Prior to the push back against radical privatization measures in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, the relevance of organized labor in the political sphere seemed in question. Increasing globalization drove out its manufacturing base and a series of strong anti-union gains in the airline and automotive industries rolled back some of the labor movement’s more recent successes.
But it wasn’t until the aftermath of the November 2010 election did the importance of a strong, unified and even politically independent labor movement become so obvious. For the first time, organized labor was not simply pushing back against demands for wage concessions, it was pushing back against calls to privatize entire industries (where the labor movement has largely been busted entirely), to eradicate fundamental worker protections like the minimum wage and child labor laws and efforts to starve the regulatory apparatus that ensures private sector compliance with worker protections.
Republicans and plutocrats may crow about the economic efficiency and value these privatization efforts bring, but the reality is the exact opposite. Kids get jailed for cash in some places while counties are forced to step in and take-over once-public facilities now in total disrepair. As we’ve decimated the labor base in this country we’ve also decimated our infrastructure and basic civic services — the very things that made middle-class existence possible.
So this is a Labor Day with a little more importance, maybe, than others because for the first time since the Great Depression, this country is contemplating what life would be like without the safety net that made our greatest years possible.
Photo from marctasman via flickr.