What Unions Are Doing to Protect American Democracy

“For me, protecting democracy right now means
rebuilding the blue wall in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania,” said Steve
Rosenthal, a former AFL-CIO political director. “Without those states, there is no
way that Donald Trump or the next Donald Trump or any anti-worker candidate
could win in 2024.”

In Rosenthal’s view,
if union households totaled 25 to 30 percent of the vote in those three
industrial states, as they did 25 years ago, instead of
totaling 15 or 20 percent, as they do today, Trump would never have won
Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2016—and with them the election. Nor would he be able to win those states again in 2024.
There are hundreds of thousands of former union members in those three states,
who are no longer contacted by their union, who no longer receive union
political literature, who no longer have union members knocking on their doors,
and that, many political experts say, helps explain why Trump was able to
narrowly win those three states in 2016. (Many unions were so confident that
Hillary Clinton would win those states that they didn’t mount nearly as much of
a campaign effort as they might have.)

For many labor leaders and
Democratic lawmakers, a major concern is that many blue-collar workers—union members, former union members, and
nonunion workers—have gotten swept into a
right-wing echo chamber that amplifies the messaging from Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Breitbart, Mark Levin,
Charlie Kirk, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson. “Where we’re failing is with
the right-wing sound machine and echo chamber—their
message is constantly reinforced,” Larson said. “We have to figure out, how are
we going to counter that story? The one thing we
know is that workers value their union as an information source. In a time when
people don’t trust information sources, we’re constantly finding they see their
unions as a valid source of information—even
if workers don’t agree all the time with their union.”

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