The Labor Movement’s Resurgence in Democratic Politics

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Sometimes, solidarity means donuts. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Reprinted from New York Intelligencer by , and  on April 13, 2019.

Intelligencer staffers Benjamin HartSarah Jones, and Ed Kilgore discuss how the Democratic Party’s leftward drift fits in with a newly confident labor movement, and which candidate might get the nod from influential unions.

Ben: Today, Elizabeth Warren joined striking Stop & Shop workers in Massachusetts, who are taking part in the second-largest private-sector walkout since 2016. Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Bernie Sanders have also signaled their support for the workers. What does the enthusiasm from top Democrats about the strike, and others like it, say about the party’s relationship to unions right now?

Sarah: Labor’s always been an important partner for the Democratic Party, but the dynamics of that relationship have changed over the last 12 months. We seem to be in a strike wave, but that’s not the only way labor has demonstrated its resilience lately. Though the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME was a blow for labor, right-to-work groups didn’t really get the result they’d hoped for, either. There was no exodus of fee-payers; public-sector unions are adding members. Unions themselves remain relatively popular with voters, too. All of this is to say: Top Democrats have typically been supportive of unions, at least on paper, for a long time. But labor’s in a position now to make them prove exactly how serious they are about that support, and I think that’s why we’re seeing what looks like a surge of enthusiasm from this year’s crop of candidates. …

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New York Intelligencer 4/13

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Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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