If—as so many Republicans, reactionaries, and Chamber of Commerce minions would have us believe—the American labor movement is more or less dead in the water, then there would be no reason to spend hundreds of million of dollars seeking to further cripple or destroy it.
If organized labor is as moribund as they claim (with barely 11-percent of the workforce, totaling 14.6 million members nationwide) then why do they remain scared shitless of it? After all, if your “enemy” has been rendered frail and ineffective, why continue to marshal valuable resources in opposition to it?
Here are three arguments for why the labor movement is far stronger than it appears.
THE FEAR. The moneyed Establishment (Wall Street, academe, the stock market, the mainstream media) continues to be terrified of unions. And the reason they continue to be terrified is because they know the truth.
Despite organized labor’s declining membership, the Establishment realizes that given the
opportunity to compare the benefits of a union shop to those of a non-union shop, employees are going to opt for the union. That’s why businesses resort to obfuscation and time-stalling tactics to prevent certification votes.
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics findings (January 2015), the average, across-the-board weekly wages for union and non-union workers in similar industries is $970 vs. $763. Not even factoring in fringe benefits and superior safety conditions, union members earn more than $200 a week more than their non-union counterparts. That’s why corporations fear the dissemination of pro-union information.
THE GAP. As the gap between the rich and the middle-class, to say nothing of the “working poor,” continues to grow, attention is going to continue to be focused on this alarming phenomenon. And as the focus grows more intense, the realization will begin to occur to people that Congress, philanthropists, and the Church are ill-equipped or unwilling to address it.
Yes, the Congress can increase the federal minimum wage, but that pitiful pro forma gesture has virtually nothing to do with providing a “living” wage, decent benefits, and adequate working conditions.
One look at the history of the U.S. and Europe tells a different story. It tells us that labor unions—and only labor unions—are capable of addressing that discrepancy. Again, as the gap continues to widen, the American worker can be expected to turn to the one institution that can offer resistance.
THE TACTICS. The AFL-CIO has finally come to the realization that organized labor’s future lies not only in the hands of the young, but in the hands of women and minorities, and has modified its organizing campaigns accordingly. That move was a long-time coming.
Those white males who were part of the Baby Boom generation—anyone born between 1946 and 1964—and who managed to land a good union job (I’m one of them), are no longer a driving force in the labor movement. Far from it.
Indeed, those grumpy, white, male Boomers (I’m one of them) are about as relevant to the Movement as manual typewriters are to the publishing industry. The future of organized labor lies elsewhere, and the leadership of the AFL-CIO has finally recognized it.
Speaking specifically of women, they are now aware that despite all the pretty words, all the seminars, and all the feminist activism, the only place in America where they are absolutely guaranteed (not just promised, but guaranteed) “equal pay for equal work” is in a union shop. America’s unions may be wounded, but they ain’t dead.