September 04, 2007


Caption: These guys are organized.

Yesterday's post looked at some of the benefits of union membership for working people. Short summary: better pay and benefits like health care, paid sick leave, vacations, and pensions. And the benefits of union membership compel many non-union employers to offer competitive benefits.

The fate of the middle class is inextricably linked to the fate of the labor movement.

An obvious question is, if that's the case, why don't more workers join unions? Membership has declined from more than 1/3 of the workforce after WWII to around 12 percent now, even though a recent survey suggests that 60 million workers would join a union if they could.

What's going on?

Part of it has to do with economic trends and policies. In El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia, the United Mine Workers was once a huge union with tens of thousands of active members. That number has declined dramatically due to the mechanization of the mining industry. Other union-dense industries such as steel and textiles have been decimated due to deindustrialization, globalization and NAFTA like "free trade" policies. More recently, the privatization of public services has been a factor.

Those factors help explain the loss of union jobs. But there is another huge factor at work here as well: employer hostility and government collusion to prevent workers from organizing to start with.

About which more tomorrow.

PRESENT TENSE. On the same theme, here's a recent column by Bob Herbert on the future of labor.

CLASS BEATDOWN. Here's an item from the UK's Guardian about the US's one sided class war. Short sample:

Long ago the wealthy declared war on the poor in this country. The poor have yet to fight back.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, a woman in Texas believes she has found the remains of a legendary bloodsucking beast called a "chupacabra," which means goat-sucker in Spanish.


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