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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.

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.

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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yep Unions Are Like Political Parties. (5+ / 0-)

    Imagine if only individuals could finance candidates and run political campaigns. You think things are stacked for the owners now??

    The only way the people can stand up for themselves against owners is by banding together. Same for politics, same for the work place.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 09:54:58 AM PDT

    •  A party and unions jointly prospered for ~40 years (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, jfdunphy, FarWestGirl, Dirtandiron

      It's not a coincidence that one period of Dem dominance (roughly mid-30's to mid-70's) since 1860 was also period of labor's ascendancy.  To this day, labor forms the backbone of Dem GOTV efforts.  Sadly, far too many Dems have sided w/ FIRE's $ over labor's shoe leather for far too long.

      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 Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 10:44:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A pro-union diary... (5+ / 0-)

    ...for Labor Day weekend! Sweet!

    "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

    by paulex on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 10:28:44 AM PDT

  •  Support for Unions ought to be a big issue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy, Eric Nelson, Dirtandiron

    in the 2016 Presidential campaign, particularly in the Democratic Primary.

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 10:56:30 AM PDT

  •  Meanwhile, the group UniteBlue (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron

    issued a list of seven important themes we should all be able to unite on and support.

    Labor law reform wasn't listed, although raising minimum wage was.

  •  I think Unions are going to be even more important (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy, FarWestGirl, Dirtandiron

    ...very soon.  As labor become more and more automated we can either go towards an economy where people have more leisure time or one in which the rich own the automated businesses and everyone else lives in squalor, because I don't think there is going to be enough work to go around.  Without unions, it's easy to see which way things will go.

  •  A Wal-Mart worker friend tells me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl, Dirtandiron

    that the megastore is scheduling some workers for 4 hour shifts where they are--which is a disaster financially for some of the workers. Abusive scheduling is used to squeeze out workers, too. And the store is not being upgraded, like others, taken to be a sign of eventual closing.

  •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    I've been looking for a way to highlight the importance of unions in this whole fight between the 99% and the 1%.

    The government's track record on leveling the playing field between the lower middle class and the upper upper class has been spotty at best.

    Government does an okay job of protecting the poor and disabled, but once you have a job the government figures they're done with you.  That's precisely the point where the unions should step in.

    While I've not personally known any bosses who favored assault weapons and tanks when negotiating with employees, most of them do seem to have a similar mindset as the police in Ferguson.  And that's also why there should be strong unions.

    Bosses simply have too much power in this country, and it is often used capriciously.  Mitt Romney quite thoughtlessly destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of employees of the companies he looted, and he shouldn't have to become a second Mother Theresa in order for his employees to be guaranteed a decent life.  But the unions that were supposed to defend those workers were jokes, rendered impotent either by hostile state governments or by strikebreaking consultants hired specifically to make the unions go away.  And our government sits with its thumb up its bum and does nothing.

    Don't get me wrong.  When I was in short pants I thought unions came in two flavors: Communist fronts and Mafia fronts.  That still makes sense if you don't think about it.  (Here's a hint: if they don't seem corruptible, then they're Communists.)  I had to actually join a union in order to find out I was wrong about them.

  •  A Union Can Make A Difference (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl

    if and when it matters to, is owned by, its members.  The union is powerful just as long as it is a matter of high priority to its member workers.  It becomes dead weight, meat for manipulation, by the boss and the pols, when the only people it matters to are the AFL-CIO and political candidates looking for contributions.

    “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” —Aldous Huxley

    by ActivistGuy on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 03:32:26 PM PDT

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