A RECENT study, “Unions and Upward Mobility for Young Workers,” by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) confirms that the need to join unions couldn’t be a more pressing issue for those coming of age today.
While the main questions will always be wages and benefits, there are other ways workers can prosper by joining a union. When a change in working conditions is arbitrarily introduced (such as consolidation of local government), a unionized workforce would be more likely to be listened to than individual workers. There is strength in number, under most circumstances.
Of course, workplace organization was an urgent need for youth even before the onset of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The prospects for young working-class people had already worsened after three decades of stagnant wages and rising inequality.
An organized working class would be much more of a force, particularly when facing what looks like another four to eight years of the same types of economic policies we’ve had for the past 30 years. Congress can ignore the workers, as they have for the most part with the bailouts of the banksters and the bosses. Even the bailout of the auto industry appears to be hinged upon the virtual emasculation of the workers (and the UAW is going along with it).
The CEPR study notes that average wages (adjusted for inflation) for 18- to 29-year-olds were roughly 10 percent lower in 2007 than in 1979. Earlier research showed that some young workers were making up to $8,000 less per year in 2004 compared to 1975.
The next time one of your bosses tells you that union representation is not good for you, remember this study. Their job is, for all intents and purposes, to take money out of your pocket and put it in theirs. Individually, there might not be much you can do about it. A unionized workforce is able to fight such actions, up to and including shutting down the business.
Turl’s article is a good starting point to understand why unions are important for young workers, as well as those workers already in place. The need for strong unions has rarely been so clear. With the forces of the bosses and the government aligned against the poor, working and middle classes, it’s time for the labor movement to be reinvigorated and supported.
Go here for more information on how one union, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), is fighting and winning against Starbucks!