An article of faith for almost all the Democrats at the Denver convention is that the country's much-diminished trade-union movement needs to be revived. Membership has fallen to less than 10 percent of the private-sector workforce. This decline is a main reason, it is argued, for stagnating middle-class wages. Public policy, say the Democrats, can help.
The rallying-point is the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a measure co-sponsored by Barack Obama and already passed by the house of representatives. Mr Obama promises to sign it into law as president, if the senate moves it forward and it reaches his desk. Politically and on its merits, however, this is an ill-advised piece of legislation.
EFCA's most sought-after provision is a "card-check" rule that would oblige employers to recognise a union and bargain with it if half the workforce signed cards saying that they were in favour. Labour law varies from state to state but the current procedure usually requires a secret ballot, which protects workers from intimidation. John McCain has opposed the change and advocates a Secret Ballot Protection Act instead.
The unions have a point when they complain of intimidation by employers. EFCA would stiffen penalties for firms that bully union sympathisers, which is both desirable and good politics. But the card-check initiative is what the party is emphasising, and otherwise pro-union voters are bound to have mixed feelings about it.