AFL-CIO

Rachel Otwell

Bruce Rauner has served his first 100 days as Illinois' governor. It's the first time the private equity investor has held elected office. He came in with big ideas, and big challenges.

Workers who used to be on the edges of the economy – day laborers and temps, freelancers and adjuncts, independent contractors and contingent employees – are closer to the core.

Unionizing offers workers group strength that can mean labor contracts, due process, and a vote on their leaders.

One year from this week – on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 – people will vote on all 435 Representatives in Congress, a third of the 100 U.S. Senators, and dozens of governors, and labor is choosing where to use its resources.

The recent release of a government report regarding the numbers and percentages of U.S. employees belonging to unions or working where unions represent them made headlines but most newscasts or stories lacked context. It’s an occasion for a statistical “status report.”

The percentage of the U.S. labor force belonging to unions fell 0.5% from 2011 to 2012, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The drop went from 11.8% to 11.3% – from 14.8 million to 14.4 million Americans.

As preparations are finalized for the Democratic and GOP National Conventions, some labor unions and their progressive allies have decided to host a rallying event of their own in Philadelphia to “refocus the national political debate on economic opportunity and middle class rights.”

That’s news to too many Americans.

A “Workers Stand for America” rally is scheduled to occur next Saturday, August 11, when working people from all walks of life, union and non-union alike, will come together to have their voices heard during the election campaign.

For organized labor: If the environment deteriorates, where will we work? For that matter, for environmentalists: If work is unsafe, how can society be sustained?

Single-issue activism can be focused, but it also can be ineffective, and this month that’s especially worth noting. April is when people commemorate both Earth Day and Workers Memorial Day, sensibly urging prevention as the best course against trouble – on global and personal scales.

 Recording artist Bruce Springsteen talks about his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” in a conversation with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, describing the record as featuring characters who are regular people who “just want a job.” In cuts such as “Jack of All Trades” and “Death to My Hometown,” Springsteen’s newest record depicts the country at odds with itself.

 “The banker man grows fat,” he sings, “Working man grows thin.”