Friday, October 19, 2012

The Most Important Political Story of the Year

...is not the United States presidential election. There, I said it. It's not that I don't think it's very important who wins the presidential election. It's very important who wins. For example, if Mitt Romney wins, it's likely his administration will eviscerate both Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, depriving tens of millions of the Americans of health care. That would be tragic.

But the most important political story of 2012 is the growing wave of strike actions at Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the entire world. Wal-Mart is virulently anti-union and entirely non-unionized, meaning these actions are taking place largely outside the federal government's legal framework of labor conflict resolution governed by Wagner Act.

This is huge.

Wildcat strikes at the world's largest employers mean that labor organizing in the United States is far from dead, despite the many obituaries written for it by both conservatives and liberals. And if you care at all about building a more fair and just society, you should be very happy about this turn of events. As Harold Meyerson recently argued, a future without a labor movement is likely a future without any kind of progress at all on a broad range of social justice concerns.
And here's what's truly remarkable: workers striking against Wal-Mart are actually winning. They are beating the 16 billion pound gorilla:
Workers at the Elwood, Illinois Walmart distribution center won full back pay for the three weeks they were out on strike. Workers at the Mira Loma, California distribution center returned to work after two weeks with nobody fired and a commitment from Walmart to monitor its contractors’ safety performance more closely. And groups of Walmart store workers who have struck in cities across the country to protest wages and working conditions have done so without facing company retaliation.
This is by far the most promising sociopolitical news in the United States since the birth of the Occupy movement last fall. In many ways, it's even more promising. And between the two, we may be starting to see the coalescence of a broad alliance of ordinary working people that resembles that which revolutionized this country back in the 1930s after the last Great Depression.
That statement could be fairly called too optimistic. But if you are sick of the direction the United States is moving in, don't sit on the sidelines any longer. Things are starting to change because real people are starting to change it. If you want change, don't just complain; don't sit on your ass and watch MSNBC. Act.

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