Labor Movement’s future
As election day comes near, it is likely that Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the United States. In addition, there is a general consensus, even among Republicans, that the Democrats will pickup seats in congress and may even obtain a “filibuster proof” majority in the Senate.
Currently, the Democrats have 49 seats in the Senate. In addition to those 49 seats, there are 2 independents, Joe Lieberman and Bernard Sanders, who caucus with the Democrats, effectively giving them a 51 seat majority. However, in order to get anything done in the Senate, 60 votes are needed to break Republican sponsored filibusters, the process of talking a bill to death and preventing action on urgently needed legislation.
There is general agreement, given the state of the economy, that 2008 will be a Democratic year.
If Democrats pick up 5 seats in the Senate, the minimum they are projected to win, they will have 56 votes and will only need 4 Republican votes to break a filibuster. However, if the Democrats pick up 9 votes, difficult but not impossible, they will be able to shut off debate without crossover Republican votes.
What will it mean for the labor movement to have a filibuster proof, Democratic majority in the Senate?
First and foremost, it means that the Employee Free Choice Act will be enacted into law. The Democratic congress will vote for the Employee Free Choice Act and send that legislation to President Barack Obama who will sign it into law. Once the Employee Free Choice Act becomes law and management can no longer manipulate company based representation elections, it is a safe bet that there should be a significant increase in the number of union represented employees in the United States.
In addition to the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a strong Democratic majority in congress can be counted on to periodically raise the federal minimum wage for the working poor. Hopefully, the days of having to wait nine years for small increases in the minimum wage should become a relic of the past.
Other areas where significant changes can be anticipated include revisions in NAFTA to make it more labor friendly, the elimination of tax incentives to encourage American businesses to relocate overseas, greater regulation of the home loan industry to prevent a reoccurrence of the “subprime” housing debacle, and tax breaks for middle income wage earners.
Another significant change will come in the area of job creation. Unlike George Bush, Senator Obama has made it clear that he intends to spend significant sums of money on promoting renewable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy. The expenditure of these funds should create thousands of new jobs for working men and women.
Finally, it is my belief that it is absolutely inevitable that the Democratic congress and the new Democratic president will allocate significant resources for “public works” projects; i.e. repair of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, sewers, water treatment plants, etc. Rather than rely on the marketplace to generate wealth that will “trickle down” to the masses, Obama and the Democratic congress will take direct action to stimulate our economy and return our nation to prosperity by means of these job creating projects.
I believe that the next four years may very well be recorded by historians as labor’s new “golden age.”
Darryl Cherness is a Labor Representative, who works for a public sector labor union, representing members in grievances, arbitrations, and civil service disciplinary proceedings.
In addition to his union activities, Mr. Cherness is actively involved in grassroots Democratic politics. He was a delegate to the Democratic Convention in 1992 and was named a “Democrat of the Year” in 2005 by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.