Heather Marie Zender- 2016 Scholarship WinnerWhat is the correlation between the rise and fall of unions and the middle class of the United States and what benefits does a strong middle class do for workers and worker safety in the United States?

 

by Heather Marie Zender 

    

   The rise and the fall of unions and the middle class have a strong correlation with each other. Unions create a better middle class by negotiating between the union members and their employers, giving better wages, listening to their members, teaching them to be politically involved, and by providing better services. With more unions, more people will receive jobs with better pay and benefits, they will know to vote for people and laws that better the middle class, so in general the middle class will grow stronger. More unions in the United States will help the middle class, and make a stronger country.

   The amount of unions has shrank over the years because non-union businesses have voted against unions. Unions are a threat to other businesses because they offer better pay, typically about 20% more than non-union, along with more benefits. With there being less unions and competition, big business can pay their employees less, spend less on benefits, so the CEOs and owners can make more money. All the wealth is being by only a small percentage of people, and the politics of our nation are being dominated by them. The non-union businesses don’t think about their workers and only about their owners. This one article had a great example pf how non-unions don’t think about their workers: “Today, the U.S. economy is recovering from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, yet workers are largely excluded from corporate decision making—and consequently the financial resurgence. Corporate profits are making a comeback but workers are not. Profits have risen 12 percent since 2007, but companies are not rehiring laid off workers and the unemployment rate has stagnated at nearly 10 percent.” Unions will fight for the rights of their members. They make the company executives see that their employees are stakeholders rather than simply a cost that they need to minimize. The wealth is more evenly distributed, giving more families money, which gives them more buying power and essentially betters the economy.

   Union companies are known to have better benefits for their laborers. It is said that union wages are roughly 11% more on single employee’s insurance and 16% more for family coverage. Unions also give training to better the workers and help them advance in the middle class. They are constantly training their members to be better and work up the corporate ladder. With these benefits and better wages, more Americans are able to have better health insurance, given the opportunity to grow as a person and have a better retirement. Not only do the unions provide better benefits, they fight for the safety of the worker. They fight for laws and regulations that will protect workers and provide them a safer environment to work in.

   Unions greatly influence politics, by having their workers voices heard. Often the people with the most money sway politics. Which means they are voting for laws and issues that benefit them, which is not a good representation of what the entire country needs. Unions listen to what their people need and fight for the needs of the middle class, which is a lot bigger group of people than just the elite rich. By being in an union people see the great privileges that they are given and want to fight to keep what they have, and make life better for the middle and lower class. The United States has been seeing a great decline of amount of people who vote, in the last presidential election only 42% of our voting population voted. How can we pick the best president and laws for our nation when less than half of it votes? Unions promote political participation among all Americans. More participation can help workers secure government policies that support the middle class, such as family leave, Social Security, the minimum wage, and create safer working environments.

   Having a strong middle class with unions would be very beneficial to our society. With a stronger middle class workers would be paid more, therefore being able to buy more and turn our economy around. Even if they weren’t in a union, other companies would be forced to raise their wages being in competition with unions. With a strong middle class, people would vote more for ideas that better our society for the whole. Workers would receive better benefits, which would keep them healthy and safe. Unions are important to our society because they better the middle class and help put more focus onto a broader scope of Americans.

Bibliography

Madland, David, Krala Walter, and Nick Bunker. “Unions Make the Middle Class”
American Worker Project. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

“Inequity: A Broad Middle Class Requires Empowering Workers.” Campaign For America’s Future. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

Rosenfeld, Jake, Pro. “The Rise and Fall of US Labor Unions, and Why They Still Matter.” The Conversation. 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.