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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Steven Greenhouse, who covered the labor beat for the New York Times for more than three decades, has a new article, “Broken’ US labor laws could hamper union wins for workers, experts warn: Strikes by autoworkers, actors and writers brought wins in 2023, but analysts worry labor laws could undo progress” at The Guardian. It is a must-read for Dems who want to understand is going on in the labor movement. Greenhouse writes: “Strikes by autoworkers, writers, actors and nurses and a threatened strike by UPS workers all led to significant wins in 2023. “The big challenge for labor in 2024 will be to take that momentum and turn it into new organizing and getting first contracts where workers have organized,” said Ken Jacobs, the co-director of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. “That’s going to be a real challenge because labor law in the US is broken.”….Among the big tests that labor faces is whether the United Auto Workers (UAW) will succeed in using the impressive contracts it won with Detroit’s automakers to organize Toyota, Tesla and other non-union auto plants, especially in the anti-union south. Another challenge is whether the Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joe’s, Apple, Chipotle and REI workers who have unionized over the past two years will finally get first contracts that deliver improved wages and benefits….During 2023, there were several major contract disputes, including ones involving 340,000 Teamsters at UPS, 150,000 screen and television actors, 140,000 autoworkers and 85,000 Kaiser Permanente workers. In each of those negotiations, unions came away boasting of record contracts, although only after the actors, autoworkers and Kaiser workers went on strike. “2023 has been huge for labor, both the extraordinary increase in large strikes beyond and the success of workers through those strikes,” Jacobs said. “That’s a really a turnaround from where we had been.”….“Strike activity might not reach the same level next year but it’s still an opportune time to go on strike,” said Johnnie Kallas, director of the ILR Labor Action Tracker, which keeps a tally of strikes across the US. Many labor experts say it’s a favorable time to go on strike because the labor market is tight, public approval for unions is at its highest level in decades, and there’s a vigorously pro-union president in the White House….The UAW hopes its record contracts with Detroit’s automakers will set up organizing victories at auto and battery plants across the south. It has announced plans to seek to unionize Toyota, Tesla, Mercedes and BMW, and its effort to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is racing ahead of the others, with more than 1,000 VW workers signing pro-union cards. But some auto executives, most notably Tesla’s Elon Musk, have served notice that the UAW is unwelcome. “I disagree with the idea of unions,” Musk said recently. ”

Greenhouse continues, “The UAW hopes its record contracts with Detroit’s automakers will set up organizing victories at auto and battery plants across the south. It has announced plans to seek to unionize Toyota, Tesla, Mercedes and BMW, and its effort to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is racing ahead of the others, with more than 1,000 VW workers signing pro-union cards. But some auto executives, most notably Tesla’s Elon Musk, have served notice that the UAW is unwelcome. “I disagree with the idea of unions,” Musk said recently….Joseph McCartin, a labor historian at Georgetown University, voiced relative optimism for the UAW. “They’re in a better position to make a move on these companies than they have ever been,” he said. “They not only have a great contract to show what they’ve accomplished, but they have the will to wage the campaign in a way that the union has not for a long time. It’s bound to be a really important campaign. There’s going to be a furious struggle.”….Many labor leaders see another important challenge for 2024: to help ensure that Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president. McCartin said the 2024 election is reminiscent of 1948. “If you think about Harry Truman – he was not doing well in the polls, he was struggling, his party was divided,” with rival candidates Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace, McCartin said. “When Truman won, he said that labor did it.”….McCartin said Biden is also facing a “situation of how to hold together: Biden has a youth problem. People under 35 are not enthused about him. In my view, labor is well-positioned to be an engine for the re-election of Biden. But it’s hard to prognosticate.”….Jones of the University of Minnesota said: “Labor has to play a big role. I think it’s going to be a make or break. Biden has talked a lot about turning out working-class voters, particularly white men. He’s been fairly successful at that. There’s a lot of talk of him losing support among Black and Latino voters. So the degree that Biden can turn out white, working-class voters is really critical. That’s something the UAW and other unions can really help with.” Jones said unions could make a pivotal difference in industrial states such as Michigan and Ohio….Arguably the biggest challenge labor faces is whether unions can finally begin to reverse the decline in union membership and in the percentage of workers in unions. Just 10% of workers are in unions, down from more than 20% during the 1980s ….Reversing the decline in union membership “is the big test”, Jacobs said, adding: “The UAW demonstrated what a union can do when its members are fully engaged and taking on the boss. Can unions turn that into new organizing and expanding and increasing union density? In the context of our very broken labor law, none of this is easy. But I’m the most optimistic I’ve been since I began doing this work.”

