Labor Day 2007

New Orleans        Maybe this is a bit better Labor Day for American workers than the last several.  We do have some things that have broken our way.

    The minimum wage has finally gone up from $5.15 to $5.85 and stands to keep rising for the next couple of years.  Good news!

    A bunch of unions led by the United Steelworkers and its organizing director, Mike Yoffee, has challenged a 50 year plus misreading of the National Labor Relations Act before the Board to allow majority unionism.  Here’s to you, Mike!

    One of the largest units of unorganized workers in recent years, 52,000 home child care workers won an executive order from Governor Spitzer in New York State and are moving into the union thanks to the leadership of the AFT, the United Federation of Teachers in New York and its President Randi Weingarten, the ACORN-Community Labor Organizing Center, and New York ACORN.  Ten thousand home child care workers in Maryland originally organized by ACORN and merged with SEIU in 2004-2005 are finally winning their right to an election with a recent announcement by Governor O’Malley as well.

    The poverty gap supposedly has shrunk for the first time since President Bush has been in office.

    Major candidates for the Presidential nomination have been doing a “day in the shoes” or real workers and are actually talking about a set of programs and policies that might be worker friendly in the new administration.

    Rumors swirl around Washington every trip I make there that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney is finally looking past this term to a successor.  Here is the scenario that I think works to handle the reunification of the American labor movement with style and grace.  There is already an agreement by the AFL and Change to Win to work together on political activity on regime change in the 2008 elections.  They do so and help elect a new President of the United States.  This allows Sweeney to retire as a winner.  The new President in the first 100 days brings the leaders of the two federations together in a unification meeting, and there is an announcement that a reunified labor movement under some name (maybe not the AFL-CIO but something new) has brought everyone under one banner with a new leader who is neither Sweeney nor Andy Stern nor any existing federation leader.  Voila!

    Change is coming, and we need to get ready to make the most of it.

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