Why Fight For Unions? So We Can Fight An Economy Rigged Against Us

The rules set down in our democracy can’t be enforced unless We the People can organize to be powerful enough to overcome the great wealth and power of a few ultra-billionaires and their corporations.
Why Fight For Unions? So We Can Fight An Economy Rigged Against Us

The other day I wrote about how FedEx has been pretending that their employees are not employees, which gets around labor standards for things like overtime, family leave and the rest.

This misclassification game is just one way that big companies have been rigging the rules to give themselves an edge, getting around what We the People set down for our democracy.

The result, of course, is even more people paid even less with even worse working conditions. And the bad players get an advantage that drives out the good ones.

Like misclassification, this game-rigging, cheating, edge-seeking, rule-bypassing stuff is everywhere you look. (Rigged trade deals, corporate tax "deferral" and inversions, corporate campaign donations, too-big-to-fail banks, Congressional obstruction, etc. and etc...) This rigging of the game in favor of the ultra-wealthy gets worse and worse.

Why is this so? Because the rules set down by our democracy can’t be enforced unless We the People can organize to be powerful enough to overcome the great wealth and power of a few ultra-billionaires and their corporations. Without the ability to organize, we are on our own as individuals against great wealth and power.

This is where labor unions come in. Working people organizing into a group so they are not fighting this power alone as individuals gives them a chance to demand a slice of the pie.

Campaign for America's Future has released a report, “Inequality: Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions.” The introduction explains that, "Government policy helped strengthen the hand of workers and build the middle class coming out of World War II, and today government must once more become an ally of working people. The effort to make that happen will meet fierce resistance, but the report shows that the first steps have begun."

CAF's Bob Borosage writes about this in, "Inequality: A Broad Middle Class Requires Empowering Workers":

Working family incomes haven’t gone up in the 21st century. Inequality reaches new extremes. Corporate profits are reaping a record portion of the nation’s income, while worker wages wallow at record lows. Three-fourths of Americans fear their children will fare less well than they have.


↓ Story continues below ↓

This Labor Day, we should do more than celebrate workers – we should understand how vital reviving worker unions is to rebuilding a broad middle class.

The raging debate on inequality and its remedies often omits discussion of unions. Inequality is blamed on globalization and technology that have transformed our workforce. Remedies focus on better education and more training, with liberals supporting fair taxes to help pay the cost.

[. . .] The decline of unions is indisputably at the center of America’s growing inequality and hallowed-out middle class. But what is also clear is that reviving shared prosperity and rebuilding the middle class isn’t likely to occur without reviving the ability of workers to organize and bargain collectively.

Summary:

  • America’s broad middle class was built when unions were strong, representing over one-third of the private workforce. Strong unions helped workers win better wages and benefits at the workplace, and championed vital reforms in the political arena — raising the minimum wage, creating Medicare, raising Social Security benefits, workplace safety and more – that helped build the broad middle class.
  • During those years, workers shared in the increased productivity and profits that they helped to create. Incomes on the bottom actually grew faster than top-end incomes. America grew together.
  • Then furious corporate campaigns succeeded in weakening unions. Laws banned powerful union-organizing tactics. Multinationals wrote trade rules that facilitated moving jobs abroad, enabling companies to threaten workers seeking better wages. Corporations perfected anti-union strategies. And with the election of Ronald Reagan as president, all gloves were off.
  • Unions now represent less than 7 percent of the private workforce. As unions declined, wages no longer rose with productivity. CEOs and investors captured ever higher portions of corporate income. The minimum wage lost value. Corporations gutted pensions and health care plans. Incomes on the top soared, while those on the bottom sunk. America grew apart.

Please click through to Inequality: Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions.

-----

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

About Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson's picture
Fellow, <a href="http://ourfuture.org">Campaign for America's Future</a>, Sr. Fellow, <a href="http://renewca.org">Renew California</a>, Blogger, <a href="http://seeingtheforest.com/">Seeing the Forest</a>

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.