Question: Do unions have too much or too little power in the American political system?
Carla Katz: Of course I would say we don’t have enough power.
The labor movement has changed dramatically. 1973, 25 percent of the private sector work force was unionized. We’re down to below seven percent. Overall, including the public sector, we’re at 12 percent.
That being said, the labor movement still has an incredibly powerful place in both national and state politics because we are a well-organized force. We participate in the political process at a much, much higher rate than the regular public, and at a higher rate than most other organized groups. And we put people out on the street on Election Day; and that matters because our members vote and we can make change.
That being said, the attack by corporate America on unions, specifically since the ‘70s through today, has been extraordinary. A lot of the discussion about what’s happened to the labor movement and why is it shrinking; people talk about globalization and technological change. But the reality is that the attack by corporate America on the right to organize has been a much, much more powerful force in terms of shrinking the size of the movement.
A lot of the focus of the labor movement nationally now is on achieving federal legislation – the Employee Free Choice Act – that would at least put a dent in prohibiting companies and employers from illegally intimidating and attacking workers that want to organize.
Recorded on: February 8, 2008