External advocacy and political involvement is deeply engrained in the culture of labor unions. Bill Fletcher Jr. writes myth 8: “the union uses our money for political action and I have no say in the matter,” in his novel “They’re Bankrupting Us” And 20 Other Myths about Unions. In this myth, Bill Fletcher Jr. addresses unions and how they take political action. Labor unions often take political action in a controversial way, while not always getting full advantage of their work.
Fletcher says that when unions and politics come together, people especially interpret unions’ missions and their power critically. He does not expand on how he titles the myth, but skims the surface on union consensus regarding politics. The myth is about the belief that “unions should stay out of politics and focus on what’s happening in the workplace” (Fletcher 65).
This myth exists because people often criticize unions, saying that they should stay out of politics and focus only on labor related issues. However, the reality is that the workplace does not exist in isolation and there is a strong relationship between politics, law, and the workforce.
Political and legislative decisions directly impact the work environment in a variety of ways. A candidate for political office can affect the workforce significantly through zoning ordinances, taxes, trade legislation, existence or lack of health, safety, and illegal discrimination regulations. They may also affect public investment (or lack of) in infrastructure, worker’s right to organize unions, levels of unemployment, and existence of unemployment insurance.
Internal disagreements are prevalent among labor unions, and even within the union there remains to be debate about how unions engage. Early in labor organizing, many union members were against various forms of lobbying. A political action committee was responsible to identify potential candidates and then to collect funds on a voluntary basis from members. If a member did not support the union’s choice of candidate, the member could easily refuse to give money. Politics within the union movement have narrowed and less people are involved in making decisions, due to the disengagement of members in political affairs. However, at the level of political action, Fletcher states that engagement can only be achieved through dialogue with union members. When members are engaged in political action, their views are respected.
From the beginning, union involvement in political and legislative matters has been a component of unions and their external advocacy. When labor unions first began forming, political parties that represented the interests of the workforce began forming as well. However, due to the bipartisan power in the United States, it is hard for third parties to succeed electorally, which ultimately ended the idea of a labor party. This is why the American Federation of Labor believed that labor should not form its own parties, but should lobby the...