Labor Day was founded by unions as a way to celebrate the power workers collectively hold when we stand together to demand justice and fairness in the workplace. Since its inception in the late 19th century, Labor Day has served as a powerful reminder that backbone of America’s economic prosperity is, and will always be, working people.
Over the last three decades, working people have been largely shut out of sharing in the economic gains we create. Big corporations and their obscenely compensated CEOs have been taking a larger and larger share of the pie for themselves while workers struggle to get by.
A primary reason for the exploding economic inequality we’ve seen in recent decades is the decline of labor unions. CEOs and the politicians they bankroll have relentlessly attacked unions and working people as part of a concerted strategy to shift wealth from the middle class to the rich and powerful.
A new report by the Economic Policy Institute shows just how devastating this anti-union campaign has been to all workers. The report, titled “Union decline lowers wages of nonunion workers,” shows that since the late 1970s pay for all private sector workers has been stagnant. Even more alarming, those without a college degree are earning substantially less than they were 35 years ago.
Some key findings from the EPI report:
- Non-union men working in the private sector would earn 5 percent more if we had the same percentage of unionization (union density) as we had in 1979. This translates to an yearly wage loss of $2,704. For the 40.2 million nonunion private-sector men the loss is equivalent to $2.1 billion fewer dollars in weekly paychecks, which represents an annual wage loss of $109 billion.
- For nonunion private-sector men without a bachelor’s degree, weekly wages would be an estimated 8 percent ($58) higher if union density remained at its 1979 levels. This equates to an annual wage loss of $3,016.
- For nonunion private-sector men with a high school diploma or less education, weekly wages would be an estimated 9 percent ($61) higher if union density remained at its 1979 levels. This translates to an annual wage loss of about $3,172.
It becomes clear that if we’re serious about addressing inequality in America, it needs to start with giving workers a fair chance at having a union. When working people stand together in a union, the American Dream becomes possible for all. That means we need leaders like Hillary Clinton who firmly support workers’ rights. It means we need elected officials at the state level who aren’t bought and paid for by big corporations and are willing to stand up for what’s just and right. It means we need to advance the interests of working people by renewing our focus on organizing so that more workers have the ability to join a union to improve their lives.
This Labor Day, take a minute to watch the video on good union jobs. Join the California Labor movement in celebrating workers and unions by going to www.workingpeoplestandingtogether.com, a new Website that shows the value unions have in our economy today and in the future.
This Labor Day, let’s stand together to send a clear message that the way to fix America’s economy is for America to be #UnionStrong. Happy Labor Day!