The movement is still fuming that the Democratic National Convention is in a right-to-work state. It's just one piece of a tough year for labor.
It ought to be one big party for America's unions: Labor Day, the holiday celebrating workers, followed immediately by the Democratic National Convention, the year's biggest party for unions' longtime political allies. But for the labor movement, it's likely to be a bittersweet moment.
Though there have been a few notable bright spots, unions have suffered several major defeats in the last year. A much-hyped campaign to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, intended as retribution for pushing through laws banning public-sector collective bargaining, fell short by a wide margin. Across the nation, union membership has continued its slide, although the decline from 2010 to 2011, the latest data available, was small. Two weeks ago, workers at a Caterpillar plant in Illinois lost a contract battle, in what experts say could be a bad omen for future disputes. And adding insult to the injury, the DNC is taking place in North Carolina -- a so-called right-to-work state.
The Democrats' choice of Charlotte was intended to help mobilize support for President Obama, who narrowly won North Carolina, long a Republican stronghold, in the 2008 presidential race. But the decision immediately raised hackles in the labor movement. Not only does North Carolina have right-to-work laws -- which ban collective-bargaining agreements that require workers to join unions -- it also has the lowest union membership rate in the nation. Just 2.9 percent of North Carolina workers were in unions in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.