Derek Thompson at The Atlantic allowed me to respond to his forum asking whether unions are necessary. And in the leadoff position no less. Here it is:
The question of whether unions are necessary is misguided. There is no other proven method to ensure that working-class people receive decent wages, safe working conditions, or a voice on the job. Unions continue to provide workers high-quality representation, helping them receive a fair share of the income their work generates while protecting them from capricious bosses, hazards on the job, and harassment from superiors. There are no other known systems that provide workers these benefits.
The better question is why unions have declined. There is a clear answer to this question: a half-century of intentional union-busting from corporations with assists from federal and state governments. Historians have shown that the supposed “Grand Bargain,” where companies agreed to unionized workplaces in return for an end to radical workplace action was never accepted by corporate America. Even before World War II, corporations looked to move their unionized factories to non-union states. When unions proved too popular across the United States and when federal labor and environmental protections began affecting profit margins, corporations lobbied the federal government to promote globalization, first through the Border Industrialization Project that allowed American companies to build on the Mexican side of the border and then through a full-scale race to bottom, as companies traveled the globe looking for easily exploited labor. None of this has made unions irrelevant; rather, recent labor defeats are simply the next round in this corporate assault upon the rights of working people.
Simply asking a question like whether unions are necessary gives credence to right-wing talking points about organized labor. We need to focus on how to fight back against the corporate malfeasance and greed that has undermined the American working class and plunged the economy into stagnation that has already reached a half-decade. Organized labor is central to any solution to our current economic problems. It is worth noting that the heyday of organized labor coincided with the longest period of growth in the history of the American economy. Only strong unions can provide a fair piece of the economic pie to the working and middle-classes, creating a robust economy that benefits all Americans.
Considering how completely exhausted I was when I wrote that, I’m surprised it came out relatively coherent, if a little passive voicey.