There should be a decision coming soon regarding where the next Democratic National Convention (DNC) will be held. 

As the Democratic Party gets ready to select its next candidate for the presidency—be it President Joe Biden or somebody else––those attending the DNC want to be able to do so in a city that promotes their values to the broader U.S. public. 

The DNC is where delegates come together to adopt a party platform they can unify around. They want the site holding their convention to stand for the principles the party wants to project.

Atlanta, New York, and Chicago are the cities reportedly in contention to hold the 2024 DNC. Each one wants the DNC because it means a potential flow of funds for local businesses and the possibility of clout if the next president is selected there. Under Joe Biden, who pledged to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen,” each city’s goal is to promote its labor union bona fides.   

So far, Chicago has created a website promoting itself as the perfect emblem for the Democratic Party––and of what the future holds for U.S. democracy. In their “Our Future Is Created Here” video, Chicago is touted as a place in the heartland of America that encourages ethnic and cultural diversity, green energy, voting rights, and access to a higher minimum wage. “Working to grow a stronger, fairer economy. It’s part of our motto and engraved in our philosophy,” the narration for the video affirms. “Creating more jobs and raising minimum wage. Making sure everyone sees and feels a change.” 

New York put its pitch in via a video by the New York State Democratic Committee. NYC’s “iconic venues and vibrant energy” are celebrated as “the perfect backdrop to rally Democrats in 2024.” The city’s “Welcome to New York! We’ve Been Waiting For You” promotional video, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, declares “New York values are democratic values: we are proud to be a strong union town. Our state ranks first in union density, among the nation’s largest with a unionization rate two times the nation’s average. And we stand proudly with our brothers and sisters in labor behind this bid. Our workers want this convention right here in New York.”

Atlanta’s quest for the DNC is heavily weighted toward its Civil Rights Movement past and rests on the fact that Georgia’s voting strength put the Democratic Party over the top during the last election. The city’s #GoodTrouble2024 social media campaign, which includes a TikTok video, points to how the state helped turn the tide for the Biden-Harris ticket. 

One of the standout moments Atlanta had in 2020 was when, at the height of the pandemic, the city famously turned its State Farm Arena––where it normally holds concerts and Atlanta Hawks basketball games––into an early voting site. More than 40,000 voters cast ballots in the arena during early voting in 2020. It became the first city to have an arena host a voting site. 

But these forthright voting rights efforts don’t align with the city’s labor rights losses, union leaders say. Georgia is a “right-to-work” state, which means workers can be employed in a position and not required to join any union that could represent them. 

The U.S. currently has 27 right-to-work states, a concept initially established by southern legislators who fought authorization of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Shane Larson, senior director for government affairs for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), explained in a 2021 “Pitchfork Economics” podcast that right-to-work states were “concocted by a bunch of Southern segregationist white supremacists as an effort to try to stop unions…from growing in the South and as a way to keep workplaces from being integrated.” 

In the 1930s, Texas-born conservative lobbyist Vance Muse used an organization he created to fight against the progressive advances made under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Muse’s Christian American Association received funding from major corporations to lobby against unionization, which he frequently referred to as communist-oriented and developed by “Jewish Marxists” who wanted to upset the South’s racial order. Muse was able to help get the first right-to-work laws passed in the South.

Today, labor union leaders are lobbying hard for Chicago or New York to play host to Pres. Biden’s pro-union DNC convention. 

In January, eight union leaders signed onto a letter endorsing the selection of New York for the DNC. “New York is … uniquely positioned to demonstrate pro-worker principles as the labor movement gains strength and popularity across the nation,” the letter states. “Throughout the state, union membership is celebrated as a badge of honor for over 1.7 million workers. New York ranks first in union density among the nation’s largest states, with a unionization rate more than double the U.S. average. Legislators in Albany have also successfully rejected dangerous ‘right to work’ legislation intended to take away union protections from working people. In short, New York values are union values.” The news site City & State, which first published the letter, said that a DNC 2024 NYC Host Committee spokesperson claimed “the committee worked with union leaders on the letter, ‘who were eager to sign on.’ ”

And several labor union leaders of organizations like the AFL–CIO, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), UNITE HERE, and AFSCME signed on to a letter published by Politico that lauded Atlanta’s civil rights and racial justice history, but claimed that “the city has done nothing during its long convention bid to address” it’s low labor union representation at the hotels DNC delegates would find themselves staying in. “With the deadline for the Party to choose a convention site getting close, this lack of union hotel capacity is disqualifying.”

Georgia may now be a pivotal swing state for the Democratic Party, but it still has not declared itself as definitively  pro-labor. That fact may hurt Atlanta’s chances of hosting the 2024 DNC.

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