Stories

Big labor seeks to get small

Fight for $15 protestors picket in Chicago (Daniel X. O'Neil)

AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka will lay out a strategy for the labor movement in the Trump era during a 12:30 Tuesday speech at the National Press Club, which will emphasize communication with the public and its members regarding the difference between the president's rhetoric and action on issues dear to working Americans. But he will also call for a profound change in tactics, arguing that labor and its allies should emphasize extending collective bargaining rights to workers who do not belong to a recognized union.

Why it matters: Labor has spent more than a decade pouring money and organizing efforts into the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have allowed unions to gain recognition after 50% of workers publicly indicated support on a petition, without having to be subsequently approved by secret ballot. The bill never passed in part because elimination of the secret ballot seemed antidemocratic to many voters.

What's next: The movement's most high-profile successes during the Obama years came from so-called "alt-labor" groups, or looser worker confederations that began as ways to promote awareness of the rights non-organized workers, and later launched activist campaigns like the "fight-for-15" movement in the fast food industry. Reforms that would give more rights to workers outside of recognized unions could give these groups more influence.