September 02, 2007


Caption: Seamus McGoogle on the prowl in defense of the toilers of the world.

This seems like as good a week as any to look at the state of the labor movement in America.

First the good news. According to the 2006/2007 State of Working America, published by the Economic Policy Institute, the union premium or degree to which union wages and benefits exceed nonunion wages and benefits is high. Union workers earn 28.1 percent more in wages than nonunion workers. If you look at total compensation, the union premium is 43.7 percent.

Union workers are 28.2 percent more likely to have employer provided health insurance, usually with lower deductibles and premiums. Over 70 percent of union workers have pensions, compared with 43.8 percent of nonunion workers. Union members enjoy more paid time off work for vacations (14.3 percent more) than nonunion workers.

These are the kinds of jobs and benefits that make it possible to raise and care for a family. These kinds of jobs have promoted the growth of the middle class, stimulated the economy, and formed the basis of a shared prosperity. In addition, there is a spillover effect which benefits nonunion members. This is because union compensation packages encourage other employers to offer competitive benefits.

The bad news will keep until tomorrow.

HAPPY 100! Sept. 1 marked the 100th birthday of Walter Reuther, longtime president of the United Auto Workers, West Virginia native, civil rights leader and all around good guy. Here's a blast from the past in the form of a tribute to Reuther that appeared here last year (after being recycled from one of El Cabrero's old Gazette columns).

HAPPY 75! Also recently celebrating a birthday is the Highlander Center, which played a major role over the decades in the labor and civil rights movement. El Cabrero had the privilege of knowing one of its co-founders, the legendary Appalachian poet and activist Don West, who is the subject of a recent biography, A Hard Journey: The Life of Don West by James J. Lorence.


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