This is a very good column that hits on an important subject. I enjoyed reading it very much.
Some random thoughts:
"Late in 1979, labor joined management in pushing for the (first) Chrysler bailout, which came at the high cost of providing a precedent for the breaking of collective bargaining agreements and destroying wage standards that had been in place for decades."-- President Carter also failed to respond to a growing movement, in the face of runaway steel factories and closures, to support worker-owned collectives that wanted to buy and operate steel mills.
The anti-establishment 1960s counterculture helped to undermine the pro-labor "machine politics" that had largely supported Democratic candidates, but did not provide a long-term sustainable alternative. The feminist, gay rights, and anti-war movements, and other outgrowths of the civil rights movement, helped to bolster the ranks of Democratic constituencies, but conservative backlash to forced school busing, affirmative action programs, and "bra-burning" women's empowerment programs helped divide the Democratic base into feuding constituencies each fighting for what Republicans decried as "special rights," and provided an opening for conservative politicians and special interests to make a play for "Real Americans" who were tired of remaining the "silent majority."
And the end of the military draft helped to politically demobilize young men and disincentivize political action.
But there are some factors currently in play that give me hope, however faint, for a broader American economic and industrial revival and resulting revival of labor interests
Some factories are returning to the U.S. because of our cheap and plentiful energy sources, our highly skilled and productive workforce, public and private educational systems, strong patent and intellectual property rights laws, the narrowing of the income gap between American and foreign workers, and the increasing recognition of the need, for both economic and logistical reasons, to bring production closer to markets;
The U.S., economically strong and politically stable, is increasingly becoming the prime destination for overseas investment, which may be tapped for infrastructure and industry;
The attempt by Volkswagen — unsuccessful last year, but they are expected to try again — to establish a Worker’s Council at their Tennessee plant. U.S. laws limit these councils to plants that also feature a labor union, and last year various powerful Tennessee Republicans including Gov. Haslan and U.S. Senator Corker, for partisan political reasons, helped kill the attempt to unionize by employee vote. VW still wants to import their innovative, worker-empowering worker-management relationship model into the U.S., and this is a development that bears watching as a possible corrective to the often antagonistic relationship that currently exists between management and organized labor;
Also, the liberal think tank Center for American Progress recently called for reforms that would permit union pension funds – a huge source of potential funding – to be tapped for infrastructure projects in a way that would fittingly utilize organized labor’s capital to create jobs, help rebuild our infrastructure and economy, empower worker interests, and enhance the long-term value of public-sector assets which are the source of our prosperity.