Our guest authors today are Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, and Moshe Z. Marvit, a civil rights attorney. They are authors of the book Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right: Rebuilding a Middle-Class Democracy By Enhancing Worker Voice.
Conservatives are calling the failure of public sector unions to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker labor’s “Waterloo.” Just as private sector unionism has declined from a third of the workforce in the 1950s to less than 7 percent today, Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post, “Tuesday, June 5, 2012, will be remembered as the beginning of the long decline of the public-sector union."
This forecast seems an exercise in hyperbole (many voters don’t think recall elections are an appropriate response to policy disputes) but the setback for labor was indeed serious. One of the lessons of Wisconsin is that if public sector unions want to survive, they need to find ways to help revive trade unionism in the private sector.
The fates of the two sectors are deeply intertwined.