Labor Notes #378, September 2010

The labor movement has long debated its priority: organize new members or represent the ones we have? We've had to do both, or we could do neither. Our local has found that we grow because of the strength of current members.

With any luck, unions that haven't shown a majority in an election could soon gain bargaining rights. Unions began as “members-only” in the '30s, and a return to that bottom-up organizing could be a boost.

Under the slogan “win the change we voted for," unions and allied organizations have begun work organizing a big rally in Washington for October 2 to show their numbers and demand fair, decent jobs.

After 18 months of legal delays and workplace skirmishes, the stage is set for a decisive confrontation between the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the Service Employees.

The Obama administration announced July 30 it would finally take formal action against Guatemala to address violations of worker rights.

Clothing companies have to be “dragged kicking and screaming” to respect workers’ rights, says Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a monitoring organization that investigates labor standards in apparel factories worldwide.

Social Security is quite healthy now—but it will need more cash eventually. Who should pony up? The vast majority of working Americans, suddenly forced to work through what they’d been promised would be their golden years? Or the biggest earners, the top 6 percent?

According to politicians and pundits across the spectrum, the biggest economic threat to the country is not the suffering of millions of unemployed people but the specter of ballooning federal debt. (Deficits are the shortfalls in any given year, debt is the grand total.) Why this sudden obsession with government debt?

The people most likely to know just how crucial Social Security is—retirees—are holding more than 100 events to celebrate Social Security’s 75th birthday and tell Congress to keep hands off. Chapters of the Alliance for Retired Americans, an AFL-CIO affiliate, are organizing events around the country this month and next.

An appalling consensus has developed among Washington elites: they tell themselves cutting Social Security is a slam-dunk. We’ll have to learn to live with less, we’re told. But our side can win this fight if we mobilize quickly and smartly.

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