Economic Justice – labor

The Decline of Unions Is Your Problem Too By Eric Liu, Time.com… the share of America’s work­force that’s union­ized hit a 97-year low…It’s a vicious cycle: as unions decline, fewer peo­ple see their fates as bound up with unions, which just accel­er­ates the decline… Inequal­ity and wealth con­cen­tra­tion are at lev­els not seen since just before the Great Depres­sion…a basic assump­tion now shapes most Amer­i­cans’ mind­set about labor: the belief that the death of unions isn’t my prob­lem because I’m not in a union. That assump­tion is wrong in two crit­i­cal ways. First, the fact is that when unions are stronger the econ­omy as a whole does bet­ter…On the flip side, when labor is weak and cap­i­tal uncon­strained, cor­po­ra­tions hoard, hir­ing slows, and inequal­ity deep­ens. Thus we have today both record highs in cor­po­rate prof­its and record lows in wages. Sec­ond, unions lift wages for non-union mem­bers too by cre­at­ing a higher pre­vail­ing wage…The weak­ness of labor is everyone’s prob­lem — and its revival everyone’s opportunity.

Why Americans Need Unions Now More Than Ever by Robert Creamer HuntingtonPost.com, February 23, 2011 — …The central problem facing the American economy — and our society — is the collapse of the American middle class. The incomes of the middle class Americans, and those who aspire to be middle class — 90% of Americans — have been stagnant for almost three decades. This trend, which was briefly interrupted during the Clinton Administration, is the chief defining characteristic of our recent economic history…Virtually all of the increase in our gross domestic product over the ten years before the Great Recession went to the wealthiest 2% of the population. These changes in income distribution are not the result of “natural laws.” They are the result of systems set up by human beings that differentially benefit different groups in the society…

Inequality Rages as Dwindling Wages Lock Millions in Poverty 

Why Don’t We Pay People Enough? 8 Facts About America’s Struggling Working People By Bill Quigley, AlterNet, January 23, 2012

5 Things Unions Have Done for You By Zaid Jilani,Think Progress, posted on Alternet.org, March 6, 2011 1. Unions Gave Us The Weekend. 2. Unions Gave Us Fair Wages And Relative Income Equality 3. Unions Helped End Child Labor 4. Unions Won Widespread Employer-Based Health Coverage 5. Unions Spearheaded The Fight For The Family And Medical Leave Act

It’s All About the Wages — Our Economy Would Be Fine If Everyone Made Their Fair Share by Robert Reich – Robert Reich’s Blog, Posted on Alternet.org, July 13, 2010

Attacking unions: It’s not about the money, it’s about power By David Schultz, MinnPost.com, Feb. 23, 2011 - Efforts to bust collective bargaining rights inMadisonare not about the money. Money and budget deficits are the pretext for a larger battle to attack government and break public-sector unions for political reasons. In many ways, this is the logical continuation of the union-busting battle that began under the Reagan era. What is really going on here is an effort by corporations and the GOP to dismantle one of the few remaining institutions in America that defy their power. It is the battle to restructure labor markets to serve a broader corporate neo-liberal agenda…the Wagner Act — aka the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) — in 1935 recognized the right to collectively bargain and organize in the private sector. Subsequently, similar rights were extended to workers in the public sector. The NLRA was a success. By the early 1950s private-sector unions constituted approximately 38 percent of the private-sector workers. Wages, income and working conditions dramatically increased, economic inequalities decreased, work place safety improved, and features such as the eight-hour/40-hour work week emerged. ‘A countervailing power’ Yet the 1950s was thehigh pointof unions. Corporations hated them. Unions represented what John Kenneth Galbraith called a “countervailing power” on corporations. Yes, in many cases unions sided with management on protectionist practices (think of the car industry) and had corruption problems (Hoffa and the Teamsters), but they also did a lot of good, by raising the American standard of living. The real problem for corporations, and for Republicans, was that unions supported Democrats. They provided dollars, organizing, and votes for Democrats. But the Vietnam War and the dual oil embargos in the 1970s precipitated a major fiscal crisis that produced decreased corporate profits. It was at this point that corporate and Republican interests converged to attack labor unions….beginning and most visible effort to break unions and limit their power was the decision by President Reagan to dismantle PATCO in 1981. He busted the air traffic controllers’ union and that sent a clear signal that it was OK to go after unions. Together the GOP and corporations waged a terrific battle against unions, claiming thatAmerica’s economic decline was rooted in high union wages, inflexible rules, health care and benefits, along with excessive government regulation and taxation. Big government and unions were the cause of American decline. Of course, not all of this is true…Yet blame the unions because they form a great scapegoat for American industrial decline….The war on private-sector unions and government has been a success. Private-sector unions are now relatively weak. They constitute about 8 percent of the private-sector workforce. Their decline correlates with significant increases in economic inequality, declining wealth for the poor and middle class, and the weakening of the Democratic Party. The one stronghold for unions is the public sector. They constitute a larger percentage of the public sector workforce than do unions in the private sector. They generally support Democrats, and in return for lower wages compared to the private sector they have received greater job security and often better benefits. The job security in part was a consequence to prevent the politicization of the government, to protect from political reprisals, and limit patronage and the spoils system. Public-sector unions are now under attack as governments now face their own version of a fiscal crisis. The battle in Wisconsin is part of a broader agenda to demonize public employees and government. …It is just so easy. It is a great wedge issue — play the resentment and divide and conquer cards with taxpayers and private-sector workers…

Labor Unions’ Fight for the 99% Goes Way Beyond Raising Campaign Dollars By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet, April 22, 2012

History of Labor Unions from shmoop.com, February 24, 2011

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