The Decline of Unions is your Problem too

Great essay about why the decline of unions hurts everyone, including workers not in a union, and even the rich:

Care to sum it up and/or give a more in-depth opinion? You know-participate in your own thread?

I totally agree, or disagree, depending on the details, which your link is short on.

Seconded, it’s full of claims but entirely short on evidence.

Jeez, and I was trying hard not to post too much and violate copyright.

Okay, in my own words - unions keep wages up, and that is good even for non-union workers. Growing wages keep consumer spending going, and that helps the economy.

As unions decline, we’re seeing a less robust economy and a lack of wealth growth for anyone but the richest of us (the 1%).

If you want evidence, you can go look it up, or you can ask me to.

I think everyone knows that our economy sucks more lately and that there’s been almost zero income growth for the bottom 90% of us besides inflation. But I can back that stuff up if you want.

Well, it’s your thread, so it’d be nice if you’d support your claims, yes.

Please do. Can you prove that the trend you’re describing exists, and that it is caused by a decline in union membership?

This is about the “Great Divergence” in wealth:

It is inverse to the growth and then decline of union membership. I say one has caused the other, but you can disagree if you want to offer a better reason.

I agree that income for the top earners has grown much more than it has for the middle or the bottom, though growth for them hasn’t been zero if you use an accurate measure of income (such as including health insurance and other benefits).

Is there any evidence that ties this trend to union membership trends? Correlation does not equal causation, as they say.

Like I said, I’m pointing to the strong correlation between a major force in winning wage/benefit increases (unions) and those increases, and then a strong correlation between their decline. Perhaps that’s not proof, and perhaps proof isn’t possible, but that’s what I’m saying.

One reason for this correlation is probably flight to the Sun Belt, where there is less unionization and lower wages. That means fewer workers to populate the unionized states, and thus is indirectly tied to both.

It’s not. Without more data isn’t not enough to draw any conclusions. You can draw equally strong correlations between unrelated concepts.

I understand your point (the decline of unions caused wage growth for most Americans to slow and income inequality to increase), I just wanted to know if you could provide evidence for it.

Tabling that for a moment, to what to you attribute to the decline in union membership?

It seems to me that by attempting to drive up wages further by expanding Unions, all you would really accomplish is to force companies to either further outsource/offshore or to further automate. Part of the problem with wages is that unskilled and semi-skilled labor isn’t needed in the quantities it once was in factories and manufacturing plants since machines can do the job better and cheaper than a hundred or so unskilled or semi-skilled workers can. Since US wages are among the highest in the world, it’s hard to see how anyone could think that we need them driven still higher, and that this will magically jumpstart the economy and cause demand to boom. Who will be buying the products of US manufacturing plants at an even higher premium when labor costs go up even further? How will US plants compete not only for local market but on on a global scale with companies who aren’t paying premium wages for labor that is far higher than it’s worth?

See the 99% correlation between stock market fluctuations and the production of butter in Bangladesh, production of cheese in the U.S., and the sheep populations of both nations.

But there is no logical connection between those. There is a strong logical connection between unions and wage levels.

If you want to tell me why you think they aren’t related, feel free. I think there’s a good argument to be made that they are. I understand the correlation vs. causation principle already, thanks.


Those higher wages generate more consumer spending in turn, so companies end up with more sales. As long as unions don’t push for too much, too fast, it’s part of a growing economy. It’s how we invented the middle class.

I didn’t say that.

The problem is that we’re seeing wages go down, relative to productivity. American workers work more and produce more, but get nothing more for it than they did 30 years ago.

Um, the workers who now have more income to spend?

On the other hand–who will buy all our products built in China if both U.S. and Chinese workers make less in wages?

Yes, it’s true that globalization has changed the formula. Overall, the answer is better wages in foreign countries too - which is happening. China, for example, is becoming less competitive as a source of cheap labor, and manufacturing is actually starting to come back here, little by little.

“Those higher wages generate more consumer spending in turn, so companies end up with more sales. As long as unions don’t push for too much, too fast, it’s part of a growing economy. It’s how we invented the middle class.”

Why not just give them the cash out right then?

Think it through.

You think it through. You are artifically giving them more money than the economic forces would alone would dictate. How is that any different than just having the company they work for or the government just handing out cash at will? And why would people pay $200 for the widget they are making with this added union bonus, than they would for the exact same widget for $180?