U.S. economic boom of 1950s followed greatest sustained union expansion in American history.
It is no accident that the prosperity and consumer boom of the 1950s – a period of unprecedented middle class expansion, broad business growth, increased home ownership, rising consumer spending, and the shared expectation that a college education was within the reach of everyone and that the lives of our children would be better than our own – followed the greatest sustained expansion of unionization in American history.
The notion that greater unionization is harmful to an economic recovery is misguided. Unions, as institutions, and the members that form them are economically rational and do not pursue demands that force firms out of business…
…If anything, unions are more important in a recession. As was stated in a statement signed by forty prominent economists and released on February 25th of 2011, “The current recession will further weaken the ability of workers to bargain individually. More than ever, workers will need to act together.”
Unions reduce income inequality not just within the organized company or government unit (by reducing differentials between low-paid and high-paid employees) but also by reducing inequality as certain employers increase compensation to discourage unionization while other nonunion employers move closer to union standards in industries/jobs with union representation to compete for the best workers — all of which helps the working class.
Testimony on the substantial body of research evidence demonstrating the importance of unions to restoring a solid middle class was given to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions by Dr. Paula B. Voos, a professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University, and an EPI research associate.
The most important reason to improve the ability of employees to organize into unions cited by Dr. Paula Voos is that such membership is a fundamental right in democratic societies, related to freedom of association and the right of all human beings to band together to improve their lives.
Dr. Voos said, “For that reason alone, I would urge you to pass legislation to make real in the U.S. once again the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 1 of that Act puts federal law behind “the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and …the exercise by workers of the full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing.”
There is also a “printer-friendly” version of Dr. Voos’ testimony available for download.