Reprinted from NW Labor Press by Tom Chamberlain on March 14, 2018.
“Between 1945 to 1965, America workers’ wages doubled, and between 1965 and 1985, wages almost doubled again,” writes Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain in NW Labor Press. “But since 1985, wages have been stagnant. Today, 20 percent of the wealthiest Americans own 86 percent of American wealth: the highest in history. It is should not be a surprise to anyone that the rise and decline in wages tracks with the rise and decline of worker power through union membership. And that is precisely why our workers’ movement is a target.
“On February 26, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus v AFSCME. A pro Janus decision would eliminate agency fees for nonunion members. The goal of the deep-pocketed backers of Janus is to bankrupt unions and eliminate our political power, resulting in a political and legislative agenda that favors corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy. Their argument is that agency fees for non-members who enjoy all the benefits of a union contract is an unconstitutional act of compelled speech.
“The rise of the worker power in the United States was a time of great activism. Strikes were more common and workers who lived through the Great Depression knew what this country was like before the rise of unions: low wages, no pensions, no benefits, and little or no job safety protections. The connection between individual members ran deep with their unions. Prior to payroll deductions, dues were collected through union stewards on a one-on-one basis. Each month, a member would pay their dues and have a one-on-one conversation. That conversation could have been about sports, family, politics and sometimes a union issue. The connection that was forged resulted in a sense of union ownership with members. Today’s unions have reestablished those one-on-one conversations between members and union representatives. …