UNIONS BUILT THE MIDDLE CLASS
UNIONS BUILT THE MIDDLE CLASS
By John Spiegelhoff
The 1950’s and 1960’s are considered a time of prosperity for our country. Workers were paid a good wage and our economy was booming. Corporate CEO’s earned just a little more than the workers. Our country manufactured goods right here in America and manufacturing jobs were plentiful. Companies took pride in their workforce. They knew a well-paid workforce with benefits and a pension benefitted the entire country. Most people considered themselves middle class.
Now people are wondering: what happened to our middle class?
Over the past forty years this is what happened.
- In 1954 approximately 28% of the workforce was unionized.
- In 1954 the top marginal corporate tax rate was 91%.
- In 2014 approximately 22% of the workforce was unionized.
- In 2014 the top marginal corporate tax rate was 39%.
There is a very direct correlation between the decline of union membership and decline in the middle class. Over the last few decades, corporations have contributed much less towards the common good. Moreover, corporate pay is now incredibly skewed in relation to what workers receive for their labor. For example in 2014, the Corporate Executive Officer (CEO) of Walmart, C. Douglas McMillon, received annually close to 26 million dollars. The average annual pay of one of his workers is $22,591. The ratio of his pay to his workers is 1133: 1. That is what Americans would call gross income inequality.
Among the other factors leading to the decline of the middle class and by extension the decline of unions is as follows:
- Horrific trade policies such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which are written by large corporations for their benefit and certainly not ours. Former American family sustaining jobs have gone to Mexico and overseas.
- Corporate greed that has shipped jobs overseas, paid workers pennies on the dollar and hid their wealth in the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying their fair share to the country which made them wealthy.
- Anti-union/worker legislation supported and financed by the super wealthy made it harder if not impossible for workers to maintain their place in the middle class.
Most of us just try to make a living, feed our families, put a roof over our heads and try to have some nice things in life. We believe ourselves to be middle class but the statistics show that the American Dream to be slipping away. The income inequality between the super wealthy and everyone else is at a level not seen since the 1920’s….known as the Gilded Age, where the rich lived extravagant lifestyles and everyone else suffered. Yes, income inequality is that severe again.
So what can we do? First, recognize that there is great income inequality in this country which sends wealth upwards to the wealthy, but not to ordinary working people. Second, demand that your elected officials do something for us ordinary people. Third, organize and join a union, a sure fire way to revive the middle class.