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Labor Unions May Have To Abandon Obama to Beat Corporate America

Labor unions need to start fighting their battles in the workplace, not on Capitol Hill.

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There are only two tools in the union negotiation toolbox: strike and solidarity. These are the forces that big corporations fear, not Capitol Hill deal-makers. People join the labor movement out of a desire to feel a sense of dignity and respect on the job. They gain that sense of dignity by standing up for their rights. They form bonds of trust, dedication and solidarity that can become stronger even in defeat. Workers will always be willing to get back up and fight again if their fellow workers fight with them. All the political favors in the world won't help workers if labor leaders don't stand up and fight.

Richard Trumka knows this and has chosen a bold, aggressive approach for organized labor. But Trumka is just one leader, and the economic battle is just beginning. Make no mistake: Wall Street is taking aggressive steps to wipe out the labor movement entirely, and Wall Street has many friends within the administration receptive to this message. If unions bow to those in the White House that want labor to remain silent amid this assault, the damage to the labor movement will be more severe and long-lasting than the fallout from taking on the administration. Workers might not win in their political battles today, but the real fights don't have to take place in
Washington, D.C.—they're in mines, fields and offices all over the country.


Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who writes for Campaign for America's Future. He previously worked for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE).