AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride this week sat down for a conversation with the president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Thea Lee, to discuss ways to make the nation’s economy work for all of us, and specifically the role unions play in unrigging an unfair economic system.
The conversation was broadcast live on Facebook as part of the Ideas@AFSCME Facebook Live Speakers Series.
EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank founded on the belief that every worker deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care and retirement security. It conducts research and analysis on the U.S. economy and seeks to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.
The conversation highlighted the reality that working families across the country continue to struggle to make ends meet despite low unemployment numbers and other seemingly positive economic news. It also spotlighted the important role of unions in empowering workers, increasing wages, improving worker benefits and safety on the job, as well as in reducing income inequality.
Lee emphasized the need for new policy initiatives that seek to level the playing field for workers, such as paid family leave and higher taxes on the wealthy. She also dispelled common economic myths, including that undocumented workers do not pay taxes
Lee agreed that declining union membership over the past several decades is mainly the result of systemic and well-funded attacks against workers by wealthy corporations and individuals, and not necessarily a reflection of declining interest in unions by American workers. Today, just over a year after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which made it harder for public service workers to join together in strong unions, labor unions are at their most popular in nearly half a century.
Lee also highlighted several resources on EPI’s webpage to help individuals make the case for unrigging the economy for workers and promoting worker-centric policy changes. They include:
- Family Budget Calculator, which calculates the income a family needs in different parts of the country to attain a modest yet adequate standard of living.
- State of Working America Data Library, which offers easily accessible, up-to-date, and comprehensive historical data on the American labor force.
- Policy Agenda, which suggests reforms that aim to strengthen collective bargaining and increase worker power.
Ideas@AFSCME is a series launched by the Office of the Secretary-Treasurer to provide an interactive forum to examine the issues, news and resources that are important to the AFSCME community.