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The Republican Party’s Worst Nightmare

By Robert Reich | Former United States Secretary of Labor | Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Republicans have been trying to crush unions for decades, but American workers are fighting back with a vengeance.

Many GOP leaders wink and nod while talking about “making America great again,” as if the country was more prosperous when they were in charge.


Yes, there was a time when the American economy worked better for workers than it does now, but not because Republicans played any part in making it that way. And certainly not because of the bigotry, misogyny, and racism they’ve been peddling to pit workers against each other to distract them from how much wealth is being siphoned off to the top.

Now, it’s important to note that this prosperity wasn’t shared equally with women or people of color, but a big reason much of the workforce was better off decades ago than today is because of the power of labor unions to organize and fight for the rights and dignity of workers.

Republicans have fought labor unions tooth and nail. They’ve enacted deceptively named “right-to-work” laws, which are all about weakening unions rather than giving workers more rights. And they’ve voted against bills allowing workers to form unions with simple up or down majorities at the workplace.

This is the great irony of the MAGA movement. And it would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. If Republicans really cared about American greatness, they would support unions — one of the major tools at our disposal to actually combat inequality and lift up the working class.

Fortunately — despite Republican efforts — labor unions are on the rise once more. And so are pro-labor Democratic politicians.

These Democrats won big in the 2022 midterms — especially in the rust belt. They captured the governorships of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and also Michigan — where they flipped both chambers of the state legislature. The last time Democrats had full control of Michigan’s state government was in the 1980s.

And look at the impressive victory of John Fetterman — the new U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. He defeated a wealthy Republican snake oil salesman and flipped a senate seat, while running on an unabashedly pro-worker platform aiming to increase the federal minimum wage, end corporate price gouging, and make it easier for workers to organize unions at their workplaces.

It wasn’t just pro-worker politicians who won big during the midterms, but worker friendly ballot measures as well — almost universally opposed by Republicans.

Illinois voted to enshrine collective bargaining rights into its constitution, effectively banning right to work laws from ever being passed in the state.

Voters in Nebraska and Nevada chose to increase their state minimum wage.

Forced prison labor was outlawed in Vermont, Alabama, Tennessee, and Oregon.

Republicans, along with their rich and powerful patrons, have always feared that working people would recognize their collective power, both through unions and at the ballot box. So the wealthy are doing everything they can to hold working people down.

But the midterm elections and the resurgent worker power movement should give us hope that a more just and equitable United States will be built with union labor.

It’s not just about making America great — it’s about making America better. Not just a bigger economy but a fairer economy. Not just more wealth for the wealthy, but better and more secure lives for all.

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