We've all seen the charts. As union membership rates go down, so goes the middle class and people's ability to bargain for living wages and a voice on the job.
David Madland and Karla Walter from the Center for American Progress (CAP) say, in Top 6 Policies to Help the Middle Class that Won’t Cost Taxpayers a Penny, that strengthening people's ability to organize unions and to bargain collectively will go a long way in rebuilding the middle class.
If unionization rates increased by 10 percentage points—to roughly the level that they were in 1980—the typical middle-class household, unionized or not, would earn $1,501 more per year, according to research conducted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Madland and Walter suggest the following to ensure workers can form unions:
- The National Labor Relations Board should help put an end to needless election delays and modernize the union election process.
- Congress should pass comprehensive labor-law reform that establishes a fair process for workers to decide on union representation that expands coverage so that more workers are provided the right to organize; establishes meaningful penalties and remedies for workers who are fired or discriminated against for exercising their right to organize; and includes measures to promote productive bargaining between workers and companies.
- Congress should also make the right to join a union a civil right. This would give workers who are discriminated against in exercising their right to organize a private right to sue, just as workers have a right to sue if they face other forms of workplace discrimination.
Other fixes to boost the middle class include raising the minimum wage, allowing workers to earn paid sick leave and lowering monthly housing costs by providing homeowners with principal forgiveness. Read the rest on CAP's website.