The American midterm elections and labour
During the midterms, slavery was banned in four states.
On Tuesday, November 8th, Americans rushed to the polls to elect new members to Congress, to change the governors and vote on state-wide issues. Polls predicted a strong red wave, with Republicans taking control of the both the House of Representatives and the Senate, giving them enough power to rule with an iron fist. The red wave was of less grandiose heights and now there is a chance for Democrats to control the Senate.
The past two years have not been the strongest for Joe Biden, whose approval rate has decreased from 53% to 41.2%. Nearly three quarters of Americans do not want to see him running again for President and the feeling is present inside his own Democratic party.
During his tenure, the inflation rate reached high levels, the gas prices repeated times throughout the 2022 and the overall cost of living has been higher. The Fed’s policy of lowering the inflation rate did not help his case, since they have been raising the interest rate in order to curb the increase of prices.
When Joe Biden became President, he promised to be the most pro-union country leader in the history of the United States. He issued a statement of support to the organizing Amazon workers, appointed pro-union members to the National Labor Relations Board and called for the PRO Act to be passed. When the freight railway workers were about to go on strike, he chose not to support their organized workers’ effort, but instead blocked a strike for at least 60 days by having a board intervene in the dispute.
Regardless of his pro-union stance, the American society has become more polarized, with voices on the Right attracting more attention to their causes. Trump-backed candidates appeared all over the United States and various social media accounts has been pushing for anti-progressive speech. Internet pages such as Libs of TikTok that claim to make fun of liberals posting videos on the social media platform, instead take isolated examples of drag queens attending school events and portray them as nation-wide issues.
The polarization, combined with Biden’s support of labor unions and pro-workers reform, as well as the higher cost of living led many to become disillusioned with him and the Democratic party. Though, on Tuesday, the results proved different, stopping the red wave at least for now the effort was led not only by Biden delivering statements in key states, such as Pennsylvania, and calling for a defense of democracy. The unions have been mobilizing for the past months, waging campaigns to support progressive candidates and to prevent Republicans from curbing any gains won in the past two years.
During the midterms, Americans did not vote only for Congress members, but in Illinois, voters supported preponderantly to enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution. In Tennessee, the situation was different, since voters agreed on having right to work in their constitution, thus dealing a blow to organized labor. Right to work legislation, contrary to its name, giving workers the possibility to join the union in the workplace only if they want and to pay dues on a voluntary basis. Basically, if the union negotiates a collective bargaining agreement that is binding for all workers deals with labor issues for everyone, regardless of their member-status. Right to work legislation encourages free-riding, stripping unions of the required funds to conduct adequate actions.
Another important matter on the ballot in five states has been the prohibition of slavery for imprisoned people. Even though the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery in 1865, there were states that allowed involuntary servitude for crimes. Tennesse, Alabama, Oregon and Vermont banned it on Tuesday, while Louisiana decided to keep it. A report published by American Civil Liberties Union in June 2022, showed that 800.000 inmates are forced to work, often for miserable wages.
Even though the midterms did not represent an outstanding victory for the Democrats, the ban on slavery and the enshrinement of collective bargaining in the Illinois Constitution represent a step forward. Though, while the red wave was stopped for the moment, unions must fight hard to prevent right-wingers from destroying the lives of working people in the name of business and economic prosperity.
For the Republicans, economic prosperity means more jobs at all costs, often coupled with an anti-union rhetoric. The economic prosperity with business opening is only valid for a select few, while the majority are suffering.
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