Stewart Acuff

Mar 20

The Future of the American Labor Movement (Part 2)

This is the second of a series of blogs written by Stewart Acuff titled The Future of the American Labor Movement.

A couple of days ago, I started offering a few humble suggestions regarding the future of the American labor movement. You can read my first blog in the series by CLICKING HERE.

Unorganized Workers

I believe we must reach out to and connect to unorganized workers. One of the most important ways we can do this is to be the leading edge of the struggle for progressive immigration reform that puts families, workers, and communities ahead of corporate interests who just want to exploit this large pool of workers.

The labor movement was built by immigrant workers: mineworkers, steelworkers, other industrial workers, the needle trades all were built by immigrants.

Raise the Minimum Wage

We must escalate our fight to raise the minimum wage and index it to the cost of living so that in the future, the minimum wage will be what it was meant to be – a livable wage floor beneath which no worker can fall. The point is livable. Today’s minimum wage is not a livable wage. Raising wages at the bottom will raise living standards throughout the economy and national labor markets.

Single Payer Healthcare

Just as importantly, we must continue to push for single payer healthcare. When we get single payer healthcare, every worker in America will get a wage raise worth hundreds of dollars a week and thousands of dollars a year.

Renewable & Sustainable Energy

It is in the best interests of all union members and the whole labor movement to continue to push for the development of renewable and sustainable energy. Just now the labor movement does not have internal consensus about what to do with fossil fuels such as coal and shale oil. But we all can agree on the necessity of developing wind, solar power, and to rebuild our electricity grid. Our nation is falling dangerously behind our global competitors in renewable energy. The development of renewable energy – wind and solar farms, new transmission lines, the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels here in the United States with American steel and glass would produce hundreds of thousands of new jobs, lessen our dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels. We in America are wasting massive renewable resources with a natural wind tunnel all across the middle of our country and deserts where the sun never stops shining. A massive investment in renewable energy is good for our economy today and into the future. It is also good for our planet and our health.

Inclusion

We must expand and accelerate the opportunities and leadership within our movement for workers of color and female workers. For a decade or two, organizers have said we need women and organizers of color so that those we are organizing can see themselves in our unions. That is true.

BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, WOMEN AND LEADERS OF COLOR BRING DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES AND POINTS OF VIEW AND SENSITIVITIES. WOMEN AND LEADERS OF COLOR WILL MAKE OUR MOVEMENT BETTER AND STRONGER.

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Stewart Acuff is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work.

Playing Bigger Than You Are - A Life in OrganizingGet the e-book edition of Playing Bigger Than You Are by clicking here!

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