Income inequality in the United States is growing at a sickening rate, among those most affected by income inequality are young working families.
Young worker households – those between the ages of 35 and 44 and age 35 and younger – saw the steepest drop in net worth between 2007 and 2010, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of the recent Federal Reserve Report.
Although overall net worth of working Americans dropped by 39 percent, young workers lost 54 percent of their net worth – after already losing ground in the two previous recessions, setting us even further behind.
The fact that net worth declined for younger age groups between 1989 and 1010 is remarkable when you consider that the economy grew by a third over this period.
The main reason for massive income inequality in America is the decline in union membership. Republicans and their corporate puppet masters never miss an opportunity to attack organized labor. With the recent attacks on labor in Ohio and Wisconsin, many people ask, what’s so important about collective bargaining in the first place?
Let’s start with the fact that collective bargaining builds and protects the middle class, not just for union members, but for all workers. Here’s how. Companies and other employers don’t just hand out fair wages and benefits, even to employees they say they value. Middle class wages and benefits like health care and paid time off are built over time by working people who come together to demand fair standards. Through their unions, working people bargain collectively with employers – both private and public – to determine their terms of employment, including pay, health care, pensions and other benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety standards, ways to balance work and family and more. Raising standards in an industry affects other workers in the industry too, even if they aren’t union members.
As the American Worker Project pointed out in its 2011 report: “Unions make the middle class.” Collective bargaining draws the map for all workers to get to the middle class. In Ohio, Republicans and Tea party radicals want to pass a “right to work” law, but states with higher concentrations of union members have a much stronger middle class. The 10 states with the lowest percentage of union members all have a relatively weak middle class.
Let’s not forget another basic fact about collective bargaining. It is an internationally recognized core workers’ right. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, calls it an “enabling” right – a fundamental right that ensures the ability to protect other rights.
Collective bargaining also provides a check and balance to employers’ power – and yes, cities, counties and states are employers. Individual workers cannot expect to effectively bargain his or her own terms of employment. Without collective bargaining, employers can and do unilaterally impose their own terms and conditions.
We also have the cold hard political reasons why collective bargaining is so important, especially for public employees. GOP politicians like Gov. Kasich, Rep. Bill Johnson, Josh Mandel, Mitt Romney, etc., who have attacked workers’ rights, claim they are simply trying to curb spending and fix budget problems by eliminating collective bargaining. But just a little closer look makes it clear they want to limit the power of working people, balance budgets on the backs of working families and deliver political payback to corporate billionaires and wealthy campaign contributors, whose agenda is the elimination of collective bargaining, tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and drastic cuts to healthcare, education and other programs vital to working families. It’s no surprise that Republicans align themselves with allies such as the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the very far right wing Koch Brothers and other anti-worker groups. Now the Citizens United, corporations don’t have to lobby government anymore, they own the government.
Unions are the only and purest form of Democracy remaining. Where there are no unions, there is no justice for workers/middle class! And only two classes exist, those who have (1 percent) and those who have not (99 percent)! With unions, we have a voice in our workplace! Without organizing ourselves into unions, we become no more than pawn/slaves to the rich. When no unions exist our country will become third world. I believe in unions, with unions we become more responsible for own futures! It’s the American way!
I am 34 years old and to my peers I say, “Keep the American Dream alive, join or organize into a union! God Bless America!