Want A Stronger Economy? Try Collective Bargaining

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

Well established collective bargaining systems improve wages, working conditions, and economic equality. They also can protect the economy as a whole against downturns.

These were the findings of a study published last week by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental agency founded after WWII, dedicated to improving economic and social conditions for workers across the globe.

Yet collective bargaining systems are facing serious challenges in many OECD countries, which make it unsurprising that the study also revealed that even with the unemployment rate decreasing, wage growth remains lower than it was before the recession in nearly every OECD country.

In the United States, which ranks at the bottom for both collective bargaining and worker security, workers are especially vulnerable.

The OECD found that countries like the United States that have decentralized collective bargaining systems generally have slower job growth and higher unemployment than other advanced nations. It also concluded that low paying jobs can create a slowdown in productivity and a sluggish economy.

Out of the 36 countries represented by OECD, the United States is currently ranked at the bottom for employee protection. The United States also has one of the highest job displacement rates at 16.4 percent and is in one of the highest percentiles for a low income rate, or households that earn less than half of the median outcome, creating a higher level of income equality than almost any other advanced nation in the world.

At one point unions represented nearly one-third of American workers; in 2017 however, only 10.7 percent of workers were covered by collective bargaining. With the decline of unions, workers are left to face serious challenges including unfair global competition and lack of government support on their own.

When workers have the opportunity to unionize, the OECD discovered, there is more room for personal and economic growth, with more training options and more opportunities for career advancement. Being able to collectively bargain doesn’t only strengthen workers, it also strengthens the economy as a whole.

If the American economy is going to continue to grow and workers prosper, there needs to be a place for organized labor. As this study proves, the ability to collectively bargain is one of the best solutions for improving the lives of workers everywhere.

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

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