The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States brought joy to many constituencies. Chief among them should be organized labor, which recognizes him to be the first real pro-labor chief executive in some time. Unions, not really paragons of racial comity during the tumultuous civil rights days, have significant black membership these days, a factor that all of a sudden has become an asset to the union movement.
No wonder David Newby is optimistic, as reported by labor writer Roger Bybee in our cover feature this week, "Union, Yes!" Newby is president of the state AFL-CIO, the largest assembly of labor unions. (The AFL, American Federation of Labor, and the CIO, Congress of Industrial Organizations, ended their contentious rivalry for union supremacy by merging in 1955.) He sees opportunity for unions, and he is right. With the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress and the presidency and a pro-labor legislative agenda primed for enactment, this is labor's best chance in decades to reverse its declining fortunes.
Economic conditions are one factor working against labor's prospects. It's hard to increase union membership when overall employment is declining, especially in highly unionized industries such as automobile manufacturing. And then there is the widespread public perception outside of labor that unions are tainted with corruption and collusion and actually impede economic progress. I would dispute that, but I was raised in a union family. Others were raised just the opposite.
So while Newby and the rest of labor have the upper hand legislatively these days, they still have a job to do convincing the general public that strong union representation can be advantageous to all. That will be a lot of work.
A couple of reminders to the readership as February beckons: Coming soon is The Book of Love, our annual compendium of valentine sentiments penned by you, the readers, to your assorted love interests. The deadline is Sunday, Feb 8. Read more about it online at TheDailyPage.com.
Oscars - the contest is on! You have until midnight, Feb. 21, to inform us of who you think will win best actor, actress, supporting actor and actress, best picture and best foreign film. Prizes will be awarded. (Free movies for a year!) Visit the website and get all the details. This year you can submit your own movie. Oh wait, that's for The Book of Love.