This post originally appeared at Blue Nation Review by Union Plus.
Numbers don’t lie. Wage inequality is at its highest since the Great Depression. Total income grew 36.9% in the United States from 1979 to 2007, and the top 1% snatched 53.9% of it. Yet despite the facts, people are blaming unions for everything from corrupt politics to economic failures.
Enough is enough, am I right?
Union members are integral to protecting against workplace abuses and develop some of the most highly skilled workers (we all remember when the NFL tried to use replacement refs, right?). Here are just a few myths about unions and union members that deserve a place in the garbage bin.
Myth #1: Unions don’t matter anymore.
In the words of my least favorite character from “The Princess Bride,” “INCONCEIVABLE!” This myth doesn’t take too much explaining to debunk. Corporations are designed to generate profit and are incentivized to increase the level of output while reducing the cost of labor. While investors and decision makers at the top often benefit from the increased profits, those who benefit are not always incentivized to increase the cost of labor by spreading the profits to workers.
That’s why, even in a consumer economy that benefits from a growing middle class, corporations become more profitable while the middle class shrinks. Unions are the only mechanism that allow for workers to collectively bargain for a fair share. Without bargaining as a unit, workers often lack a strong enough voice to stand for their rights, and corporations will slowly chip away the gains unions have made.
Myth #2: Unions are just political machines.
Unions are involved in politics because they represent the interests of working people. How do you think we got a federal minimum wage, a 40-hour workweek and child labor laws? It’s called the Fair Labor Standards Act, and corporations are regularly campaigning to weaken it.
But, of course, there is a lot more to unions than politics. Aside from the value they provide workers on the job, union members also take an active role in the community, providing assistance when financial and personal crisis strikes. Click here to learn more about the community services provided by the AFL-CO.
Union members also have ancillary benefits when they go home, such as the consumer benefits offered through Union Plus. Such benefits include a unique mortgage program that provides interest-free loans and grants to help make mortgage payments in times of need, as well as a savings on things such as your wireless plan or travel.
Myth #3: Unions cause companies to go bankrupt.
Nope, sorry, not buying it. Paying workers fair wages, giving them benefits, ensuring safe working environments…these are not the reasons that a company fails. Companies close for economic reasons, and mismanagement.
Need an example? How about the U.S. auto industry. Much of the media credited the Detroit Auto Industry’s struggles on unions, but this, as explained by the Economic Policy Institute, is clearly false history. The Big Three automakers became less competitive in the marketplace over years of designing and selling poor products. Additionally, the “labor premium” imposed by unions equaled out to be only 3% of total cost anyway.
Myth #4: Unions just create conflict.
When people think unions, they visualize chanting crowds and picket lines. However, strikes only happen in most unions after the workers take a vote. Not surprisingly, most contract negotiations are settled without a strike.
But when they do happen, strikes are not actions of “irresponsibility,” but of importance. The strike is a worker’s most powerful weapon to demand fair wages and working conditions. Strikes also send a public message that workers do not need to settle for exploitation.