01/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Unions Look For New Life Under Obama

Unions are looking to Barack Obama and rising economic anxiety to reverse organized labor's long slide.

Through three decades of decline, union leaders have been predicting a renaissance that has not come. But labor invested more than $300 million to help elect Mr. Obama and enlarge the Democratic majority in Congress, and it expects both to enact legislation that will make it easier for millions of workers to unionize.

Skeptics say the outlook for labor is as bleak as ever. Business leaders and Congressional Republicans have vowed to block the new legislation, and Mr. Obama might want to avoid a bitter, divisive fight. What is more, corporate leaders say, a shrinking economic pie could work against union organizing as much as it could work in its favor.

"What's happened with the United Auto Workers has undercut the whole argument that unions are a ticket to the middle class, that unions will lead you to a better life," said Randel Johnson, vice president for labor policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce.

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