A Conservative Future for the Labor Movement?

Sep 10, 2020

Donald Trump won the presidency thanks largely to a strong showing among working-class whites. But it’s never been clear what, if anything, this meant for conservatives’ relationship with organized labor.

As I noted within a month of Trump’s election for The American Conservative, even The Donald himself didn’t adopt the unions’ political stances during the campaign. He said, for example, that he supported right-to-work laws. Despite his success with the white working class, he lost union households in general by eight points (which, to be fair, was a huge improvement on the 20-point losses suffered by other recent GOP presidential candidates). His administration hasn’t exactly been “pro-labor” as the unions would define it, either: As I’ve discussed in this space, his National Labor Relations Board has done about what you’d expect from one controlled by Republican appointees, undoing much of what the Obama NLRB put together.

Nonetheless, some populist and “reform” conservatives, led by Oren Cass of the think tank American Compass, recently put together a statement urging the Right to support labor reforms. These thinkers don’t support the status quo, but they would like to see a new system where labor has a place at the economic table.

In this piece I’d like to explain the way things work now, the problems with it, and the alternatives these folks suggest.

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