Aug 24

Unions are essential to a fair economy and vibrant democracy, report says

Unions not only help people earn decent wages and benefits, they are essential to a fair economy and vibrant democracy, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.

“Unions — when strong — have the capacity to tackle some of the biggest problems that plague our economy, from growing economic inequality, wage stagnation, and racial and gender inequities to eroding democracy and barriers to civic participation,” the report says.

However, the report adds, “it is because they are effective and necessary for shared prosperity that unions are under attack by employers who want to maintain excessive leverage over workers and by policymakers representing the interests of the top 1 percent.”

The report says:

Unions fought for — and work to strengthen — many of the humane standards and norms that protect and uplift Americans today. These essential laws and programs include Social Security, child labor laws, antidiscrimination laws, health and safety laws, unemployment insurance, compensation for workers who get hurt on the job, the 40-hour work week, and the federal minimum wage. Unions were a major force behind all the Great Society laws on discrimination, housing, and voting rights.

As union coverage has declined and the voice of workers has correspondingly diminished, many of the key workplace standards past generations counted on have been eroded. For instance, there has been an erosion of overtime pay protection, slashing of workers’ compensation programs, and a decline in the real value of the minimum wage, which is lower now than it was in 1968.

The report says although union membership is on the decline, there is evidence that young people – who are experiencing a labor market with lower wages, diminishing benefits and fewer worker rights – are more supportive of unions than older workers and could lead a movement to help unions regain strength. Almost half (48 percent) of workers polled said they’d vote to create a union in their workplace tomorrow if they got the chance.

“Certainly, Americans of all ages, occupations, races, and genders have a vested interest in making sure our economy works for everyone,” the report concludes. “To promote an inclusive economy and a robust democracy, we must work together to rebuild our collective bargaining system.”

Read the entire report:

How today’s unions help working people: Giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig the economy