In “What issues will matter most to Hispanic voters in 2024?,” Monica Potts and Holly Fuong write at 538 that their  “analysis of data from the Cooperative Election Study, a Harvard University survey of at least 60,000 Americans taken before the 2020 elections and the 2022 midterms, shows that Hispanic voters remain to the left of the general electorate on key issues like immigration and environmental policy. In other areas, Hispanic voters are largely similar to the general electorate….”Most [Hispanic voters] are not single-issue voters,” said Melissa Morales, the president and founder of Somos Votantes and Somos PAC, an independent outreach group that has endorsed Democratic candidates. “There’s a bunch of things that are going to come in to affect how they vote.”….Overall, Hispanic voters* made up about 11 percent of the electorate in 2020. That’s relatively low compared to an estimated 19 percent of the total U.S. population. But they’re also the fastest-growing demographic group in the country. And while the share of this group that’s eligible to vote and turning out to vote is low compared to other groups, it’s growing every year….CES data shows that Hispanic voters are more likely to be young, with more than 30 percent of those voters under 30, compared with 21 percent of the general electorate. That means many of them are squarely in a generation that’s already more diverse and further to the left on many issues than the general electorate. And only 13 percent are 65 or older, compared to 22 percent of the general electorate….Hispanic Americans are less educated on average than the electorate as a whole: Based on 2020 CES data, about half have only a high school education, while 19 percent are college graduates, compared with 37 percent and 31 percent of the general electorate, respectively. What will happen within the huge group of Hispanic voters without college degrees, and why, is one of the big unanswered questions both parties are facing as we head into the 2024 presidential election….In the 2020 CES, Hispanic voters were 14 points more likely than the general electorate to support giving legal status to immigrants who have held jobs and not been convicted of a crime. They were also less likely to support increasing border security measures like hiring more border patrol officers and building a wall than the general electorate, and less supportive of measures to curb legal immigration. Their stances on immigration questions differed from the general electorate by 9 to 13 points, showing that the group was significantly more liberal. The differences were similar in 2022.”

Potts and Fuong note further, “In 2016, when Trump ran a campaign focused on anti-immigration policies, he lost Hispanic voters to the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, two to one….But his anti-immigration rhetoric didn’t turn out a record wave of Hispanic voters to vote against him and become solidly loyal Democrats, as some had predicted. Instead, his base of support among the group was on par with or even better than that shown for previous nominees Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain. That led observers to conclude that a significant and steady minority of Hispanic voters, around a third, were probably conservative and unlikely to abandon Republicans….In 2020, Trump made gains among Hispanic voters. Immigration was a less important issue that year, when voters were much more focused on COVID-19 and the economic wreckage surrounding the pandemic. Biden won the group overall, 59 percent to 38 percent, but Trump made gains among a specific group: those without college degrees….Immigration has been rising in salience among voters and continues to be a losing issue for Biden. Whether it’s a winning issue for either party among Hispanic voters remains to be seen, however. Republican front-runner Trump has made overtly racist and fascist remarks about immigration, while Biden has signaled he’s willing to deal with Republicans on immigration policy in order to pass aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia — a stance that could turn off some Hispanic voters. “The Democratic Party needs to make sure that they’re not bargaining away the rights of immigrants in this country, because it is still a very, very important issue to the Latino community,” Tzintzún Ramirez said….On issues of policing, like decreasing the number of police officers on the street or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, Hispanics were not consistently further to the left or right of the overall electorate, and the differences were small. On a wide range of other issues included in the CES, ranging from banning assault rifles to allowing abortions as a matter of choice, Hispanics also did not vary significantly or predictably from the general electorate….One area that did stand out was policies related to health care access. Hispanics in 2020 were more likely to support expanding Medicare to cover all Americans than the general electorate was by 14 points, and they were more likely to support lowering the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 50 by the same margin….Analysis from Equis Research showed that, in 2022, Hispanic voters, like most voters, were concerned about the economy and cost of living, and that those who rated that as their top concern were more likely to support Republican candidates.”

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