Problems Facing Organized Labor
Labor day 1976 will be more than just another occasion for honoring American workers. Organized labor's influence on the nation's political and economic well-being is heightened this year by the conjunction of a presidential campaign with a still-shaky economic recovery. Wage demands and strikes by both private and public employees this year often have been viewed as a threat to price stability. Labor's image has also been marred by government investigations of union corruption, a citizen backlash over public-employee assertiveness, and reports of dissension within unions.
But despite these and other problems, the unions remain strong. Organized workers account for about 25 per cent of the nation's labor force and their numbers alone—about 25 million—give the unions considerable political leverage. Labor's influence is reflected in the 1976 Democratic Party platform. It pledges to support a host of union goals—to reduce unemployment, to bring about “relative price stability,” to establish the “right of public employees and agricultural workers to organize and bargain collectively,” and to repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act which allows states to forbid the union shop.
In contrast to four years ago, when AFL-CIO President George Meany and many other labor leaders refused to back George McGovern against President Nixon, most unions have returned to their tradition of supporting the Democratic presidential nominee. They have declared their support for Jimmy Carter, even though Sens. Henry M. Jackson (D Wash.) and Hubert H. Humphrey (D Minn.) were labor's early favorites. President Leonard Woodcock of the United Auto Workers (UAW), the first labor leader to endorse Carter, is mentioned frequently as a likely choice for Secretary of Labor or of Health, Education, and Welfare if Carter is elected in November.