Biden’s embrace of unions is a boon for democracy

Biden’s alignment with organized labor isn’t just good for workers themselves. Along with most of the voting rights measures Democrats had hoped to pass in the Senate, organizing is now a staple of Biden’s pro-democracy platform. The unions are reasserting their traditional role as working class organizers to counter the GOP’s false populist calls and efforts to overturn the election. As TNR contributor Steven Greenhouse Explain, labor leaders who have taken up the fight for democracy hold Biden in high regard: “While labor leaders often criticize Carter, Clinton and Obama for not doing enough to strengthen unions, they praise Joe Biden . Biden and his administration appear eager to reverse the decline in union membership and power, while many Republicans are clearly determined to accelerate the decline in labor.

The fact that the Biden administration lent its shine to organized labor is good for the short-term concerns of working people and our democratic system. But it’s also a wise and necessary step should a darker future emerge. If history and the polls are any guide, Democrats likely won’t fare well in the coming midterms; they might struggle to hold the White House in 2024. The power to enact progressive policies might end up being cut off at the federal level for several years, maybe a decade or more. Faced with that possibility, Democrats should act to strengthen the working hand as much as possible — soon, this could become the only game in town where liberal governance and activism are concerned.

Now is the time for everyone who cares about the future of our democracy to support union organizers on all the fronts they are currently fighting. If you think back to union activity from last year’s “Striketober” to today’s campaigns to win contracts at Amazon and Starbucks, you will see a wide variety of workers trying to forge a better future under the banner union: baristas and miners, teachers and journalists, retailers, delivery drivers and meat packers, Amazon, John Deere and Kelloggs employees – a cross section of the population that really looks like the United States of America, crossing geography, race and class; capable of solidarity, reconciliation and unity. Here we might find the roots of a future, among workers with better causes to defend than the sordid tribal politics of the day, and better enemies to fight than each other. Something must save democracy; perhaps we have found its champion.

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