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Graph showing the union membership rate and middle class share of the national income declining together.
The numbers are out for union membership in 2013, and as usual, they're not great. The good news is that unions didn't lose ground from 2012 to 2013:
In 2013, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions--was 11.3 percent, the same as in 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.5 million, was little different from 2012.
The bad news is that "In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers." Well, there's a lot of bad news to be taken from that decline over the past decades. That's not just bad news for unions as organizations or for current union members. It's bad news for an American workforce facing wage stagnation. It's bad news for women, too:
The gender gap between what unionized male workers make and what unionized female workers make is just 9.4 cents, meaning that women working full time make more than 90 percent of what men do, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.

Among non-union workers, on the other hand, the wage gap is 18.7 cents, about double the gap between union workers. And while the gender wage gap overall hasn’t improved in five years, it’s been shrinking among workers who belong to a union, declining 2.6 cents between 2013 and 2012.

Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of unions, they're one of the few forces standing in the way of corporations driving down wages and working conditions to the bare minimum required by law, and then most likely turning to Congress and state legislatures to weaken the law further. Unions reduce inequality, which makes their decline—a decline caused by an all-out war against them waged by corporations and Republican politicians—bad for all of us.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 01:48 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Until people embrace unions again (5+ / 0-)

    like they did a century ago, our wages will continue to be under attack.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 02:24:19 PM PST

    •  Labor's fortunes are Dems' fortunes (3+ / 0-)

      It's not a coincidence that labor's period of ascendancy (roughly mid-30's to mid-70's) was also the sole period of Dem dominance since 1860.  I'm still waiting to hear of FIRE setting up phone banks or canvassing operations.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 02:31:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  How Do People Embrace A Union (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lady blair, chimene

      When there is somebody standing in line who will do your job cheaper then you will?

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 02:48:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fight for that person as well as yourself. (0+ / 0-)

        We are seeing the start of this:

        Support our troops. Bring them home and take care of them when they get here.

        by brae70 on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 02:52:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You Don't Need To Convince The Person (0+ / 0-)

          With the job, you need to convince the person that's in line waiting to do that job cheaper.

          I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

          by superscalar on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 02:54:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  A Case In Point From Your NY Times Story (0+ / 0-)
            LIKE most construction workers who come to see Patricia Zavala, the two dozen men who crowded into her office in Austin, Tex., one afternoon in March had a complaint.

            The workers, most of them Honduran immigrants, had jobs applying stucco to the exterior of a 17-story luxury student residence. It was difficult, dangerous work, but that was to be expected. What upset them was that for the previous two weeks their crew leader had not paid them; each was owed about $1,000

            I would be willing to bet money that some significant percentage of these 'immigrants' are in the country illegally. Nobody gave a damn when these workers put a group of more expensive stucco workers out of work, in fact there are individuals who I am sure were cheering about it, whether it was because they got their stucco home cheaper, or because they didn't believe in immigration law to begin with.

            Now people want those same individuals who these Hondurans put out of work to care because the Hondurans aren't getting paid.

            Good luck with that.

            I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

            by superscalar on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 03:05:00 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  That has always been the case (0+ / 0-)

        The biggest strikes and biggest union victories happened during a depression.
          The only difference now is people's attitude towards each other and the lack of class awareness.

        None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

        by gjohnsit on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 04:02:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  individualism (0+ / 0-)

      A nation of individuals has no need for unions.

      Corp America is only too happy to live in a nation of individuals. even after 25 years on the job they can let you go and hire two to replace you for the same money and fewer benefits.

      Unions became corrupt and did deals under the table.

      A nation deserves its gov and its unions or lack of.

      America  has the best gov money can buy.

  •  How is that possible for women to make less then.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    men?  my union contract says nothing about paying women less. It is set by position, step and years.

    Women should make the same as men in the union.  The wage differences should only be in the non-union market.  

    What union is discriminating against women with contracts that pay women less then men for the same job?

    I make less than my female partner at work because she has been there a year and six months longer than I.  She is a step higher than I am.  In a year and six months from now, I will be making what she makes now and six months later she will go up a step. (yet she has been in EMS for seven year less than I have, just with the company longer.)

    Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

    by DrillSgtK on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 03:07:59 PM PST

    •  I'd venture to guess (0+ / 0-)

      that the difference is because this is one of those generalized "average wage" figures that accounts for all workers at all levels, and that it is higher for unionized men because the men are slightly more likely to be in higher level positions than unionized women.  As such, the disparity in who is in what position skews the results somewhat, because obviously, as you note, union payscales for the same job are the same for everyone.

