Decades of soaring income inequality rendered tens of millions of Americans just one or two missed paychecks away from financial calamity.
While CEO and shareholder income skyrocketed over the past four decades, ordinary Americans’ wages stagnated. Even those juggling multiple jobs struggle to feed their families, leaving them unable to save for retirement or save money for emergencies. Only a revitalized labor movement can fix this.
Labor unions force corporations to provide workers with family-sustaining wages, affordable health insurance, viable retirement plans, safe working conditions and other benefits that help workers survive.
The richest 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Corporate greed pushes millions of workers into a daily battle for survival. CEOs, shareholders and tycoons care little about whether average Americans have roofs over their heads or other basic necessities. The financial elite only want to hold down wages so they can pocket more and more for themselves.
Organized labor also fights to keep workers safe on the job. Unions investigate hazards and identify life-saving changes. They fight for stronger state and federal workplace safety laws. They ensure workers have the appropriate training and equipment for their jobs.
Employers are so desperate to keep unions out that they break the law in more than a third of all organizing campaigns. They bully and fire pro-union workers. They spy on organizers, question workers about their labor views or threaten to close plants if they vote for representation. As if illegal tactics weren’t reprehensible enough, the nation’s outdated labor laws permit employers to hold mandatory “town hall” meetings where they subject workers to hours-long anti-union tirades intended to sabotage organizing efforts.
Only by exercising collective power will more Americans put themselves on the path to financial stability—and help the nation emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than before.
By ensuring family-sustaining wages, health care and retirement security, unions give them a better shot at weathering upheavals caused by emergencies like the pandemic.