Workers of the World Divided

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You don’t have to be a shop steward to recognize that organized labor is in trouble in America today. Union membership is shrinking, real wages are declining, and job growth is slow. Against this dismal backdrop and rumblings of revolt, the AFL-CIO’s executive council is meeting in Las Vegas this week to try to find a way for labor to survive.

John Sweeney, the man who has led the nation’s biggest union for the past decade has put some ideas for reform on the table. He is being challenged by others who say his plans amount to putting the patient on life support, when it really needs a heart transplant. Still there are others who argue that unless consumers start looking for the label — and not the cheapest price — the era of organized labor is over. Workers of this World Divided.


Richard Trumka, secretary-general of the AFL-CIO

Lewis Maholic, director of organizing for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 880

David Moberg, senior editor of “In These Times” and author of “Labor Debates Its Future” in The Nation this month

Barry Bluestone, political economy professor and director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University

Nelson Lichtenstein, labor historian and director of the Center for Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara