Issue #284

The audacious new proposal to save the labor movement

As president of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), Dave Regan is well aware that over the past several decades, the number of American workers who are part of a labor union has declined fairly steadily—and the scales of power have continued to tip from workers to corporations. “For most Americans we’re looked at as, at best, a mystery,” he acknowledges, “and, at worst, a problem and completely irrelevant.” To change that, he is calling for a major shift in the labor movement. Regan’s new plan to help unions “regain their relevance” is a reversal of what he argues has been happening for years: Unions have played defense, as politicians and business have worked to weaken them—and focused heavily on policies and rules that help their own members. Instead, he believes, it is time for the labor movement to “play offense,” and focus on large scale action to help not just union members, but working people across the country. And he proposes to do this by using the ballot initiative process available in 24 states. Think Progress, 6-17-14.