Michigan Labor Fight Hurts Blacks More
New state laws curtail the power of unions, and possibly black earning potential.
One could argue that unions also had a particular impact on black Americans this year by playing a significant role in the re-election of President Barack Obama. Despite the president's struggle with white male voters throughout the campaign, he managed to win states like Wisconsin and Michigan, in part on the strength of union support.
It is worth noting that unions' role in this year's presidential election goes right to the heart of why some are so concerned about the new Michigan laws. Nearly 20 percent of the state's workforce consists of union members, making the state a sort of unofficial capital of union power in the U.S. Since the new legislation makes paying dues in private-sector unions voluntary, imagine what could happen to the vital role that unions have played in political campaigns, providing both manpower on the ground as volunteers and financial muscle. Could they still afford to fund media blitzes and other endeavors to support progressive candidates and progressive causes -- and, equally impactful, to oppose conservative ones?
As I have written before, the public reaction to the Wisconsin labor fight shows that our nation is increasingly divided over the role of unions. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker easily survived a recall effort after signing his state's controversial union laws. Yet while the future of unions in America may be increasingly in question, the financial benefits to working families appears to be pretty clear.
What is not clear is what unions can do to stop losing the war over communications, messaging and image with those working- and middle-class voters whose support of anti-union conservatives have caused union power to wane significantly in recent years. Such support has given power to anti-union governors in what were once union-friendly states.
The anti-union laws signed by Govs. Walker and Snyder have made them conservative darlings, and since they're from swing states, it's very possible that either could end up on a presidential ticket in the near future. It remains to be seen if, by then, unions will still be in a position of sufficient power to help prevent either candidate from making it to the White House, as they did with another anti-union governor from a union state: Michigan-born Mitt Romney.