Labor Unions refers to an association of workers who pulls together for a common goal of improving economic welfare and working conditions through combined bargaining with their employers. Labor unions in United States started in the late 18th and 19th century. They were originally meant to keep work standards and to prevent employees from importing foreign workers. In the recent years the American labor movement has suffered a loss of political influence. The political elites no longer care about the influence of the labor movement in America.
The United States political scene is characterized by very low rate of voter turnout. Due to this scenario, a small segment of the population can greatly influence election results. As a result interest groups such as the labor unions can effectively mobilize their members to participate in voting practice and hence dictate the outcome of the voting process. The labor movement in the United States however has not been without challenges especially in the current two-party system (Corn & David 2000).
The movement has been facing a decline in its membership. This has been greatly due to loss of many jobs through closure of many industries with unionized workers. These loses has been made worse by poor and unfriendly American labor laws which inhibits organization of labor unions in favor of the unions that cater for their own interests. These compromising labor unions are always unwilling to use the resources at their disposal to recruit new members.
This problem has been greatly aggravated by the presence of a two party system where by each party has different and diverging political views and commitments. The labor movement underwent a number of legislative blows under the democratic administration headed by President Clinton. The legislation that sought to ban the striker replacement was outlawed. . Labor unions lost in their efforts in a bid to halt the enactment of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in year 2000 and 2003 consecutively.
Similarly, when the republicans won the elections in 1994, with majorities in both houses of congress, most union members were never affected by the democrats’ administration’s hold up of the NAFT agreement and the president’s strict measures. Due to this challenge from the democrats, there was a very low turnout of union members and allied workers and this resulted to a drastic loss by the democrats and a historic win by the republicans in 1994 elections (Clark, Paul & Marick 2001)
Both democrats and republicans do not support change in the American labor laws that would make it easier for the organization of the union. They only tend to accept the status quo in the labor movement relations that would help them form coalition with the unionized members. In 1980 particularly, President Reagan was clearly hostile against the motives of labor organizations. The administration formulated ideas that inhibited unionism. With support from the conservative strong holds of the country, His election paved way for the openly aggressive attitude towards labor unions from the Republican Party.
The party developed a strong group that was aimed at suppressing the labor unions in January 1995. They also sought legislation to deny the labor union of their political funds through paycheck protection, which was aimed at making it difficult for labor unions to raise money for political campaigns. Today labor movement has tried to solve the problem of declining membership by motivating its members to take part in voting exercise in large numbers and to increase the numbers of union members to voting for union approved candidates.
Labor movement of unionizable employees in the United States has been taking very low profile in its development. In the 1950s, only about one-third of the employees were enrolled in labor unions. The labor unions in the United States should take an initiative to enroll private sector employees into labor unions (Beachler, Donald 2003). When Sweeney took the leadership of the labor union, he inculcated the notion that the labor unions must insistently recruit new members and mobilize both union and non union members to stop continued decline of membership.
He proposed that labor union as a matter of urgency was to expand its political influence. To do this, he used the union funds in organizing the union, enlarging and encouraging labor’s association with other developing interest groups, and to fund the unions’ campaign in an effort to clear the mess that was made by the Reagan administration and the subsequent administrations. The efforts of Sweeney to revive the labor union were highly challenged by the Republican Congress. However in 1996 the unions re-energized their political interference.
They carried their campaigns through media ads in attacking some republican representatives who were in the fore front in suppressing labor unions. It also increased their efforts in mobilizing and educating their members regarding candidates and their issues. To do this, the union spent $25 million. To counteract the efforts of the union, the Republican Party, responded by spending a total of $8 million dollar in advertising campaign that was intended to suppress and clear the danger posed by the advertisement done by the labor union.
However the efforts of the union bore fruits as some republican serving congressmen were defeated. Through insistently mobilization of workers to join unions, union voter turn out increased (Beachler & Donald 2001) The unions daring attacks on the republicans resulted to the amendments that brought about an increase in the minimum wage which motivated the low wage earners to join the union and increase their voter turn out. In 1998 congressional elections the labor union mobilized their members to support democrats’ even though they ere pro-union candidates.
The democrats were faced with a presidential scandal, but they retained their senate seats and managed to get five seats in the House of Representatives. This was made possible by the unions’ efforts in mobilizing its members to vote for democratic candidates. From the discussion it is evident that money plays a vital lore in dictating the directions the political campaigns follow and consequently dictating the outcome of the votes.
When the labor union undertook to use its money to mobilize its members to vote against the republicans they counteracted by using a lot of money in advertisement to clear the effects the union had made. Similar, when the democrats increased the minimum wages for the low wage earners, the union mobilized their members to vote the democrats back to the senate even though the president had a scandal. A lot of unregulated soft money is usually used in the American campaign process to woo the prospective voters in favor of a candidate (Barone, Michael, & Cohen).