      •  Sort of the same way they say (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Darth Stateworker

        women in the military get paid 40 cents less than men.  because there are fewer women in higher ranks.

        Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

        by DrillSgtK on Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 09:38:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It will happen (0+ / 0-)

          any time a generalized wage amount is used to compare one group to another that doesn't control for job title, education, and other data that is needed to make an accurate comparison.

          Men and women, older versus younger, private sector versus public sector...  There are always distinct differences between such generalized cohorts that will reflect one cohort has a higher wage than another.  For example:  Men tend to hold more higher level jobs than women, older workers tend to hold more higher level jobs than younger people, and public sector jobs tend to require a college level education more than private sector jobs.

          As such, raw comparisons of the "average wage" of large, generalized groups like this will always reflect a difference in average wages.

          I think when it comes to this specific situation - unionized men making slightly more than unionized women - and its cause - men tend to hold higher level positions - one could then state with some level of certainty that the issue isn't that women are not paid the same amount for equal work doing the same job - it's that they don't get promoted at the same rate as men.  Why that is could be a case of sexism, or it could simply be an indication that there are more men in the unionized workforce than there are women, and hence, more men get promoted.  However, to determine which it is would require additional research.

          I am 100% all for equal pay, but generalized "average wages" don't really make the case that there is an equality problem - especially in a case where the difference is only a few cents an hour such as in the unionized figure in the diary.  There's simply more to the story than just a simplistic comparison like that.  Obviously, as union members, we're both well aware that everyone gets the same pay for doing the same job under a union contract, so it doesn't seem likely at all that there should be much of a wage gap for unionized workers doing the same job under the same contract.  It is exactly equal - union contracts don't provide for a "you have a penis" stipend  or a "you have a vagina" discount written in to them.  They view workers blindly without considering sex.

          However, if it can be shown unionized women aren't being promoted enough, and that leads to equality, unions could work with management to fix that issue.

          •  OF course the point of including that (0+ / 0-)

            Isn't that unions suck for women and need to do better, but that union jobs are much better for women than non-union jobs are, so more unions would be better for women.

            The Empire never ended.

            by thejeff on Fri Jan 31, 2014 at 04:57:10 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Unions reduce inequality (0+ / 0-)

    "Unions reduce inequality" is the key.
    History has proved it.
    United we stand, divided we fall.

  •  What are the statistics... (0+ / 0-)

    ...for males/female salaries when controlled for type of job and experience level?

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Mon Jan 27, 2014 at 09:14:40 PM PST

  •  I want to like this article... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I want to like this article, but that graph is about as deceitful as they get, by force-correlating the lines by adjusting the indices.

  •  Cause and solution in one graph. (0+ / 0-)

    Right there is one simple graph we have the the cause and solution to income inequality with 40 years of data and an obvious correlation. But this is just for the US, I'm sure there are many other countries would show the same results in the creation and destruction of unions.

    If we abandon our allies and their issues, who will defend us and ours?

    by Bryce in Seattle on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 06:46:17 PM PST

  •  its interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bryce in Seattle

    i belonged to a union most of my working years and if you would talk to a person that was anti-union and tell them that a union wage would bring up all wages they were astounded or most often would not believe you and reply with the typical anti-union talking points.

    and we wonder why the 99% can't elect pols that would support their own self interests.

  •  93% unrepresented (0+ / 0-)

    As long as 93% of the private sector workforce is not protected by unions, the public sector workforce should stop bragging about all good they do for the middle class.

    Government work is important, but everyone cannot work for the government.

    In 2013, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union, compared with 7.3 million workers in the private sector.

    The union membership rate for public-sector workers (35.3 percent) was substantially higher than the rate for
    private-sector workers (6.7 percent).

  •  We have to blame some of the Unions too. (0+ / 0-)

    SEIU and a number of other unions are great about trying to unionize workers, and supporting non-union workers who'd like a union, but can't get the votes. I can not thank them enough! Yet I know a lot of unions that don't care about the plight of workers outside of their union, and make it very hard for someone on the outside to get hired and join the union. Worse, I've watched unions on big projects or in big companies care more about fighting over which union's members did which job, then trying to organize the non-union workers involved in the project or company. Hell, I worked for a company that serviced equipment at Walmart, in an area where there were other stores to shop at, and I was always amazed when I'd see a union bumper sticker in the parking lot. Seriously, don't don't ask the public to support your strike, and then support businesses that exploit your fellow workers. We, and our unions, need to learn that we are all the working class. An injury to one of us in an injury to all of us.

    Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your shackles. It is by the picket line and direct action that true freedom will be won, not by electing people who promise to screw us less than the other guy.

    by rhonan on Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 08:28:01 PM PST

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