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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/20/19

Why Unions Matter to You

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From Robert Reich Blog


As I travel around the country, I tell people: if you have a job, join a union. And if you don't have a union, start one.

You see, it all comes down to the balance of power between business and workers.

You strengthen the middle class by strengthening unions.

In the mid-1950s, unions were strong, and wages grew in tandem with the economy. Nearly one third of all workers in the United States were unionized.

This gave workers across America even those who weren't unionized significant power to demand and get better wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions.

Yet starting in the 1980s and with increasing ferocity since then, private-sector employers have fought against unions.

Corporate raiders demanded that companies boost share prices by busting unions or moving to non-union states.

Ronald Reagan's administration fired the nation's unionized air traffic controllers and launched an all-out assault on workers' rights, concentrating even more power in the hands of corporate executives.

In short, anti-worker corporations and politicians joined together to stop workers from joining together.

We now know that as union membership declined, middle class incomes shrank.

The two trends are the exact mirror images of each other.

The wealthy and big corporations continued to take home a larger share of the nation's wealth, while workers were left behind. Unions balance the power of workers with corporations, by allowing workers to join forces to get a fair share.

As an individual your voice is limited, but there is power in numbers. Today, unions are more important than ever to the survival of the middle class.

Corporations have tremendous power over our lives.

They dictate everything from bathroom breaks to health care for millions of Americans.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at

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