All You Need is Love….And Unions

Just read this long piece by Kevin Drum about why unions improve life not just for union members, but for the entire middle class. The ultimate fact, as research in Drum’s article shows, is that politicians don’t do things for the middle class or the working class. We like to think Senators Whitehouse and Reed just love us because we’re their li’l peeps and they want to take care of us, but the truth is that politicians respond to powerful lobbying forces, and the past 30 years has seen a marked decline in powerful lobbies for the middle class. Drum presents two things you need to understand to get why our politicians have become so unresponsive to the needs of the middle class:

The first is this: Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-’70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.

Second, American politicians don’t care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early ’90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else. By itself, that’s not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don’t respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that’s not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don’t respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.

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3 thoughts on “All You Need is Love….And Unions

  1. So,Kiersten,what union have you belonged to?Ever?
    I spent 27 years as a dues paying member of public employee unions,actually two different ones.
    I do not believe they have a right to abuse taxpayers.
    Oh,and “klaus”-any union membership history with you?I never did think people with home offices ever got organized.

  2. I think the situation is far more nuanced.

    I also paid dues to a public employee union for a long time, but got little for it while union leaders paid big salaries to themselves and flew around to conferences.

    So I didn’t get a chance to abuse taxpayers even if I had wanted to. Our pay/benefits were way behind comparable jobs in the private sector.

    But unions do sometimes protect those who abuse the taxpayers by shirking the job. Leaders in my union also once got a nice state pension for themsleves even though they were not state employees.

    All that said, I agree with the sentiment of Kiersten’s post, with the unions in decline, (and now they are going for the kill) there will be very little countervailing power to total corporate control. I feel sorry for the next generation of working people, public or private.

    • I always felt this way about unions:
      Private Sector-the company that hires you is making money off your labor and it’s a fair fight,so to speak when a strike is called.You don’t owe your employer any special loyalty if they display none towards you.
      Demanding better pay and conditions is not hurting the public in any way.
      Public Sector:You boss,the people, have no say in hiring you,so strikes are out of the question.
      Public sector unions are there to ensure that management can’t act in an unreasonable and/or arbitrary manner or impose punishments without some sort of due process.
      They protect public employees’ rights to fair labor practices,but public sector unions have no right to pull shakedowns on the population at large.
      I agreed with Reagan’s firing of the Air Traffic Controllers-like Federal law enforcement and firefighters(there are quite a few of those)they have a public safety responsibility and that cannot be compromised.
      The public sector union can defend you against allegations but they should never suggest walking off the job.
      In the Federal system,wages and benefits were pretty much you took what they gave you and if you didn’t like it you could quit.
      They changed from defined benefit to defined contribution on 1/1/84-I was on as of 3/76 so I am on the old pension system.Nobody already employed was affected,but everyone hired going forward was-fair enough-no one forced them to take the job.
      I think some unions bear a lot of responsibilty(not all)for what’s happening now.
      In RI,just look at the NEARI.They have a militant in your face attitude and people are getting mighty sick of it.And not just conservatives.
      The private sector unions kind of messed up by outpricing their labor and the free traders pushed NAFTA and the WTO on us,and then the outsourcing began.Maybe if the private sector unions had just been a little more moderate,they wouldn’t have lost so many jobs.Hell,I don’t know-this business of shipping production jobs overseas is way over my head.I do know this-the big corporations have exactly no loyalty towards their employees,which even some of the biggest companies in the past had to some degree.
      The other thing that pissed me off beyond belief was the insistence of the unions I belonged to upon defending even demonstrably rotten employees to the hilt.They didn’t deserve such a degree of defense when what they did was plain as day.

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