Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Robert Reich says the best way for us working Americans to counterract falling wages is to push back by joining and forming labor unions.
Clinton's Secretary of Labor wrote in the Chron yesterday: There's no magic bullet for reversing the trend toward widening inequality. Surely, better schools for children from poor and lower-middle class communities are part of the answer. So is a bigger refundable tax credit - in effect, a cash supplement - for working families. Both should be financed by a higher marginal tax rate on the rich.
But an additional part of the solution - rarely talked about these days - is stronger labor unions. This is especially true for low-paid workers in local service occupations, such as retail workers, hotel and restaurant employees, and people who work in hospitals. If they were unionized, they'd have the bargaining leverage they need to get better wages.
The right to organize and bargain collectively, which is nothing less than the right of workers to deal with those who hire them from a position of equality, was won in this country over the sixty years from 1870 to 1930. Workers bled and died to establish the right to an eight-hour day and a living wage.
The Great Depression, a direct consequence of the excesses of unrestrained capital tyranny over the economy, finally saw these rights written into law, and owners were forced to deal more or less equitably with workers for the next 50 years. Then came Reagan, the ill-advised air traffic controllers' strike of 1981, and the Great Communicator's systematic demolition not just of the controllers' union, but of the entire union movement in the U.S.
It's past time to bring it back. Once more we're looking at a monumental case of economic indigestion brought on by the unrestrained appetites of our porcine corporate masters, who have so little capacity for insight that their behavior threatens to destroy everyone's lives, including their own.