The Union Race

Aug 9, 2007

On Tuesday night the AFL-CIO sponsored a Democratic presidential debate. The nation's largest coalition of unions has declined to officially endorse anyone in the primary (last time they waited till February to come out for Kerry), but all the candidates vied to establish the most time spent on picket lines. Some of the loudest cheers of the night came when John Edwards answered a question from a retired steelworker whose pension, cut after his company declared bankruptcy, is too meager to cover healthcare for his wife. "We ought to have universal health care in this country--we need it in the worst kind of way," said Edwards. Clinton, meanwhile, went on the record saying "We have to have defined benefits pension plans again," and "I will be the president who signs the Employee Free Choice Act." Most newspaper coverage pointed out that unions have lost members and clout. But health care, pensions, trade, globalization, and preserving decent jobs aren't just union issues--they're the central domestic issues of this campaign. Let's hope the focus stays on them.