by Jeremy Funk, Americans United for Change | February 19, 2016
“There shouldn't be unions in the government” — Dr. Ben Carson at a town hall in Columbia, SC, February 17
Ah, if there’s one way for Ben Carson to get his campaign off of life support, it’s reviving the ol’ union-bashing playbook that worked like a charm for Presidential dud Scott Walker. It’s a bold strategy with support of unions trending up and up among millennial voters. But attacking the labor movement is as much a loser economically as it is politically.
The labor movement built the middle class in this country brick by brick. All American workers, not just union members, benefit from the contributions of the labor movement. From establishing weekends, paid vacation and sick leave, work safety standards, overtime pay, workman’s comp, and Social Security, to today’s fights to raise the outdated minimum wage and overtime pay threshold – unions continue to play a leading role in lifting more Americans into the middle class.
When people come together to negotiate with their employer, they’re in a stronger position to take home a fairer slice of the economic growth that they helped create. As a result, union members make an average 27% more in wages than non-union members; and nonunion members collaterally benefit in strong union areas because employers are more inclined to offer competitive wages and benefits to prevent turnover, which in turn increases productivity.
The increased purchasing power of union members boosts demand for goods and services in local economies, which in turn leads to more hiring. Simply put, when unions are strong, the economy is strong. But when collective bargaining rights are chipped away in RTW states, the middle class disappear as corporations have no reason not to sit on their profits, hire less people, and laugh as income inequality gets worse. And so it’s no coincidence that as union membership has declined in recent years, the income inequality gap has dramatically widened.
That’s why wages in Right-to-Work (for Less) states are over 3 percent lower than those in non-RTW states. But paying employees less for working longer hours has been the goal all along of outsourcing CEOs like Koch brothers funding the anti-labor movement. That’s why Ben Carson’s plan to abolish public sector unions is as dangerous as forgetting to remove a surgical sponge from a patient’s brain.
Inconvenient Facts for Union Busting Right Wingers:
- Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker. [EPI]
- In 2014, 11.1 percent of workers belonged to a union, down from 20.1 percent in 1983. In that same time period, income inequality has been skyrocketing, and in 2012 the top 10 percent of earners took home more than half of all income, the highest amount ever recorded since 1917. [Think Progress]
- Unions increase productivity, by 19 to 24 percent in manufacturing, 16 percent in hospitals and up to 38 percent in construction, and unions decrease turnover.
- Eight of the top 10 states in terms of disposable income recognize the right of public employees to bargain collectively. Nine of the bottom 10 states in per capita income do not have public sector collective bargaining.
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