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For the life of me, I can’t think of one, at least in my lifetime, and that covers elections going back to 1964. McGovern ran on a terrific pro-labor platform in 1972, but times were very different. Labor was closer to its highpoint, not its nadir, back then.
Bernie’s core stump speech now includes the following planks:
- Guaranteed jobs for all Americans at a living wage
- $ 15 per hour minimum wage
- End of “right-to-work” states, where it is almost impossible to form labor unions
- Easing the ability of workers to form unions, so as soon as a majority of workers in an enterprise sign up for a union, they get it. End of story.
Then there are all the other elements of Bernie’s program that are traditional concerns of the labor movement: progressive taxation, health care, public education, infrastructure, trade deals, Wall Street regulation, etc. etc.
(And in view of the gaping increase in economic inequality over the past four decades, these are policies that will go a long way toward making the USA a more egalitarian, humane and decent society. Everyone, not just workers, has a stake in them.)
But just sticking to the listed 4 points above, any union that does not support Bernie, and work for him aggressively has got to take a long hard look in the mirror. You cannot help but wonder if such a union has internalized and accepted its decline and is simply trying to slow down the path to its extinction. In 2015-16 several union heads endorsed Hillary over the concerns of their members. The rationale, as I recall, was that Hillary was most likely to win the nomination and election and if unions did not support her from the get-go, she would be unsympathetic to their concerns once she got in power.
I think the lesson should be that unions demonstrate their strength by going whole hog for Bernie, who at the very least will finish in the top three for the nomination. (I would go a step further and say that aggressive support from labor would make Bernie's chances of winning the nomination increase significantly.) Then, if another candidate does get the nomination, the nominee will have to earn labor’s support and take their concerns seriously because they cannot expect unions just to mindlessly endorse anyone who is not a Republican, and make no demands upon that candidate. Labor has to play offense.
I imagine some of the other Democratic candidates might pick up on some of these points in their own platforms, like they have with Medicare for all, when they see it begin to poll well with voters. I think some of them may be sincere advocates for labor, but none of them is close to Bernie’s league. Labor is just another constituency they deal with and need support from. For Bernie being pro-labor is in his bone marrow. Fighting for the poor, the oppressed and the working class defines him. He has always been there, polling numbers be damned. That is why you know he will do everything within his power to make those platform planks reality if he is elected president. When it comes to labor and workers rights, he is the real deal.