This has been the question on everyone’s lips these days, at least among the Fourth Estate covering the AFL Convention. Amy Joyce of the Washington Post – a pretty capable scribe in her own right – called tonight to ask. Here was some of our reaction:
First of all, it’s important to understand that unions have been losing ground on organizing for 30 years and have been finding an endless stream of villains to blame for it. First it was the “anti-union Reagan Administration” (for 8 years), followed by “the anti-union Bush (41) Administration” (for four years). After that, they pretty much got 8 years of a hand-picked Clinton Administration, yet their numbers continued to slide. That was about the time they began to blame the statue, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), under which they saw fabulous success in the 50’s and 60’s. Somewhere, somehow, it took a turn for the worse, became a bad statute. Not sure where, not sure when. They blamed the firing of the air traffic controllers, blamed companies who fight organizing drives – in short, blamed everybody but themselves. Frankly, sounds like a whole lotta excuses to us.
In our view, there are a few key reasons why they’ve not been able to organize:
It may be that the dissidents can figure this all out. Andy Stern has certainly had his share of success organizing the service, public and health care sectors. He has found a message that sells. At the end of the day, the reason the AFL-CIO can’t organize has been spelled out quite clearly by the dissidents. To their credit, they have blamed neither management not some imagined political foe. They have looked inward and found the real culprit and declared, “It is us.”
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