Unions, American Style

The American Labor Union is as impressive a social organization as it is unique. Organized labor was an integral part of the great American advancement of the 20th century. Today, Unions are an accepted part of the American landscape. In order for the USA to maintain its place at the top of the international heap, Unions must adapt to current labor realities. Unions represent a commitment to dignity in labor. Dignity in labor is also an American value. Even though it is hard to legislate, we all know what it is when we see it. True dignity fosters aspiration and ambition. Unlike state-run unions elsewhere, the American union has the capacity to provide aspirational dignity that inspires workers and their families with ambition. Unlike 20th century visions of labor that are only about protection and of capital that are only about greed, today’s Unions are about a lot more. They are uniquely positioned to strengthen both communities at home and diplomatic efforts abroad.

The American Labor Union is so great an institution that we should be exporting it. We must be committed to dignity in labor in countries with whom we have economic relations. The Chinese government is locking up labor organizers and the French don’t allow workers to work enough hours a week to save meaningful capital. Some countries will welcome our unions. We have an obligation to our workers and to the workers in the world to take action. Organizing labor in those countries is not only a mechanism for infusing American dignity in labor into worker’s lives, but also a means of protecting American workers from having to compete with undignified labor.  Dignity is not free.

Capital and Labor are categories that are no longer relevant and create more trouble than the little value they provide. Unions must pivot from the 20th century model of capital versus labor to one where those categories and the people defined by them are more fluid. It is happening anyway. A 1920s labor leader would not understand the idea of a union of multi-millionaires (ballplayers). That labor leader might also need to understand how union workers are also employers with workers of their own (plumbers, electricians). Once he saw all that, he won’t be as surprised by college-aged students working and studying under the auspices of the new and reconceived Union, one providing the same services colleges do today, among others.

  • Propose legislation that will incentivize unions to open their membership to the growing number of freelancers and new-economy giggers
    • New avenues of growth for Unions without having to do battle with management or seeking protective legislation
    • Centering unions in people’s lives beyond the purely economic
  • Propose legislation mandating that countries benefitting from trade with the USA allow American union members to organize labor there, and specifically in the traded industries
  • Propose legislation allowing for and funding the establishment of post-secondary educational offerings within Unions

Student-Laborers can complete a program and pay for it with union work, and then stay on with the union opening up paths for the union into the 21st century and beyond


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