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Fifty-five years ago, in a speech to the convention of the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out with characteristic moral clarity the essential role of unions in American life. “The labor movement,” he explained, “was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress … [When] the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society. Civilization began to grow in the economic life of man, and a decent life with a sense of security and dignity became a reality rather than a distant dream.”

This Labor Day, America’s working families are facing unprecedented challenges.

Despite its setbacks, or perhaps because of them, organized labor has an energy level that AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says he hasn’t seen before in his 50 years with the movement.

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As socialists look out at the horizon of the struggle for a radically reformed society, we should try, like good Marxists, to anticipate where and with whom conflicts are likely to arise and how we are going to deal with those challenges.

A year and a half later, sleepless but amped up on coffee and solidarity from a 29-hour marathon final bargaining session, I celebrated with the rest of the bargaining committee, made up of select union members who negotiated directly with the company, as the union and Vox Media management reached a contract agreement.

I had done a complete 180 on unions.

WGBH COMMENTARY
Boston Calling: Crime? Or Politics As Usual?

By Harvey Silverglate

The media commentary that followed the surprising (to me, and to many others) August 7th federal extortion conviction of Kenneth Brissette and Timothy Sullivan, senior aides to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, misses the point as to why this verdict, and the prosecution that culminated in this result, are so dangerous to civil society and, not so incidentally, to all of our civil liberties.