And if the minimum wage had kept up with productivity (a good definition of "wealth creation") then the minimum wage would be at $22 hour at this point.
Meanwhile, the ratio of (American) CEO salaries to average worker salaries, 1980: 44:1; 1990: 91:1; today, somewhere in the 200 - 300 to 1 ratio.
We can easily go back to the dawn of the industrial revolution (a little over 200 years), when wealth creation took off although mostly for management and owners: "The unions" gave us, you know, the weekend, the end of child labor, the minimum wage, paid vacation (for workers), the 40 hour work week, workers safety and a bunch of other things that we "couldn't afford." People were killed to get us those things - in our time. Funny what the wealthiest country in history can and cannot afford. And the secret to America's post war success, 1945 - 73? A well-paid work force.
@Tim: No, none of us was around at the dawn of humankind, but it's no mystery what the living standards were. As you may have heard, it was all nasty, brutish, and short. (Inequality, by the way, was way beyond anything we can imagine now, based as it was on survival of the fittest.)
It wasn't labor unions that lifted humankind out of its wretched condition. A billion years of union activism would never have accomplished that, because unions don't create wealth.
We can fret and whine all we want over slicing the pie, but it's neither here nor there unless the pie consistently grows faster than the population. Human advancement comes from economic growth and development, not from politics and resentment.
It's pretty funny that this week in Rochester, of all weeks, there would be union bashing on these pages - this, the week it was announced the outgoing CEO of Excellus Blues received a nearly $13 million compensation and the CFO receive nearly $11 million as well. (Ever wonder why America spends twice as much as the other Western nations on health care, and we're stuck at #36 in quality?) Here is a classic example of modern American management. We have hundreds of other examples, easily, including some biggies here in Rochester. If we have ever needed more unions, it's right now. The problem isn't a well paid work force, for cryin' out loud, the problem is colossal greed and narcissism of modern American business management.
"Poverty is hardly 'man-made', but rather is the natural condition of humankind."
B.D.G, where did you find this pearl of wisdom? You were hanging out at the dawn of humankind and have the privilege of reporting this back to us?
Crows, squirrels, and trees have a "natural condition". Humans do not. Humans create the conditions they live in. Humans create the conditions that make a few wealthy and many more poor. Bruce Popper reminds us that humans, working together in unions, have have changed their conditions and reduced inequality. We must strengthen and continue this struggle.
Unfounded statements, like the one B.D.G has made, are only distractions.
Want some empirical evidence of declining union density and increasing inequality? Check out this article:
The decline of union density makes me fear for my daughters' future. In state legislatures across the country the voices of union members are often the only effective counterbalance to the conservative assault on the American working family. As union strength diminishes those 1% lobbyists face less opposition to push thru their ALEC agenda. And many times unions fight for issues aside from pocketbook and kitchen table stuff - unions ally with citizens around women's rights, immigration, tax policy, infrastructure priorities, education funding, and other issues that effect non-union citizens.
However, let's not hate on the power of government to address poverty and make this either/or. Government action can also help address poverty through a variety of fiscal and finance public policy mechanisms (besides facilitating organizing) - minimum wage, Fed policy, infrastructure investment, trade deals, safety net programs etc.
I'm dying to know which non-profit spent hundreds of thousands on anti-union consultants. I hope it isn't my agency.
One of the points Mr. Popper makes is the organizing efforts made by community groups and neighborhoods however, these efforts are seldom covered by established media. In part this is due to a belief that only those with titles and advanced education can make real contributions or are worthy of true coverage. Given the fact that media coverage can advance the voice of those lease valued without such level of coverage society can deny the real consequences of poverty. Racism and increasing poverty is creating the enormous gap that exists between the haves and have nots has become the norm. It is even questionable now if there will be a time in the near future where enough good paying jobs will be available for most workers. I hope the City paper will do an indepth analysis of the Governor's budget which will disclose that most of the benefits will be again for the wealthiest. It proposes to remove the bank tax. 1/2 of the children live in poverty, growing of low wage jobs by 223,00 compared to the lose of 72,000 middle wage jobs, for the wealthy- 750 m inheritance tax break,350m. new tax breaks for Wall St. All of this points to the importance of strong activist oriented organizing joining both unions and those most affected in neighborhoods, communities etc. So let's do it!!
Even if you credit labor unions for their supposed achievements of the past, that doesn't necessarily mean they do more good than harm in today's advanced global economy. That's a different question.
