The decimation of American unions is negatively affecting working families
September 2, 2018 (NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Ahead of Labor Day, we celebrate the progress that American unions have made on behalf of workers. In the mid-20th century, unions were instrumental in securing fair wages, on-the-job safety standards, and a standard 40-hour work week for millions of Americans.
But today, the Republican-led decades-long assault on unions means workers no longer have a seat at the table when it comes to decisions about their working conditions — and the negative effects are showing up in union and non-union workers’ wallets alike. New research backs this up.
Context: Roughly 40% of Americans struggle to meet at least one of their basic needs like food, housing, healthcare, or utilities.
Associated Press (8/28/18): Despite strong economy, many Americans struggling to get by. A new survey from the Urban Institute highlights the financial strain experienced by many Americans, despite indicators of a strong economy. Debra Poppelaars of Nashville, Tennessee, underwent spinal fusion surgery last fall and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter. Although she is insured, she owes roughly $19,000 for her portion of the medical bills. At 64, she can’t make ends meet, let alone retire. Meanwhile, Republicans have proposed further drastic cuts to Medicaid, Social Security, and nutrition assistance for the most vulnerable Tennesseans, especially children and seniors.
The decline of unions is driving down wages and benefits for union and non-union workers alike.
Fast Company (8/29/18): The Economy is Booming, Your Salary is Not: Blame the Decline of Unions. In a new study, University of Illinois professor Tom VanHeuvelen finds that unions created benefits for individual workers, and that their decline is directly responsible for the lack of cash in workers’ bank accounts. “Unions fight for social policies that are broadly beneficial to everyday workers and normal people. These are all macro benefits that have unraveled as unions have declined; that much is indisputable.”
Workers are increasingly losing bargaining power, leading to underemployment and stagnant wages — as costs continue to increase.
Business Insider (8/29/18): There’s one simple explanation for the wage stagnation ‘puzzle’ confounding top Fed officials. A new paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research shows the job market is really not as hot as the headline unemployment figure makes it look, because workers are without the requisite bargaining power to ask for raises. “The problem is amplified by weak unions, that have seen their membership decline around the world…Underemployment may be partly caused by the weakness of worker bargaining power.”
This new research comes among an anti-union sentiment within the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court issued a sweeping ruling in June that dramatically undermines unions for teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees throughout the United States. The decision means that people don’t have to join unions or pay agency fees but still get the unions’ benefits — so the unions lose members and influence.
In response, Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini released the following statement:
“We must remind each other of what the labor movement has meant to the United States,” Mancini said. “The bottom line is that Republican attacks on organized labor are attacks on the livelihood of all workers, both union and non-union. When workers have a seat at the table, they have the power to make the economy work for more people. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.
“This November, we have a chance to elect leaders who will side with working families instead of standing in their way. Tennessee Democrats believe that no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you live, you deserve the opportunity for a better life for yourself and your family. We must elect representatives who believe this too, and will lead with a commitment to the notion that a fair day’s work should equal a fair day’s pay.”