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CWA's Cohen: America Needs a Mass Movement for Workers' Rights

CWA's Cohen: America Needs a Mass Movement for Workers' Rights

The crushing of collective bargaining rights—which started 40 years ago with attacks on the rights of private-sector workers and which is aimed today at public employees—has destroyed the demand curve in America, and it will take a mass political movement to fix it, Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen said today.

Cohen led an informal discussion at the Center for National Policy examining strategies for addressing America’s jobs crisis. He was joined by Leo Hindery Jr. of InterMedia Partners, and the audience included former Sen. Donald Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.). Speaking candidly and, at times, passionately, Cohen estimated that the true number of U.S. jobless workers—if the under-employed and workers who have given up searching for jobs are counted—is 26 million or 27 million, at least twice the official number of 13 million active job seekers. It will take demand-fueled growth to create the kind of long-term economic upswing to provide sufficient jobs.

Yet, the political movement for workers’ rights also must address the flood of corporate cash in the electoral process, Cohen said.

“Money in politics, we’ve got to get it out,” he said, while saying open seats for the U.S. Senate easily cost $25 million and congressional seats cost $5 million.

Also, the rules of the Senate must be streamlined, or necessary bills will never reach the desk of the president, he said.

"The Senate is the worst it’s ever been,” he said. In 2008 and 2009, 400 bills that passed the House never even got to the floor of the Senate.

In addition, the union movement must also target new state-level laws intended to limit the voting rights of young people, the elderly, poor people and people of color.

This is voter suppression. It’s not about voter fraud, and everybody knows it.

Yet the nation's underlying economic problems all come back to a basic structural problem—without the ability to bargain, workers’ wages have flat-lined for nearly 40 years. That’s why credit got out of hand—as a way for the country to continue buying without wage growth. He also said manufacturing was needed to rebuild a new American economy.

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Larry Cohen

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