The prime example of a powerful union today — government school workers — isn't encouraging. The employer — the public — seems powerless to overcome the union's obstruction of nearly every effort toward innovation or accountability. And incidentally, since it's the least well off families who most rely on government schools, union intransigence hurts them most.
It's interesting to note that Mr. Popper's one example of a successful union organizing campaign involves a private "non-profit" university — i.e., another industry notorious for bloat, inefficiency, mismanagement, runaway costs, and vanishing value.
National labor law is based on the right to collective action by workers for purposes of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection. The right to strike was considered essential to balance power between employer and employees. Previous generations used that right to create a vast middle class. Will our generation be able to maintain those gains?
The employer-consultant industry that shows employers how to best deprive workers of their lawful rights does a great disservice to us all, by leaving workers impoverished. In doing so it is we, as taxpayers, who then must subsidize with public benefits those impoverised workers. Instead, workers should be fairly compensated by employers who profit from their work.
The right to collective bargaining and concerted action must be restored. Collective action will be needed for that, as is evident from our shared history.
I certainly stand behind my point of view, however in this debate, I could lose my job and pension because of my honesty. Not to mention, as close as Buffalo, unions still resort to violence for what they call "scabs". How's that for freedom of speech? There are other debates this country desperately needs to have, like the one about race. Unfortunately we can't, even with a black president. I am a person who does look at all sides of an issue before making up my mind. After all, here I am reading and commenting on a newspaper that makes my blood boil. If you'd like to shut down all debate, that's fine, it's your paper, but what would you gain in the end?
Do people who value privacy have nothing to contribute to a "serious discussion about contemporary topics"?
An idea or argument should stand or fall on its merits, not on the biography or personality or popularity of the speaker.
Thanks, all of you, for your comments about anonymous comments. We've been talking about that - and about requiring registration. Anonymity is pretty ingrained in part of the internet culture, as you know. But we have very deep concerns about it in a comments section that is intended to foster serious discussion about contemporary topics. We'll keep you posted - and we do appreciate your input. -- Mary Anna Towler, editor
I also agree that City Newspaper does a disservice to its readership by posting anonymous comments.
I agree with Martin Edic . Anyone commenting should identify themselves.
"I don't believe Johnny Anonymous when he says he's nearing retirement age. People in our age bracket attended real public schools, where we got a real education, and we know that without labor unions we would have absolutely nothing today."--David Nevin
Sorry, Mr Nevin. I didn't go to public schools, so I wasn't "taught" by union teachers. I've had my ups and downs and have been one of the rich greedy business owners you despise. I've worked in union and non-union businesses. Try being educated by real life experiences. You'll change your tune.
I really don't think you should allow commenting by anonymous commenters.
I seem to remember an attempt by City Newspaper's employees to organize and they were fought and defeated by management. Am I correct about this? They certainly do not pay a living wage to writers and designers (all the employees I know have second jobs).
Poverty is hardly "man-made", but rather is the natural condition of humankind. We overcome that wretched condition only through industriousness and ingenuity (which qualities are usually inimical to labor unions). Economic growth and development are the only antidote for poverty.
New York State, unfortunately, already struggles with one of the most fiercely anti-growth environments in North America. Needless to say, increased unionization would only make our area's prospects that much more hopeless. The poor won't be better off (though the union bosses sure would be).
When wealthy people combine their resources its called a corporation. When working people combine their resources its called a labor union.
I don't believe Johnny Anonymous when he says he's nearing retirement age. People in our age bracket attended real public schools, where we got a real education, and we know that without labor unions we would have absolutely nothing today.
If not for labor unions we would still be working 7 days a week - half day off on Sundays. If not for labor unions we would not have a consumer-driven economy, because people who live hand-to-mouth can't afford cell phones, video games, vacations, and new cars.
The biggest problem we have with unions today is that there are not enough members.
Unions are one of the biggest scams in this country, I am in a union myself, Haven't had a raise in years, but the union has raised my dues, so being in a union has actually LOWERED my take home pay. In the words of Richard Trumpka- "we don't give a dam about our membership. They give us money and that money gives us power."
If you want a raise, work harder and smarter. Capitalism works If you don't believe that show me a better and more fair system than capitalism.
Why am I still in a union? I'm nearing retirement age and don't care to switch jobs at this point, but with the skills I have developed over the years I could make more in a non union shop because they don't have to pay everyone the same wages whether they produce or not.
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