A Seat at the Table

Sep 06, 2020

The American labor movement’s slow descent into obsolescence has deprived American workers of a vital institution. A well-functioning system of organized labor affords solidarity, mutual aid, bargaining power, and workplace representation, all of which can benefit workers, their families and communities, and the nation—both economically and socially. Especially for conservatives, who cherish the role of mediating institutions, prefer private ordering to government dictates, and believe prosperity must be earned rather than redistributed, reforming and reinvigorating the laws that govern organizing and collective bargaining should be an obvious priority.

Unfortunately, today’s dysfunctional system, a relic of the Great Depression, has become a polarizing partisan issue. National unions exert more influence through their lavish funding of the Democratic Party than through actual organization, representation, or bargaining.  One party thus focuses intently on getting more workers into those unions, while the other’s priority is to get them out. A different conversation is needed.

Throughout September, in A Seat at the Table, American Compass hopes to help start that conversation. We begin with a statement from a prominent group of conservatives who possess a remarkable breadth and depth of expertise and share the conviction that labor is an issue ripe for conservative reform. Essays from Brian Dijkema, Amber & David Lapp, and Michael Lind situate labor’s role in the American economy, in partisan ideological debates, and in the lives of actual workers. A report from American Compass’s Wells King describes the many and varied forms that systems of organized labor can take. And a range of experienced policy experts and labor organizers discuss with each other potential pathways for reform.