Labor Day was celebrated by the usual picnics and political speeches. But it also drew two intriguing op-eds that pointed to a broader and different role for labor unions in the quest to retain a working middle class in America.
Both opinion pieces called for labor organizations that extend beyond bargaining for wages and benefits. They urged community-based organizations that would serve as the political voice for low- and middle-class workers as a counterbalance to well-heeled corporate influences in politics and governance.
"The union movement is not going to rebuild the middle class in the 21st century with a system of labor laws that were designed for factory worker in the 1930s and copied for government workers in the 1970s," wrote Tim Nesbitt, a former president of the Oregon AFL-CIO and senior advisers to Governors Ted Kulongoski and John Kitzhaber.
In his op-ed appearing in The Oregon, Nesbitt said, "Today's realities require looking beyond the traditional bargaining units composed of jobs of a single employer at one or more work sites, which are no longer effective for advancing the interests of large numbers of workers in the job churn of the private sector."