Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fight for a union

According to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the share of private-sector workers in a union has fallen precipitously—from one in three in the 1950s to about one in 20 today—wage inequality has risen as a result.

Union decline has exacerbated wage inequality in the United States by dampening the pay of non-union workers as well as by eroding the share of workers directly benefiting from unionization," reads the EPI report. "Rebuilding our system of collective bargaining is an important tool available for fueling wage growth for both low- and middle-wage workers and ending the era of persistent wage stagnation."

The paper notes that several culprits have been blamed for the fact that pay for private-sector workers has "barely budged over the past three and a half decades"—including globalization, technological change, and the slowdown in Americans' educational attainment. "Each of these accounts describes important developments contributing to pay stagnation and pay decline for certain groups of workers," EPI acknowledges. "Yet these explanations ignore a vital contributing factor: the near disappearance of a worker institution that once claimed over one-third of private-sector employees as members." That is, unions.

The think tank found that if union membership rates were as high today as they were in 1979, men who aren't in a union would make five percent, or about $2,700 more, per year. For less educated men, the decline is even more impactful; non-union men without a bachelor's degree would have made $3,016 more in 2013―an 8 percent increase―under 1979 levels of union membership.

"Many American workers can see those unions as either minor bit players in today's economy or good for union members alone to the detriment of society at large," study co-author Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said. "This is a study that says that's wrong: unions are good for members and non-members alike."

“…the report's findings are fresh ammunition for progressives who maintain that strengthening unions, rather than, say, closing our borders to immigrants, is the key to restoring broad wage growth and stemming income inequality," reporter Daniel Marens comments.

Another commentator Hamilton Nolan in his analysis of the EPI report wrote: "Don't get mad at foreigners. Unionize. It's the only battle in the class war that lies entirely within your power to win."

SOYMB would however add a caveat to Nolan’s view by saying union/workers' rights and protections are fairly easily surrendered out of fear of the company shutting down and moving out. Capitalism’s recurring crises go way beyond anything that can be addressed merely by providing a measure of security to workers. We have to end the capitalist system. 

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