In 2000, when George W. Bush stole the presidential election from Al Gore in Florida, working families were scared. Our fears turned out to be justified, as Bush later flipped the tax code in favor of the rich, led us into the worst depression since 1929, and sent poor kids to their graves through endless wars in the Middle East.
While our country sat on the brink of annihilation, somehow we managed to pull through.
In 2010, Republicans took over in state capitals all across America. Soon after, Wisconsin stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights, and Michigan – the center of the American Labor Universe for more than a century – went right-to-work.
Many people predicted the end of unions. Yet, six years later, while we are bruised and battered – here we are still standing.
Reason for concern
This year, America elected Donald Trump, and union members are joined by Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, women, disabled persons, reporters, the majority of American voters, countless foreign nations, and even the Pope, in worrying about our future. Without question, there is reason for concern. There will soon be people in charge of our government that do not have our best interests at heart.
But if the short time since the stunning election results were announced is any indication of Americans’ fighting spirit, we are likely in store for a massive growth of progressive activism over the next four years. No matter who they voted for this year, the overwhelming majority of Americans will not accept heavy handed policies that turn back the clock on core issues such as race, religion, economic justice, and countless other matters. If our new leaders go too far, their time in office will be short. That’s the unique thing about our democracy: regardless of party affiliation, we hold people accountable for their words and actions.
Unions need to lead
More than ever, the labor movement needs to be a key leader of this new progressive movement. But rather than just going along and supporting candidates that simply agree with us on most issues, we need to set the agenda for the political candidates of today and tomorrow. Only then, working with our coalition partners, can we slowly start to get people talking about issues that are important to working families.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign proved that there are millions of passionate people out there who believe in a more just America. While that campaign is now over, the ideas it hatched won’t go away any time soon, and neither will we.