Q: Since you kicked off this discussion in November, it's shrunk down to talk about how much money to devote to organizing versus politics. It seems to have become personality-driven. Are you disappointed?
A: We used to operate more like the Politburo, people would go behind closed doors, and then someone would come out and announce something had happened. The good news is we're beginning to have a conversation more and more outside of the leaders in Washington.
I'm glad there's been discussion. I think the discussion is too small. It's too much about, "Is it this John or that John?," "Is it organizing or politics?," and not about how much the world has changed and how important the labor movement is, to try to be a relevant part of this moment of history. Because we do have a product that works, that redistributes wealth a little more fairly. And yet it keeps getting reduced to some simple concepts, a lot because I think people don't really want to change.
We're living through this profound change [in the economy]. We should accept it. No one knows the answer. People thought they had the answer with high tech. People thought the answer was trade. None of it's worked to distribute wealth. Wages in 2003 were flat again for 95% of all Americans. Healthcare has eaten up whatever raises most people get. We have profound problems, and we don't have any answers. I think we need to shape a new policy and the labor movement has to be part of it. It may not be the answer to it, but certainly for lots of workers, it's a huge piece of the puzzle.
Q: What's next? What happens after July?
A: For our union, there are three challenges. One is to continue to build a global union. We thought we had made a big step forward because we put someone to work in Geneva. Now we have people working in Australia, in London, South Africa. We hope to have people in South America soon. We're about to have a second meeting of a group of unions to talk about launching a couple of different global campaigns. So we are well on our way to try to do what's never been done: to try to figure out how to have a global union or global campaigning. That's been interesting and very fast.
Two, I think we'll be part of sponsoring a public discussion about what are the ideas about rewarding work. I think there are plenty out there. And then the next thing will be, how do we make sure political parties adopt those ideas? Because in the end, you change things when leaders and laws either facilitate tax breaks for the rich or facilitate rewarding work.
So we're looking for those ideas and looking for to how to use the power of persuasion to make them happen.