The Corner

Perhaps a Brontosaurus?

Democratic victories last November rekindled talk that the American labor movement is poised for a dramatic resurgence. I say “rekindled” because there is a long history of journalists wandering through the smoldering remains of Big Labor and breathing on the sparks. It never happens. But still they blow.

The latest example is can be found in this AP story . The news peg was a pro-union rally in Cincinnati, one of a series of rallies in the Midwest sponsored by the most-effective unions (UNITE, SEIU). There were the usual optimistic promises from John Sweeney. There was the usual statement from “experts” suggesting that the public may be ready for a rebirth of unionism:

The new Democratic-majority Congress offers hope for labor initiatives including a bill to make it easier to organize union representation. And established unions are broadening their recruiting efforts to add members from janitors, nurses, casino dealers, and other groups beyond their traditional bases.

“The situation for labor is a little more optimistic than it has been in awhile,” said John Schmitt, senior economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a nonprofit think tank. “That said, the labor movement is really in a significant squeeze. There’s a lot of movement and activity to address it right now.”

Mark Weaver, a veteran Columbus-based Republican strategist, said that while unions remain effective at mobilizing their voters, they are being eclipsed in political importance.

“One thing that we know is that 40 years ago, labor unions were the Tyrannosaurus Rex of politics,” he said. “Today, they are a smaller, less-dangerous dinosaur. Whether they’ll soon be extinct remains to be seen.”

Something else to keep in mind is that the Cincinnati rally attracted “scores” of pro-labor demonstrators. Not exactly earth-shattering.

John Hood is a syndicated columnist and the president of the John William Pope Foundation, a North Carolina–based grantmaker.

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