the same question this January, it found that the number who’d called themselves middle-class had shrunk to 44 percent, while those who said they were of the lower class had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Americans’ assessment of their place in the nation’s new economic order is depressingly accurate. Though most of the jobs lost in the 2007–2009 recession were in middle-income industries, the lion’s share of the jobs created in the half-decade since have been in such low-paying sectors as retail and restaurants. Median household income has declined in every year of the recovery. The share of the nation’s income going to wages and salaries, which for decades held steady at two-thirds, has in recent years descended to 58 percent—the lowest level since the government began its measurements. Continue reading

AFL-CIO Executive Board endorses Obama

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31:  U.S. President Ba...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

March 13. This afternoon, the AFL-CIO’s General Board voted unanimously to endorse President Obama for re-election.

For many reasons, we are pledging to work with President Obama throughout the elections and in a second term. The bottom line is this: As president, Barack Obama has placed his faith in America’s working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and our full potential. So we’re putting our faith in him.

Please join us in pledging to get to work for working people by supporting President Obama and other working family candidates: [ http://labor2012.aflcio.org/ ].

Although the labor movement has sometimes differed with the president and often pushed his administration to do more–and do it faster–we have never doubted his commitment to a strong future for working families. With our endorsement today, we affirm our faith in the president. We pledge to work with him through the election and his second term to restore fairness, security and shared prosperity. Continue reading

New “Unity Unions” Self-Organize to Confront Workplace Abuses

by Amy Dean

Amy B. Dean

The last five years have been grim and isolating ones for immigrants and working people, right? Overall, this may be the case, but if you talk with organizers at Fuerza Laboral, an independent workers’ center in Rhode Island founded in 2006, you might get a different impression. Despite difficult times, the group has taken on some bold and determined organizing. And they have some important victories to show for their efforts.

“Fuerza’s roots are really and truly the essence of what the labor movement is: workers organizing themselves and getting together with their communities to identify some real injustices that are systemic throughout the country,” says Josie Shagwert, the group’s executive director. “They got together to say, ‘How can we put a stop to this? Because the system is failing us.'”

Not long ago, workers’ centers were seen as service providers, staff-driven organizations where individuals could go to have caseworkers help with their problems. That has changed over the past decade, and the Rhode Island group is part of the transformation. “Fuerza Laboral builds worker power,” the organization’s web site explains. “[We] organize to end exploitation in the workplace. We train workers in their rights, develop new community leaders, and take direct action against injustice to achieve real victories.”

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The Hidden History of U.S.- Mexico labor solidarity

U.S. Mexican Migration

By< href= David Bacon

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. This article and subsequent installments were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change’s report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, visit the Americas Program website.  These are excerpts.

Introduction

In the period since the North American Free Trade Agreement has come into effect, the economies of the United States and Mexico have become more integrated than ever.  Through Plan Merida and partnerships on security, the military and the drug war, the political and economic policies pursued by the U.S. and Mexican governments are more coordinated than they’ve ever been.

Working people on both sides of the border are not only affected by this integration.  Workers and their unions in many ways are its object.  These policies seek to maximize profits and push wages and benefits to the bottom, manage the flow of people displaced as a result, roll back rights and social benefits achieved over decades, and weaken working class movements in both countries.

All this makes cooperation and solidarity across the U.S./Mexico border more important than ever.  After a quarter century in which the development of solidarity relationships was interrupted during the cold war, unions and workers are once again searching out their counterparts and finding effective and appropriate ways to support each other. Continue reading

Empathetic Indifference: Why the Democrats Lost

by Jack Metzgar

In 2008 white working-class voters in Wisconsin and Iowa gave Barack Obama 52% of their vote – and that was pretty important because in both states, working-class whites were a majority of all voters.   In 2010 they were even larger majorities, but they gave Democratic candidates  only 40% of their votes in Wisconsin and 32% in Iowa.

Though especially striking, these huge swings are pretty typical of Midwestern states – where, except for Illinois, whites without bachelor’s degrees (the reigning definition of the electoral “working class”) constitute a majority of all voters.  In the Great Lakes states over the past two decades, there has been a slow but substantial drift of white voters, including working-class whites, toward the Democratic Party.  That drift halted (or at least paused) big time this year.  Why?

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Banana Workers Strike in Colombia

banana strike 2

by Paul Garver

17,000 banana workers have been on strike since 8th May at 296 plantations in the Urabà province of Colombia. The originally economic strike has taken on new significance because of hostile actions by certain plantation owners and government officials.

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