Welcome to the first installment in a new SHARE blogging experiment: Five Tidbit Friday, five observations about SHARE members and our community, and about the broader world of higher education, healthcare, personal health, labor, workplace issues, etc.
The recent Labor Day holiday yielded a bumper crop of media pieces about work and unions, (including an opinion piece by US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, published in the Boston Globe on the occasion of his visit with President Obama to the 2015 Greater Boston Labor Council Labor Day Breakfast.) Accordingly, the inaugural Five Tidbit Friday rounds up some recent worthwhile reads (and a video) about wage inequality, the minimum wage, the decline of the middle class, and what we can do about these things.
- In this video, economist and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why Americans need stronger unions.
- In “America Doesn’t Need a Raise, We Need a New National Norm for Wage Growth” MIT Professor of Work and Employment Research and Engineering Systems, Thomas Kochan, makes a call to “reverse three decades of wage stagnation and rising income inequality,” pointing out that “analysts have begun to recognize that the long-term decline in unions and worker bargaining power accounts for a sizable portion of the problem.” He encourages readers to “rally around a simple norm that all workers should share fairly in the economic growth they help produce.”
- This recent Op-Ed piece published in the LA Daily News, “Americans Should Think Bigger than $15 an Hour for this Labor Day” was written by Cherri Senders. (Senders serves as founder and publisher of www.labor411.org, a consumer guide to goods and services whose employers treat their workers fairly with good wages, benefits and working conditions.) Although there are lots of good reasons to increase the national minimum wage, Senders argues that “a $15 minimum wage is hardly a panacea for a country whose middle class has been declining for more than 30 years.”
- Here, Ralph Nader gives his explanation of “Why Labor Day Matters,” claiming that “commercialists have transformed Labor Day into a reason for shopping. The fact that Labor Day was conceived as an occasion dedicated to America's workers and what they have endured is sadly under-acknowledged and unappreciated.”
- And, finally, this longread. “Can Millennials Save Unions,” which appeared in a recent issue of The Atlantic, speculates about the future of labor by looking closely at events in the news right now. It’s worth the time. But, if you want a quick summary, we’ll just mention that this article . . .
- Traces recent union organizing at Gawker and Salon, in the NCAA, and at NYU.
- Describes how millennials’ values overlap those of unions. (Speaking about a large-scale survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the article claims that "Without discussing unions at all, the firm . . . found that younger workers share concerns for some of the very things that unions have sought for generations.")
- Explains that lack of work experience, and particularly experience with unions, leaves millennials with questions about unionization, and skepticism about established union hierarchies.
- Points out that, "In general, if you ask the majority of workers, ‘If you could have a union, would you like that?’ they say yes, but the opportunity to do that is rather limited” because of broken labor laws and widespread employer opposition.
- And, too, goes on to predict challenges to the future of organized labor.
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