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Lansing Labor News
Established 1945
December 18, 2018
Financial Secretary Bob Smith
Updated On: Jun 27, 2018

May 2018

Recently I was reading an article on the Economic Policy Institute website ( that made a lot of sense.  Titled “How today’s unions help working people” it attempts to explain the importance, strength, and power of labor organizations.  Americans have historically joined together in organizations to solve problems and make changes that improve their lives and communities.  Joining a union allows people to influence a place where they spend a great majority of their lives: their workplace.

Subtitled “Giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig the economy” it’s an in-depth look at the who, what, where, why, and how of organized labor in today’s environment and what’s needed to regain the lost ground of the last few decades.  Here is a small taste of the beginning…

The freedom of workers to join together in unions and negotiate with employers (in a process known as collective bargaining) is widely recognized as a fundamental human right across the globe. In the United States, this right is protected by the U.S. Constitution and U.S. law and is supported by a majority of Americans.

Over 16 million working women and men in the United States are exercising this right—these 16 million workers are represented by unions. Overall, more than one in nine U.S. workers are represented by unions. This representation makes organized labor one of the largest institutions in America.

By providing data on union coverage, activities, and impacts, this report helps explain how unions fit into the economy today; how they affect workers, communities, occupations and industries, and the country at large; and why collective bargaining is essential for a fair and prosperous economy and a vibrant democracy. It also describes how decades of anti-union campaigns and policies have made it much harder for working people to use their collective voice to sustain their standard of living.”

And a little of the end…

“Unions are a dynamic and ever-evolving institution of the American economy that exist to give working people a voice and leverage over their working conditions and the economic policy decisions that shape these conditions. Collective bargaining is indispensable if we want to achieve shared prosperity.

But it is precisely because they are effective and necessary for shared prosperity that unions are under attack by employers who want to maintain excessive leverage over workers and by policymakers representing the interests of the top 1 percent. These attacks have succeeded in increasing the gap between the number of workers who would like to be represented by a union and the number who are represented by a union. And these threats to the freedom to join together in unions haven’t been met with a policy response sufficient to keep the playing field level between organizing workers and the employers looking to thwart them.

Giving workers a real voice and leverage is essential for democracy. While unions historically have not been able to match corporate political donations dollar for dollar, working people organizing together in unions play an equalizing role because they can motivate members to give their time and effort to political causes. For example, one study found that unions are very effective at getting people to the polls—especially increasing voting among those with only a high school education.

As this report has shown, unions—when strong—have the capacity to tackle some of the biggest problems that plague our economy, from growing economic inequality, wage stagnation, and racial and gender inequities to eroding democracy and barriers to civic participation.

And, unions also help to address current workforce trends that are increasing work insecurity, from the rise of part-time work and unpaid internships to the exploitation of student athletes to increasing numbers of Uber drivers and other “gig economy” workers.  In a recent New York Times op-ed, Kashana Cauley cited some of these trends and called on her millennial peers to lead the next labor movement.  Indeed, there is evidence that young workers are primed to do so: 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-old workers view unions favorably, compared with 46 percent of workers age 30 and older.  And young people of both political parties are more amenable to labor unions than their older peers.  Having entered the workforce during the last recession, these young workers have experienced a labor market with lower wages, diminishing benefits, “non-compete” clauses that make it harder for even entry-level employees to move to better jobs, and other facets of increasing insecurity, Cauley explains.

Certainly, Americans of all ages, occupations, races, and genders have a vested interest in making sure our economy works for everyone. To promote an inclusive economy and a robust democracy, we must work together to rebuild our collective bargaining system.”

Taken from:  By Josh Bivens, Lora Engdahl, Elise Gould, Teresa Kroeger, Celine McNicholas, Lawrence Mishel, Zane Mokhiber, Heidi Shierholz, Marni von Wilpert, Valerie Wilson, and Ben Zipperer

Please take the time to visit the Economic Policy Institute website.  Read this article and, while you’re at it, take a look at the rest of the site.   It’s refreshing to read positive things about workers and their labor groups.  Frankly, I’m a little tired of being blamed for all the economic woes of today when the truth is, our conservative “friends” are more the cause of the inequalities plaguing our country than we could ever be.

Until next time…Solidarity

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