On this Labor Day, Let’s Remember What Unions Have Done for America

Reprinted from Fabius Maximus (under Creative Commons License)

by 

Summary: On this Labor Day let’s revisit the lost history of the union movement, and its vital contribution to building the middle class.

Union: bargain or beg

To remember the loneliness, the fear and the insecurity of men who once had to walk alone in huge factories, beside huge machines. To realize that labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen. To be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father. To know these things is to understand what American labor means.

— Adlai Stevenson, in a speech to the American Federation of Labor, New York City on 22 September 1952

Contents

  1. Rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class seen in graphs
  2. Throwing away a 150 years of effort
  3. For More Information
  4. A note from our past

(1)  Rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class seen in graphs

Since 1990 wages are falling as a share of Gross Domestic Income (GDI); profits are rising. The reasons are complex, the result has  by now become unmistakable: a shift of our national income from return on labor to return on capital. Since the nation’s wealth is so highly concentrated, the result is rising inequality of income.

Wages as a share of Gross Domestic Income: down and falling.

FRED: wages/GDI

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Profits as a share of Gross Domestic Income: up.

 

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FRED: Profits/GDI

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(3)  Throwing away a 150 years of effort

The middle class was not a gift of the Blue Fairy. Instead of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” there was 150 years of worker working together, mobilizing against their employers — who organized cartels to fight their employees and raise prices for their customers.

It was a long bloody struggle, The victory of unions was foundational for the growth of America’s middle class. The fall of the unions was a major factor undermining the middle class. It had many causes: corruption, greed, stupidity, infiltration by organized crime — and the long successful counter-revolution by corporations, now eroding away the middle class.

For a blow-by-blow of unions rise see this series by Erik Loomis (Asst Prof of History, U RI). The toll these people paid is as much a cost of building America as much as that paid by our the members of our armed forces.

For More Information

Posts about the conflict between labor and capital:

About the New America, now under construction:

  1. Origins of what may become the 3rd American Republic (a plutocracy), 8 April 2011
  2. Why Americans should love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – we live there, 13 December 2011
  3. The new American economy: concentrating business power to suit an unequal society, 27 April 2012
  4. The voice of plutocrats yearning for dominance and control, 16 September 2012
  5. We’ve worked through all 5 stages of grief for the Republic. Now, on to The New America!, 8 January 2013
  6. Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation), 12 June 2013
  7. Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
  8. Why Elizabeth Bennet could not marry Mr. Darcy. Nor could your daughter., 12 July 2013
  9. Watch as plutocrats mold us into a New America, a nation more pleasing to their sight, 18 July 2013
  10. Billionaires mold our schools to produce better help in a New America, 20 July 2013

(4)  A note from our past

.Union poster

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