Bloomberg: Revive the Middle Class by Bringing Back Unions

Labor News

Reprinted from Bloomberg News by on November 16, 2019.

“If the US is going to make a big dent in income inequality and raise living standards for the middle class, it’s going to need a multipronged approach,” writes Noah Smith for Bloomberg News. “Higher taxes and more spending on health care will help. Minimum-wage laws can raise pay for workers at the bottom without reducing employment much, but they only benefit a relatively small slice of the workforce. But something else is needed.

“One big idea is to bring back unions and collective bargaining. Several teams of economists have examined the historical record and concluded that unions were important in reducing inequality. But although unions are still important in the public sector, in the private sector they’ve been almost wiped out.

“People argue about the cause of the decline. Some blame weak enforcement of labor laws or the rise of state right-to-work laws. Others blame global competition and technology. But Martin Manley, an entrepreneur who previously served as assistant secretary of the Labor Department under President Bill Clinton, thinks he has the answer. In a new book titled ‘A Better Bargain: Organizing Employers and Workers to Grow America’s Middle Class,’ Manley argues that the US union system was doomed from the start. …

Bloomberg 11/16

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Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at

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