The rise and fall of the middle class in the US has almost exactly tracked with the rise and subsequent gutting of labor unions in the US. Although this chart is a few years old, the trend has not changed over the past few years. As union membership has fallen, wages have fallen.
As we celebrate labor on this Labor Day weekend, the United States needs to face the fact that strong labor union membership was one of the key ingredients that made the US the growth engine that it was in the middle of the last century. If we do not stem the tide of weakening unions we will continue to see widening inequality with all the attendant problems:
Robert Reich explains why unions are needed (5 minutes):
Note: An updated poll shows that unions now have an approval rate of 71%.
In recent years, Iowa has become one of the leading union busting states, with the biggest union buster being the radical right wing state legislature. From earlier this week on this blog:
“In the early months and the night hours of 2017, the newly elected Republican majority in the Iowa Legislature assaulted Iowa’s public servants by making changes to Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code.
Driven by out-of-state right-wing overlords like the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and acting swiftly on an issue no one campaigned on, they stripped collective bargaining rights for 180,000 public sector employees in Iowa. Relieving public employers from their obligations to bargain with their employees on almost every working condition, they unilaterally changed a system that had served both employers and employees alike for more than 40 years – a system that was created in a bipartisan fashion with a Democratic majority in the statehouse and a Republican governor at the time.
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And now our communities are feeling the results. Public service jobs traditionally have had a higher percentage of women in the field than their private sector counterparts, a higher percentage public sector workers have college degrees, and public sector jobs used to be the best jobs in virtually every city and small town across Iowa. But now, we’re starting to lose those workers. They’re quitting at a higher rate than ever before because legislators took away their right to bargain.”
Iowa’s state government has also set a hostile environment for labor unions in the state. This has resulted in a very unwelcoming atmosphere for workers in this state. In a survey released Thursday, Oxfamamerica.org ranks the states according to how labor is treated in that state, best to worst.
At the top are Oregon, Washington and California. At the bottom is North Carolina. Joining many of the notoriously anti-union state of the old Deep South is Iowa, clocking in at #39. I am unable to reproduce their charts here, but please visit this story to see the rankings.
We are constantly bombarded by claims from Iowa’s business leaders and current government leaders that Iowa is short workers for their businesses. The solution would be to pay them better and allow them to be represented by a union that would work for better pay and conditions. Apparently that is too much to ask. They expect workers to work for low wages in lousy conditions.
One only need look at the business and government response to the covid pandemic in the meat industry in Iowa to get an idea of the kind of thinking prevalent in the leadership in Iowa. They certainly showed no respect or concern for the Iowa worker. I have been told by more than one graduating senior that they wanted out of Iowa so they could pursue better opportunities.
We know how Kim Reynolds feels about labor. She showed as part of the union-busting administration in 2017, then again in her response to the pandemic. Labor means little to her.
Here are some snippets showing where Democratic candidate Deidre DeJear on labor relating to education:
Increase compensation for public school educators, administrators, and support professionals to retain and attract the talent we need to keep our schools operating.
Restore and enhance collective bargaining for all public employees, educators, and support staff.
Protect our existing public employee pension fund– IPERS.
Reinstate a loan forgiveness program for current and new educators who commit to stay and teach in the state of Iowa for five years.
Invest in increases in quality affordable childcare statewide, especially rural and low-income communities.
Re-elect Reynolds and we will continue to see the exodus of young people to states with better opportunities. Elect DeJear AND a Democratic legislature and watch that trend turn around. Vote for those who will make labor proud to stay in Iowa.
True enough about how horrible the Republican Legislature has been to working people and labor unions. But don’t forget that between 2007 and 2010, when Democrats held the trifecta, there were six D’s who prevented all but one labor bill from passing. The one that did pass Governor Culver vetoed. Democrats need to deliver on their pro-labor talk. Ed