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Innovative Model Is Helping Save the Future of Unions and May Turn the Election

If groups like Working America can build an awareness of economic issues among swing voters, it could be a game-changer.

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What all of these issue and election campaigns have in common, though -- what they all boil down to – is an attempt to rebuild a belief in collective power. “This notion that you're stronger together, that you can be a countervailing force, you can stand up to your employer, this notion about collective power has been stripped right out of society,” Nussbaum says. “That's the most devastating result of the attack on unions in particular, the idea that self-reliance is the only solution is so predominant that it becomes a huge obstacle for us as a progressive movement.”

To get beyond that problem, Working America is now focused not only on meeting and signing up members door-to-door, but on getting current members to reach out to their own networks, to make sure they're engaging friends and neighbors on the issues. Signing up for an email list, as we all know these days, often isn't enough to get real engagement from people. Organizing, not just canvassing, matters. Nussbaum believes that they're getting somewhere by getting people to start thinking about their jobs and economic issues as something they can change, getting beyond the fatalistic attitude so many have about the economy and their personal situation after four years of misery.

“We feel like we've got a key to the future of the 21st-century labor movement and we all want to be a part of shaping that,” Nussbaum says. 

Sarah Jaffe is a staff writer at In These Times and the co-host of Dissent magazine's "Belabored" podcast. Her writings on labor, social movements, gender, media and student debt have been published in The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Prospect, AlterNet and many other publications, and she is a regular commentator for radio and television. You can follow her on Twitter: @sarahljaffe.