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Friday, August 8

The Attack on the Middle Class Will Escalate

After reading all of Corporate America Prepares for Battle Against Worker Campaign to Roll Back Assault on the Middle Class over at, I learned that we ought to be prepared to witness an all out campaign by big business to keep the middle class down. They have a war chest of at least $150 million to fight the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) which gives employees the right to join a union if they so choose. This has big corporations shaking in their boots. A Democratic majority could make these fat cats less fat. In fact Wal-mart, the nation's largest employer, is working hard to get its store managers to convince their employees not vote Democrat this fall. Their workers are faced with anti-union propaganda that must be somewhat convincing. And that's the scary part. Turn on the news and you'll be seeing flat out untruths about unions. Will Americans wake up in time to vote for their own economic prosperity and give up the idea that they will one day be one of the fat cats and continue to vote against their own interests?

I'm getting nervous here in my little neck of the woods, because while teachers make pretty great salaries (compared to teachers in other parts of the country) on Long Island because of the unions (which are always under fire), they are also being convinced to never vote for a Democrat. And they buy it!!! Teachers of all people. I meet conservative voting union workers all the time and it makes my head spin. The propaganda machine is very powerful.

The (EFCA) bill passed the House easily in 2007 -- by 56 votes -- and had majority support in the Senate. But it didn't reach the 60 votes required to kill a GOP-led filibuster, and that massive war chest being amassed by the corporate Right is, in part, an attempt to maintain a firewall of at least 41 anti-union senators -- mostly Republicans joined by a few corporatist Dems -- to kill the bill in the 2009 Congress. President Bush threatened to veto the legislation if it had passed in 2007, but this time around, they fear that a Democrat will be sitting in the White House. Obama was a co-sponsor of the 2007 legislation; McCain opposed it.
Why are unions good for American workers?

For the majority of Americans who lack scarce talents or a high level of education, negotiating a price for one's time with a firm on an individual basis is anything but a free market transaction. And that's where collective bargaining comes in -- when workers bargain as a group, they do so on a level playing field with employers, and the resulting wages (and benefits) are as high as the market can bear, but no higher.

Unions, like corporations, have a great deal of information about the market. They know how a firm is doing, how profitable it is and where it is relative to the larger industry in which it operates. They know what deals workers at other plants have negotiated. They have attorneys who are just as familiar with the American labor laws as their counterparts in management.

And while an individual has very little leverage in negotiations -- again, most companies can do with one less worker -- collectively, an entire work force has the ability to shut down or at least slow down a company's operations if management chooses not to negotiate in good faith (as is often the case).

It's not difficult to quantify the difference between what most hourly employees take home and what the free market would dictate. Economists Lawrence Mishel and Matthew Walters estimate the "union wage premium" -- the amount of additional pay a unionized worker receives compared with a similar worker who isn't a member of a union -- at around 20 percent (that's in keeping with other studies, using different methodologies, which put the premium in a range between 15 and 25 percent). If one includes benefits -- health care, paid vacations, etc. -- union members make almost 30 percent more than their nonunion counterparts.
I've noticed over the years that the husband always makes more in middle management jobs when there is a union shop in the car dealer. He gets better wages, benefits, sick days and more vacation time than when he works in a dealer with no unions. But still over the past 20 years we haven't seen much of a rise in income overall, we have less and less spending power while the car dealer owners seem to be living higher and higher yet complaining to the workers that they aren't doing enough. feh. I see people waking up now, but will enough people wake up?

I think that this is a great article to read to get us up on just what's at stake.

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