When workers have more leverage, income growth is more equal

From the Economic Policy Institute

The U.S. economy is more equitable when workers have the freedom to join together and bargain collectively through a union. The bottom line in the graph shows a sharp rise in union membership after enactment of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935. (The NLRA itself was the outcome of an explosion of worker organizing around 1920). For decades the NLRA protected workers’ rights to negotiate with their employers—rights that workers used to secure a fairer share of overall income generated in the economy. This worker leverage led to decades of fast and equitable economic growth that persisted through the 1970s. The top line in the graph shows that the top 10 percent of Americans collected almost half of all income in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but only around a third by the 1950s, when union membership was at its peak and gains were spread more evenly to the bottom 90 percent.

In the 1970s fierce corporate opposition to unions, coupled with policymakers’ failure to protect private-sector workers’ collective bargaining rights, led to policies and practices that strangled union organizing in the private sector. The rapid de-unionization that ensued contributed to wage declines for all workers and reversed much of the economic progress that had been made by the broad American middle class in the decades following World War II. While the NLRA still protects workers’ rights to unionize, the law has not kept up with the onslaught of employer anti-union practices. The graph shows that as union membership declined, the top 10 percent’s share of all income rose, returning to Great Depression levels by the 2010s.

Janus v. AFSCME, a case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2017, could accelerate growing inequality. A decision in favor of the plaintiff in Janus would outlaw mandatory fair share fees in the public sector—letting nonunion members in a school or fire department or other public workplace benefit from union representation but not pay for it. This opens the door for employers to use fear and intimidation to erode financial support for—and thus membership in—public-sector unions the same way that anti-union legislation (such as so-called “right-to-work” laws) has eroded union membership in the private sector.

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Reposted from EPI

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work