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Tue Jan 29, 2013, 03:25 PM

WHY You Should CARE About the DECLINE of Labor Unions



If we want a better economy, then, we need a better story about how the economy works, in which a union worker is not a cost but a customer. The weakness of labor is everyoneís problem ó and its revival everyoneís opportunity.






Last week came news that the share of Americaís workforce thatís unionized hit a 97-year low. A mere 11.3% of workers now belong to a union, and a great chunk of those are in the shrinking public sector. In the private sector, unionization fell to an abysmal 6.6%, down from a peak of 35% during the 1950s. Most Americans yawned at this news. On one level thatís understandable. After all, most Americans arenít in a union. Itís a vicious cycle: as unions decline, fewer people see their fates as bound up with unions, which just accelerates the decline.


But on another level, Americaís non-reaction is striking. We remain in the wake of the Great Recession. Inequality and wealth concentration are at levels not seen since just before the Great Depression. This would seem as ripe a time in modern memory for a revival of organized labor. Instead, a basic assumption now shapes most Americansí mindset about labor: the belief that the death of unions isnít my problem because Iím 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. Unions restore demand to an economy by raising wages for their members and putting more purchasing power to work, enabling more hiring. 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. Even if you arenít a member your pay is influenced by the strength or weakness of organized labor. The presence of unions sets off a wage race to the top. Their absence sets off a race to the bottom.


Unfortunately, the relegation of organized labor to tiny minority status and the fact that the public sector is the last remaining stronghold for unions have led many Americans to see them as special interests seeking special privileges, often on the taxpayerís dime. This thinking is as upside-down as our economy. This country has gotten to todayís level of inequality because, ironically, those who work for a living think like atomized individuals while those who hire for a living organize collectively to rig policy in their favor. Todayís 97-year low is the result of decades of efforts to squeeze unions and disperse their power.


cont'




http://ideas.time.com/2013/01/29/viewpoint-why-the-decline-of-unions-is-your-problem-too/






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Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply WHY You Should CARE About the DECLINE of Labor Unions (Original post)
Segami Jan 2013 OP
JaneyVee Jan 2013 #1
pipoman Jan 2013 #2
Sherman A1 Jan 2013 #3
chervilant Jan 2013 #4
bvar22 Jan 2013 #5
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #6
pampango Jan 2013 #8
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #10
pampango Jan 2013 #11
Demo_Chris Jan 2013 #19
michigandem58 Jan 2013 #7
pampango Jan 2013 #9
antigop Jan 2013 #12
Populist_Prole Jan 2013 #13
antigop Jan 2013 #14
Populist_Prole Jan 2013 #15
antigop Jan 2013 #16
Populist_Prole Jan 2013 #17
trof Jan 2013 #18
Segami Jan 2013 #20
trof Jan 2013 #21
octoberlib Jan 2013 #22

Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 03:31 PM

1. K&R. Really is one of my top concerns.

Thanks for article.

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 03:40 PM

2. Trade agreements

without mandates for workers rights and competitive wages can do nothing but diminish standard of living here..and I thank the unions and ability to collectively bargain they are the only reason for the standard of living we have enjoyed..

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 03:45 PM

3. K&R

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 03:57 PM

4. No Unions

means :

my former supervisor could fire me simply because he doesn't like me;

"Right-to-work" states -- a vile euphemism for a situation that ONLY benefits corporations -- predominate;

most wage-earners cannot cover fundamental expenses with a single income;

compensation does not match our ever-increasing productivity.

I contemplate a future of unemployment punctuated by my Kevorkian option ...

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 03:58 PM

5. DURec from this old FDR Pro-LABOR Democrat.

The Democratic Party needs to do more than just pay Lip Service to Organized LABOR during campaign season.
The Democratic Party had a wonderful opportunity recently in Wisconsin,
and failed to show up.



"When we all do better,
we ALL do better."
--- Paul Wellstone



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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 04:22 PM

6. I care, but NAFTA and other FTAs destroyed unions forever

 

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #6)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:11 PM

8. Why did NAFTA not destroy unions forever in Canada? n/t

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Response to pampango (Reply #8)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:26 PM

10. Give it time

 

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Response to Demo_Chris (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:31 PM

11. Fair enough, but why is it taking longer there? They have 1/10 our population and 1/3 of

Mexico's. You would think Canada would have been overwhelmed quickly by the two much larger countries and the rate of destruction would have been faster.

