Reprinted from The Guardian by Steven Greenhouse on August 15, 2019.
“Congress hasn’t raised the minimum wage in a decade, the longest stretch without such an increase since the federal minimum wage was first enacted in 1938,” writes Steven Greenhouse in The Guardian. “One state legislature after another has passed right-to-work laws to undermine unions. Donald Trump has taken numerous anti-worker actions: scrapping several worker safety rules, rolling back a regulation extending overtime pay to millions more workers, and killing a rule that required Wall Street firms to act in the best interests of workers when overseeing their 401(k) plans. Trump has even nominated as labor secretary a lawyer who has spent decades fighting on behalf of corporations to weaken worker protections.
“In my new book, ‘Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor,’ I explain that there is a little-understood, but profound reason why all these anti-worker actions are happening: America’s unions and workers have less power in policymaking and the workplace than they have in decades. Indeed, the percentage of workers in unions is at its lowest level in over a century – down to 10.5% from a peak of 35%. All this helps explain why wages have stagnated for decades, income inequality has soared and corporations and billionaire donors have undue sway over our politics, policymaking and political appointments.
“In the 2015–16 election cycle, business outspent unions 16-to-1 –$3.4bn to $213m – according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Each year all of the nation’s unions spend about $48m on lobbying in Washington, while corporate America spends more than $2.5bn – more than 50 times as much. This has made many in Congress far more attentive to corporations than to workers, thus the rush to cut corporate taxes, but the failure to increase the minimum wage. …