A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, January 25, 2013

Union Membership Still Falling

I have used this graph before. It highlights the relationship between unions and middle class income. In the late 1960's, union membership composed about 28% of the nation's workforce and the middle class got about 53% of the nation's total income. But by 2008, union membership had fallen slightly below 13% and the middle class share of national income had dropped to slightly more than 46%. Note how closely the two line mirror each other. As the number of workers in unions falls, the share of national income going to the middle class has also dropped.

Now for the bad news. Union membership is still falling. Last year, unions lost about 400,000 members -- about 234,000 in the public sector and about 166,000 in the private sector. That's a one year drop of 0.5%, from 11.8% to 11.3%. That's the lowest percentage of union membership since the 1930's. This is due to a couple of things -- a concerted anti-union propaganda effort by corporations, and the passage of anti-union laws by Republicans (note that the drop in both has been especially sharp since the Republicans regained control over government about 1980).

Of course, this means we can expect the middle class share of national income to also continue to drop. That is verified by the shrinking of the middle class itself. Unless the percentage of union membership is turned around soon, by making it more acceptable and easier to form or join a union, both unions and the middle class will all but disappear from our society. That would make us just a nation of haves (the rich) and have-nots (the poor), which is just what the Republicans and their corporate masters want -- a nation of desperate minimum wage workers and corporate fat cats, and nothing in between.

We already have a wider gap between the rich and the rest of America, and a more economically unfair distribution of income and wealth than many third-world countries -- and it gets worse with each passing year. Is this the kind of country you want to live in?

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