Democrats won’t save us. So we better build labor power, which does not ask permission. Stop looking for politicians to save us.

By Hamilton Nolan, In These Times

We are told that Joe Biden is the most pro-labor president in decades. That statement seems to be true. It is also a good demonstration of the fact that looking to the Democratic Party for salvation is a surefire way for the labor movement to continue getting nowhere. Take a moment to reflect on what our Democratic friends have done for us lately.

People who view the world through the lens of electoral politics don’t tend to like the phrase ​“Which side are you on?” It is seen as unsophisticated, simplistic — a black-and-white view of a political reality in which compromise is the path to getting anything done. But the phrase has great utility. It acknowledges that there are sides, and that you have to be on one of them. Organized labor is about power. Power concedes nothing without a fight. Compromise is fine, as long as everyone can tell — without looking too hard — which side you are working for.

Labor Movement
Photo by Bastian Greshake Tzovaras

A year into full Democratic control of the federal government, and a year out from the likely end of that happy arrangement, is a useful time to consider what the labor movement has gotten out of this ostensibly ideal situation. Have we gotten the PRO Act, the number one thing that labor wants and needs? No. Nor will we, until the filibuster is gone. In fairness, only a minority of Congressional Democrats are holding this legislation back, a result of the fact that the Democratic Party is not one unified thing, but a very loose collection of many disparate things united only by our nation’s poor two-party design. It is fair, however, to look at what the Democrats are doing from the very top — where the agenda is set, and where symbolism matters.

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