Paul Krugman | America Needs to Empower Workers Again – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

“Labor activists hoped that the unionization vote at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse would be a turning point, a reversal in the decades-long trend of union decline. What the vote showed, instead, was the continuing effectiveness of the tactics employers have repeatedly used to defeat organizing efforts.

But union advocates shouldn’t give up. The political environment that gave anti-union employers a free hand may be changing — the decline of unionization was, above all, political, not a necessary consequence of a changing economy. And America needs a union revival if we’re to have any hope of reversing spiraling inequality.

Let’s start by talking about why union membership declined in the first place, and why it’s still possible to hope for a revival.

America used to have a powerful labor movement. Union membership soared between 1934 and the end of World War II. During the 1950s roughly a third of nonagricultural workers were union members. As late as 1980 unions still represented around a quarter of the work force. And strong unions had a big impact even on nonunion workers, setting pay norms and putting nonunion employers on notice that they had to treat their workers relatively well lest they face an organizing drive.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
My teacher Paul Krugman leaves me unimpressed today. Some unions are desparately needed, but others, especially police unions, and some fire unions, are too strong, and almost criminal in their overreach and protection of bad cops, etc. I remember when Reagan broke up the air traffic controllers strike, and I agreed with Reagan on that call. They had the power to blackmail the public for as much as they could image, and it didn’t seem right. What was to stop them from asking for more every year? The bad unions have given the movement a bad reputation. Ignoring that history, and the ongoing crisis with over powerful police unions, doesn’t help fix the public’s distast for unions. I am with FDR, who apparently said the police and civil service should not be allowed to join unions, because they would grow to strong, and were already on the public’s tab.

 

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