At a time when it feels like the middle- and working-classes are increasingly under siege, the story of public employees standing up for their collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin (and now Ohio!) is one of the more inspiring things I’ve seen lately on the American political scene. Maybe the example of recent events in the Middle East played a role here?
There has been some debate lately about what role, if any, organized labor should play in the politics of the 21st-century Left (to the extent there is such a thing!). I think that if left-wing politics are supposed to be a politics of and for working people, then you need strong unions. Unions are important not just for the benefits they provide directly to their members, but also as a political counterweight to the interests of capital. If working people don’t organize and stand up for their rights, they’ll continually be at the mercy of those in power, dependent on whatever crumbs they see fit to let fall from their table.