Published April 14, 2021
Amazon’s victory over attempts to unionize its Bessemer, Ala., warehouse surely gladdens the hearts of many anti-union Republicans. But a party that wants to be representative of America’s working class must have a more constructive reaction. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post.)
Attitudes toward unions have been sharply partisan for decades. Labor law since the New Deal has forced employers to negotiate with any union that successfully wins a vote among a group of employees. Republicans backed employers in this struggle, while Democrats backed unions. That legacy remains with us to this day: Polls generally show that conservative Republicans have sharply negative views of unions, while progressive Democrats view them positively.
This divide initially resulted in a large class divide between the two parties. Republicans generally found support among college-educated (and, therefore, predominantly White) Americans, while Democrats appealed to those without degrees. But that divide narrowed after President Ronald Reagan brought many working-class former Democrats into the GOP — and it narrowed even further as many college-educated Whites started to vote Democratic in the 1990s and 2000s. By 2012, the sharply Democratic tilt among the growing number of voters with postgraduate degrees offset the narrow GOP advantage among those with only a bachelor’s degree. The result was President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney among both college-educated and non-college-educated voters.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.