This Labor Day, American labour stands not at a crossroads but a dead end. Only 6 per cent of private sector workers in the US are union members, and a high-profile organising push at Amazon failed miserably.
The death last month of longtime AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka has rekindled the debate within the labour movement about its priorities. Should the focus be on organising more workers into unions or on political activism that might elect labour-aligned politicians in order to achieve through legislation what unions can no longer secure at the bargaining table?
The correct answer is none of the above. The US labour movement’s big problem is that it no longer serves the interests of working-class Americans. Political activism is not an alternative if organising is proving too difficult. Rather, the emphasis on political activism is why organising has become so difficult in the first place.