American trade unions are a crucial segment of civil society that enriches our democracy. Union members are stewards of the public good, empowering the individual through collective action and solidarity. While union density has declined, the U.S. labor movement remains a substantial political and economic force. But the relentless attacks by the political right and its corporate allies could lead to an erosion of civic engagement, further economic inequality, and a political imbalance of power that can undermine society. The extreme assault on unions waged by Republicans in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and at a national level must be countered by a revitalized labor movement and by those who understand that unions are positive civil actors who bring together individuals who alone have little power. Unions need both structural reform and greater boldness; there are moments in which direct action and dramatic militancy can bring about positive social change. The current assault on labor can be rebuffed, and unions can expand their role as stewards for the public good and as defenders of efforts by the 99 percent to reduce inequality and protect democracy.

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