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Response to pampango (Reply #11)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:54 PM

19. I don't know, but I can guess

 

Candada started as a comparatively progressive nation. In addition, jobs which involve the exploitation of local resources cannot be outsourced, and it is surplus labor which kills any bargaining power a union might have. So, a comparatively progressive society with a strong safety net, coupled with a production based economy.

Just a guess. You could probably answer this better yourself.

It's not even evil that businesses do this. It is no more evil for a business to exploit impopverished workers than it is for a consumer to exploit impoverished workers. Both you and the business are consumers of that labor, they are simply one step closer to source than you. And just as you and I claim that we cannot afford to pay more, so too that business. That's why governments are supposed to stiffle this sht before it gets off the ground.

It is businesses JOB, and their obligation to their investors and customers, to attempt to get the best deal possible, and as rapidly as possible. To this end they will always try to use whatever power they have to swing the rules in their favor. This is true whether we are talking regulatory capture or free trade. It is Government's job to kill these attempts, and make decisions that are best for the PEOPLE. Unfortunately, once a business becomes too powerful it becomes all but impossible for a government to do so. So we have what we see today, government of by and for multinational corporations. The citizens of the world, in all their billions, are simply another resource to be exploited.

It's possible that a courageous leader will stand against them. That's what I had hoped to see from Obama. Sadly, Obamacare told me everything I needed to know about who his employers are. Perhaps this second term will be different, but so far it's looking like more of the same.

Perhaps Hillary, despite being a Clinton, will want more of a legacy than simply being the first female President. Who knows.



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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 04:59 PM

7. A lot of it is about environment, not the desire to join

 

It's really difficult to get a union started in the current corporate and legal environment. Just taking Wal-Mart workers as an example, I'm sure many would love to join. But how do you get that opportunity? If you're an organizer, your job is in jeopardy even though it shouldn't be.

The article seems to take aim at non-union members - expecting them to do what exactly? The heart of any effort to expand unionism has to come from unions themselves. I just don't read about a lot of organizing votes taking place these days.

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:17 PM

9. The way to strengthen unions is to pass legislation that strengthens unions.

That's how FDR strengthened them.

Republicans have succeeded in weakening unions by passing legislation that weakened unions. They understand how the game is played.

If the question becomes "How can we strengthen unions by some roundabout means that does not involve direct legislation" but might have the eventual end result of strengthening unions, we will not succeed.

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:46 PM

12. k&r We need pro-labor Dems, not corporate DLC dems nt

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Response to antigop (Reply #12)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 05:59 PM

13. You said it!!

Without a healthy working class, every other issue is moot, since we'll all be serfs anyway.

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Response to Populist_Prole (Reply #13)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:01 PM

14. sadly, there are a lot of people who haven't figured that out yet. nt

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Response to antigop (Reply #14)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:16 PM

15. Either that or they just don't care

They might be financially comfortable enough to accept or even support neoliberal economics, as long as other social issues are in the forefront of policy focus.

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Response to Populist_Prole (Reply #15)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:24 PM

16. We are the 99%! nt

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Response to antigop (Reply #16)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:43 PM

17. Yes, the engine room of the country, even the world.

Down with the plutocrats!

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 06:43 PM

18. I was a union member for about 30 years.

ALPA, Airline Pilots' Association - AFL/CIO.
My good pay, benefits, and working conditions were a direct result of the efforts of my union.

Prior to the pilots unionizing, all of the above were deplorable.
Union organizing brought some collective muscle to the bargaining table with management.

Unfortunately it appears we've come full circle now, with pay, benefits, and working rules taking a big hit on both union and non-union airlines.

I retired in 1999 and I'm damned glad to be out of it.

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Response to trof (Reply #18)

Tue Jan 29, 2013, 08:23 PM

20. Now your fight is for protecting your Social Security.

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Response to Segami (Reply #20)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 06:42 PM

21. It's always something.

The Reagan admin gifted us with income tax on S/S retirement income.
Before that, it was tax free.
As it should be.
That tax hurts.

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Response to Segami (Original post)

Wed Jan 30, 2013, 06:58 PM

22. Kick!

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