The International (our mother union) has had a pretty good string of successes the past couple of years, organizing different corners of its jurisdiction: It's expanded its reach into trade shows and sports broadcasts, and gained new contracts with reality shows, low-budget features, and commercial work. (Currently, the IA has sopped up most of the trained workforce working in ever-expanding reality programming, making it hard for non-union producers to staff newer shows.)
That's a sampling of the good, on-the-ground, working person news. The political challenges in 2014 were laid out today in a long afternoon session conducted by two AFL-CIO political strategists who described the hurdles between now and election day:
1) A large segment of the voting population dislike the Affordable Care Act.
2) A large segment of the voting population distrust President Obama.
3) A huge segment of the voting public hates Congress (Democrats are slightly ahead of Republicans, but nobody is liked.)
4) Too many people are still un ... or under-employed.
But it's not all gloom and pouring rain. On labor's side, there are happier demographic realities: A growing number of Asians, Latinos, and blacks now Democratic, a trend that has been in place for three election cycles. Also, too, Asians, Latino and blacks are becoming a larger and larger percentage of the United States' population.
There might be billionaires' money arrayed against progressive politicians, but there is also the hard reality of this:
... After rising in the Roaring Twenties, the income share of the one per cent fell sharply in the postwar period. Since the late nineteen-seventies, it has been climbing again, albeit in a somewhat zig-zag fashion. The top earners’ share of overall pre-tax income peaked at about twenty-four per cent in 2007, fell back during the Great Recession, and then recovered strongly. In 2012, it was about twenty-three per cent. ...
How have the folks outside the one per cent been faring? ... Once again, the long-term trends are clear. Between the start of the Second World War and the first oil-price shock of 1973, families in the bottom ninety-nine per cent saw their incomes rise sharply. With the exception of the late nineteen-nineties, the past forty years have been marked by slow growth. ...
When voters' noses are pushed up against the fact that a small sliver of the population has a large chunk of the bucks, they become open to the idea that maybe some adjustments should be made. The AFL-CIO guys made the point that Republicans are onto the inequality thing, but thus far their stated solution is to give the top income brackets more money.
So, the trick eleven months hence will be to
A) Get union members to the polls (historically, unionists punch high above their demographic weight.)
B) Get the message of income inequality out, along with proposals for a higher minimum wage, unemployment insurance, etc., etc.
C) Get the troops on the ground to spread the message of B) prior to election day.
There were other bullet points, but those were the major ones. It was emphasized that the stakes (as always) are high, because the modern Republican Party is keen to gut what remains of the labor movement (12% of the work force) and use it as a throw rug.