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Robert Reich says inequality has skyrocketed as unions have weakened. That is no accident and it's why we have to strengthen unions now!
In the eighty years since the National Labor Relations Act was enacted, the workplace has changed in ways that President Roosevelt never could have imagined when he declared that the goal of the law was “common justice and economic advance” for all. Yet his signature so long ago guaranteed that one thing would and has remained the same -- democracy has a rightful place in the workplace.
Enacted in midst of the Great Depression, the National Labor Relations Act gave workers an avenue to join together to improve their wages and working conditions. The ability to organize and bargain collectively put more money in the pockets of workers while helping build - and maintain - the middle-class.
Through good times and bad, the Act has offered workers a voice in their workplace and promoted industrial peace. Our country and workplaces have changed over the last eight decades, but the need for the Act has remained a constant.
Today, the law continues to protect employees who seek to improve their working conditions by joining together, with or without a labor union. It protects the union member seeking to improve conditions at their plant just the same as it does the single-mom in a non-union workplace working the night shift who speaks with coworkers about their pay and work hours. And through collective bargaining, unions and employers can resolve their differences and devise solutions to meet the challenges of our ever-changing economy.
While there is little doubt that the workplace will bear little resemblance in eighty years to what we know today, there is even less doubt that workers will deserve and demand a voice in it. As long as there is the NLRA, that voice will be protected.
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An article by Jeff Spross in The Week, makes a compelling case for why conservatives should support unions.
No longer able to ignore the problem of growing inequality, the decline of the middle-class, and wage stagnation, conservatives are left with the problem: What do they propose to do about it? Traditionally, the GOP is resistant to government intervention (e.g. regulation, minimum wage laws, etc.), opposed to social safety-net programs, wants to further cut taxes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and, of course, seeks to undermine collective bargaining in the workplace. Yet, these policies all seem to be at odds with the goal of growing a strong, self-sufficient, prosperous middle-class. How can conservatives achieve the goal of reducing income inequality without sacrificing their values?
The unconventional, but practical, solution? Rebuild unions. From the article:
"As Flavelle notes, for all the GOP's historical hostility to the labor movement, unions provide a solution to rising inequality and stagnating wages that actually fits quite elegantly with Republicans' broader array of ideological commitments:
'Increasing the bargaining power of workers… doesn't entail any new government spending. It doesn't further warp economic incentives. It doesn't use the tax code to take from some and give to others. It doesn't impose indiscriminate mandates on how much businesses must pay their workers. And it reflects a core conservative principle: Giving people the tools to fight for themselves, rather than relying on government to provide for them. [Bloomberg View]'"
Spross goes on to explain how unions help strengthen communities and civil society, and are positively associated with stable family life and marriage--goals and values conservatives already endorse.
Ultimately, support for unions isn't a conservative or liberal issue. Working people, employers, and politicians of every party have much to gain from supporting unions. And as history shows, again and again, it works.
The entire article is well worth the read, and is highly recommended:
Vice President Joe Biden spoke before the leading firefighters' union this week, The Huffington Post reported. Among other things, he discussed the war the right is waging on organized labor.
"There is a concentrated, well-organized, well-paid, well-funded effort to undermine organized labor," the vice president said. "And they've been remarkably successful. You, labor writ large, are the only thing that stands between the people's interest and the special interests owning it all. They know without you it's a clear shot at whatever they want. That's why they're so intent on breaking you."
Read the full article below: