“Today’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics based on union membership data collected as part of the Current Population Survey, shows that organized labor makes America strong,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey Democrat who believes state and federal laws need to be revised to encourage union membership.
“The middle class is disappearing because millionaires and billionaires control too many politicians in Congress, while America’s founding fathers believed government should protect ordinary people from powerful interests,” said McCormick. “Dismantling the labor movement has been a priority for Republican since the Reagan administration’s union busting action against the air traffic controllers and it remains a nefarious goal in the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME, which will be decided later this year.”
“The significance of that case is that it seeks to undermine the 34.4 percent of public-sector workers who are union members,” said McCormick. “Union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7 percent — levels not seen since 1932 — and public employee participation reflects a membership rate that is more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers, only 6.5 percent of whom are unionized.”
“Nonunion employees are paid 80 percent as much as workers who are union members, earning an average of $829 a week compared to $1,041. That is a difference of $11,000 a year,” said McCormick. “For a family of four that would be enough to escape being close to poverty and being solidly in the middle class. If millions of Americans had another couple hundred dollars a week to spend, the economy would be booming.”
There are 14.8 million members in the U.S., down from 17.7 million in 1983, but the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States is 10.7 percent, compared to 20.1 percent in 1983. In 2017, about half of the employees who belong to a union work in the public sector.
Although much smaller than they were at their peak membership in the 1950s, American unions remain a political force to be reckoned with and all workers deserve the right to organize for collective bargaining. Only a balance in the relative power of unions and management will unleash the economic engines in ways that benefit all Americans.
After World War II, 25 percent of the workforce was unionized. The top tax rate was 90 percent. Wages were pretty high for average in comparison with those paid to corporate executives. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, the US economy was booming, we saw the middle class expand to include a majority of our citizens and America’s influence in the world was strong.
Organized labor has been weakened by a series of new laws in recent years, so McCormick said she would sponsor legislation to require employer neutrality on union organizing, explicitly permit closed shops, allow employees to join unions by checkbox, and increase protections for striking workers and targets of employer retaliation. She said the Taft–Hartley Act should be repealed and new National Labor Relations Act, including provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act, should be enacted.
In 27 states that have banned union-security agreements, each employee may decide not to pay dues even though a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union protects all workers.
McCormick said she would authorize the Department of Labor to work with businesses and educational institutions to create a report analyzing the future growth of artificial intelligence and its impact on American workforce. She also said overtime rules should apply to anyone making less than $65,000 a year or less, which would guarantee extra pay for more than 40 hours of work for about 90 percent of employees.
All workers must have the right to know what they need to be safe on the job; the right to participate in workplace health and safety; and the right to refuse unsafe work.
“Journalists at the Los Angeles Times voted 248 to 44 to be represented by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, a first for the 136-year-old newspaper that was known for its opposition to organized labor,” said McCormick. “Unions make America work, because they help ensure that our economy works for everyone and not just the richest members of society.”