As Crisis Deepens:
Is a Comeback for Labor in the Cards?by Chris Kutalik.
As labor activists from around the country and world converge on Dearborn, Michigan in early May for the Labor Notes Conference, it's worth reflecting back on a year that has brought back hopes for a revitalization of the labor movement.....including
SOCIAL MOVEMENT UNIONISM
Beyond traditional union reform, labor groups fought for democracy and social justice in new and exciting ways in 2005 (labor's participation in the above-mentioned immigrant marches is one example of this).
Unions and other labor organizations continue to oppose the war in Iraq, with U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) playing the biggest role. USLAW is reaching out to veterans and military families, sponsoring public events with Military Families Speak Out, Iraqi Veterans Against the War, and other veterans groups. In 2005, USLAW also organized a successful tour of Iraqi labor leaders and an intervention at the AFL-CIO Convention. Due to pressure from USLAW, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution against the war in Iraq at its convention, a groundbreaking moment for the federation.
Responding to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Community Labor United (CLU) -- a Jobs with Justice-like community-labor coalition in New Orleans -- stepped up its own regional organizing. CLU has already been involved in a number of local fights around Gulf Coast reconstruction and continues to demand that the people of New Orleans determine the future of their city.
For all these positive developments, this remains a difficult period for U.S. labor. Union membership has hit historic lows, and employers (along with the government) continue their assault on workers' living and working conditions.
But precisely because this period looks so bleak, it is important to examine these victories, small and large, and learn what we can. In hard times, we need the lessons these victories provide, and we also need inspiration.