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Vote in Poll- Does America Still Need Labor Unions

02.22.09

Does America Still Need Labor Unions?

The Employee Free Choice Act, or “Card Check” for short, is one of the most controversial measures Congress faces this year. The bill—first introduced in the Senate in 2007 by Ted Kennedy and co-sponsored by then-Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden—would make it easier for workers to join unions and would tighten penalties for employers who try to stop them. Supporters such as Human Rights Watch and the NAACP say the bill provides important protections for the middle class. Opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association say it increases labor costs and hurts the bottom line. Both sides have spent millions on lobbyists and advertising to make their case.

With only 12% of American workers in unions, why should the rest of us care? Professor Clete Daniel, a labor expert at Cornell University, says a revived labor movement could benefit workers both in and out of unions. “ There is definitely a need for forces that promote a fairer sharing of wealth,” he says, noting that the gap between America’s rich and poor is the largest it’s been since 1928. Over the last 75 years, unions helped secure benefits like unemployment insurance, Social Security, and the 40-hour workweek.

Others contend that unions have outlived their usefulness. “The workplace is much better today,” says Michael Eastman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Employers know they need to offer certain benefits and good wages to keep good workers.”

Professor Daniel says Card Check likely would not increase union membership until the economy improves, since workers are currently more concerned about job security than wages and benefits. “ Today, most workers are too fearful to take a risk for unions,” he adds.

— Lyric Wallwork Winik

VOTE in Poll http://www.parade.com/export/sites/default/news/intelligence-report/archive/does-america-still-need-labor-unions.html

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