Op-ed columnist Harold Meyerson wrote in today’s Washington Post about the disappointments heaped on organized labor in the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, most notably the failure to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
By my count, this marks the fourth time in the past half-century that labor’s efforts to strengthen workers’ ability to organize have been deferred by the Democratic presidents and the heavily Democratic Congresses they supported.
In 1965, about the only piece of Great Society legislation not enacted was the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act provision that gave states the power to block unions from claiming as members all the employees in workplaces where they had won contracts. In 1979, as American management was beginning to invest heavily in union-busting endeavors, the first effort to reform labor law failed to win cloture in the Senate by one vote as President Jimmy Carter stood idly by. In 1994, President Bill Clinton responded to a similar labor-backed effort by appointing a commission to recommend changes in labor law to the next Congress — which turned out to be run by Newt Gingrich.
And last year, by asking his labor supporters to wait, Obama ensured — unintentionally, of course — that the next effort to revive organizing must wait until the next overwhelmingly Democratic Congress.
With friends like these …