Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 10, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

UNIONS....The liberal blogosphere doesn't pay very much attention to unions, and that's a shame. Sure, they're not perfect, but on core liberal issues like growing income inequality and growing income risk, they probably do more good than any liberal constituency around.

But the key to their ability to raise wages for low and middle income workers is their right to organize workplaces in the first place and protecting this right is the job of the National Labor Relations Board. However, as the New Republic points out today, the NLRB's protection of the power to organize has been steadily eroded by a succession of Republican administrations:

According to a study of 400 union election campaigns in manufacturing plants by Cornell sociologist Kate Bronfenbrenner, 51 percent of employers in 1998 and 1999 threatened to close a plant if a union won an election, and 25 percent fired at least one worker for union activity.

....Union membership has plummeted from 23 percent in 1979 to 12.5 percent today. Some of that drop is due to a shift from unionized manufacturing industries to nonunionized whitecollar services, but most of the decline stems from the NLRB's acquiescence to aggressive--and often illegal--employer tactics. American workers are, of course, the principal victims of labor's decline. (Union workers enjoy a 15.5 percent advantage in wages over nonunion workers with comparable skills and are 18.3 percent more likely to have health insurance.)

....With labor's power ebbing, business has increasingly been able to dominate public policy issues, from taxes to environmental protection to Social Security. That might not bother Bush, Tom DeLay, and Karl Rove. But it's not a good thing for the rest of us.

No it's not.

Kevin Drum 7:26 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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