Here is an insightful article out of the March 7, 2011 New Yorker Magazine detailing the history and current status of the impact of unions on American commerce and wealth. Agree or not, the Wisconsin governor’s fight against some of the benefits and expectations of our unionized bretheren is potentially game changing. One way or another.
Unions are no longer the most effective means of enforcing worker rights. But they are effective in safeguarding compensation and benefit structures. As it turns out, a lot of unionized workers are government employees. Did you know that? Frankly, that never occurred to me.
I can’t wait to see how this fight develops in Philadelphia – a battle that is coming in the next couple years.
Here is an excerpt from the article –
Organized labor’s catastrophic decline has paralleled—and, to a disputed but indisputably substantial degree, precipitated—an equally dramatic rise in economic inequality. In 1980, the best-off tenth of American families collected about a third of the nation’s income. Now they’re getting close to half. The top one per cent is getting a full fifth, double what it got in 1980. The super-rich—the top one-tenth of the top one per cent, which is to say the top one-thousandth—have been the biggest winners of all. What is always called their “compensation” (wage workers lucky enough to have a job simply get paid) has quadrupled.
Over the same period, the composition of the labor movement, as it still defiantly styles itself, has radically changed. A few weeks ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, for the first time, more union members are government workers, not private-sector employees. The Times quoted an official of the United States Chamber of Commerce as pronouncing himself “a little bit shocked,” and he wasn’t the only one. Yet this development has nothing to do with some imagined spike in public-sector unionism. It is entirely a function of the collapse of organized labor in the private sector. For the past four decades, the portion of the public workforce belonging to unions has held remarkably steady, at a little more than one in three. In the private sector, just one worker in fifteen carries a union card.