Editorials: A “New, New Deal” On Unions — And Creative Organizing — Needed In America

With each passing Labor Day, I am torn anew, by the criminal tragedies that befell my family of origin on this day, 32 years ago. . . . I have long ago forgiven — but I do not. . . ever. . . forget.

And in truth, more and more, from that time — I am also reminded of how much the presence of organized labor, in the hard rock mines of my youth, almost singularly allowed me to be where I am today — purely by a stroke of great good luck. [I am also put in mind of our brothers and sisters at West Point, PA here, as well.] And so, I do agree with the Wa Po and NYT editors of late, we do need another “new deal” with organized labor. The gig economy, while vibrant, does take more than it gives to many many individual participants. Largely gone are the auto-line, and coal mine struggles, of yesteryear — now unions need to focus on making the fluid, often virtual, work spaces more economically friendly to the individual worker. Here’s a bit, from the Wa Po:

. . . .The central issue in American politics is the economic security of the middle class and their sense of opportunity for their children. As long as a substantial majority of American adults believe that their children will not live as well as they did, our politics will remain bitter and divisive. . . .

Surely related to middle-class anxiety is the slow growth of wages even in the ninth year of economic recovery. The Phillips curve — which postulates that tighter labor markets lead to an acceleration of wage growth — appears to have broken down. Unemployment is at historically low levels, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that average hourly earnings last month rose by all of 3 cents — little more than a 0.1 percent bump. For the past year, they rose by only 2.5 percent. In contrast, profits of the S&P 500 are rising at a 16 percent annual rate. . . .

On this Labor Day, we would do well to remember that unions have long played a crucial role in the American economy in evening out the bargaining power between employers and employees. They win higher wages, better working conditions and more protection from unjust employer treatment for their members. More broadly, they provide crucial support in the political process for programs such as Social Security and Medicare that benefit members and nonmembers alike. (Both were passionately opposed by major corporations at their inception.). . . .

In an era when the most valuable companies are the Apples and the Amazons rather than the General Motors and the General Electrics, the role of unions cannot go back to being what it was. But on this Labor Day, any leader concerned with the American middle class needs to consider that the basic function of unions, balancing the power of employers and employees, is as important to our economy as it has ever been. . . .

Indeed. And be well, but beware — for I fear this will all close out quite. . . icily, now. On, to the cooking, then. . . .



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