Recent revelations regarding income inequality should have alarmed every working man and woman in the United States. The facts are there; wealthy Americans are waging a war on the working class. Who’s behind it, and why do the wealthiest in our nation hate those who are less fortunate?
In the world’s most advanced nations researchers discovered that as labor unions diminished in both numbers and strength, the wealthiest ten percent experienced an increase in their income. Previously the correlation had not been expected to be a major factor in the rise of wealth for the ten percent and the decline of income for the working class.
The study was conducted between 1980 and 2010. Economists originally pointed to advances in technology, tax relief, and the globalization of industry as the logical reason for the decline of working class wages and the increase of income for the ten percent. However, these facts accounted for a minimal amount of the disparity, and they did not factor into the continual and consistent increase in the income gap.
After considering all factors, the prime cause for the drastic change in income inequality was discovered; fewer strong unions and a minimum wage which failed to change with the cost of living index were the culprits.
During the past 20 years corporate conservatives, and economic libertarians have spent more than $170 million attempting to convince the American public that unions are bad for business and harmful to employment rates. They also lobby government and attempt to influence its decision to avoid implementing labor laws to protect workers, and legislation which would give the right to employees to form unions without harassment or termination.
That is a small part of the more than $1 billion spent by right-wing supporters to ensure that the wealth of our most affluent citizens continues to rise, while the rights and income of the working class diminish.
Records show that between 2011 and 2012 legislators in ‘red’ states increased their efforts to reduce labor standards, and destroy or seriously weaken unions. They are also involved with a reduction in workplace standards which affect union and non-union workers alike and lesson the ability of low and middle-class wage earners to earn a livable income.
Some of the actions adopted by these states were:
- Restricting the minimum wage.
- Heavily restricting employee’s rights to overtime and sick leave.
- Passing legislation increasing the difficulty to recover unpaid wages.
- They instituted laws reducing the ability of non-union workers to petition for wage increases, safer working conditions, and paid leave.
Fifteen states have placed restrictions on the bargaining rights of state employees, and nineteen have changed their state’s laws to implement ‘right to work’ provisions, eliminating the ‘closed shop’ mandate.
The income gap is obvious, as is the primary reason for its continuing increase. In 2013 there were approximately 14.5 million workers who belonged to a union. That equates to 11.3 percent of the nation’s workforce. In 1983 union workers numbered 17.7 million. The percentage of union workers today is under seven.
The major falsehood claimed by conservatives is that unions increase unemployment; that is far from the truth. There is absolutely no evidence to validate their claim
By James Turnage