Forget Wisconsin, the Real Future of American Labor Is Being Decided In Texas

NEW YORK, NY: An American Airlines planeat John F. Kennedy International Airport April 27, 2012.

Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images

The political fight in Wisconsin has attracted wildly more attention, but I argue that a lower-profile court case in Texas actually tells us more about the future of American labor unions.

Long story short: About 10,000 workers at American Airlines were getting close to signing up to be organized as members of the Communications Workers of America when Congress started trying to change the law to make it harder for them to trigger a unionization election. Except lucky for the pro-union workers, they actually signed up enough people before the legislative change happened. So then what happened? Well, a Texas District Court judge decided to apply the new law retroactively! Now it’s tied up in appeals. Point being that the future of the labor movement will be determined in the private sector, and that future is extremely bleak if there’s going to be post-hoc legal changes every time a large block of workers gets close to organizing.