The American Dream Hinges on Organized Labor

That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Center for American Progress looking at data from the Pew Research Center. The study looked at unionization rates within states and found that states with the highest percentage of unionized workers also have the highest rates of economic mobility – as in, the chances that someone born into the middle class can work their way into the upper class.

Being able to come from nothing and live a successful life is the basis of the American Dream. Unfortunately, the United States now lags behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to economic mobility.

Today, more than 2/3 of Americans born in the bottom-fifth income bracket – will stay in the bottom two-fifths income brackets their entire lives. A lot of that has to do with a 32-year war against organized labor starting with Ronald Reagan. The study concludes by showing that just a ten-percent boost in unionized workers in an average state would increase economic mobility by 4%.

It’s time to bring democracy back to the work place through unions and give workers a shot at what they’ve been promised – a shot at the American Dream.


eatroots's picture
eatroots 11 years 38 weeks ago

The FOXES R in the chicken house and we are the chickens.

flaque's picture
flaque 11 years 38 weeks ago

The true humor of Romney's comment on the 47% is that the majority of those people are his own base. Starting with MS, the southern block of red states lead the nation in teen pregnancy, obesity, lowest levels of education, AND GOVERNMENT AID. Neither Romney, nor the people who support him, seem to be aware that he has called them out as lazy freeloaders.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 11 years 38 weeks ago

Mitt Romney and company keep saying they can create good paying jobs for America. So why have the Republicans been trying so hard to bust up unions that offer good paying jobs? Why can't they just take their own advice and stay out of the way and let the free market work? Unions get voted in and out just like politicians. We call it a free market, yet they keep meddling with it.

gz4m7q's picture
gz4m7q 11 years 38 weeks ago

I subscribe to the Thom Hartmann program in the hopes that one day someone gets serious about implementing a manufacturing policy in the US. We need it so badly as Koreans become the latest nation to get rich off of our automobile market.

I absolutely have achieved the American Dream and I owe that to the UAW (United Auto Workers Union). Because of a 1996 UAW contract the year of 1984 when I was laid off from General Motors was added back to my years of service. I was a salaried employee for 35 years and never a union member. But because of UAW coat tails I am comfortably retired for one year. Currently my husband (31 years in UAW) and I are in great health and live in our RV, traveling to National Parks. We just spent a month in Yellowstone. I write to you from Mesa Verde in Colorado. The UAW saved my retirement and I would like to thank someone. GM tuition refund paid for my MBA. I was transferred from a suburb of NY City to Michigan in 1994. I went from a low salary and needing to rent out rooms to make ends meet to actually living in a single family dwelling in an upscale neighborhood in Michigan.

HalFonts's picture
HalFonts 11 years 38 weeks ago

Perhaps it's too early to simply bring-back unions. Perhaps we simply don't know what we've lost. Perhaps we grew-up thinking everything would be okay. Mom bought the food, paid for doctors and dentists and eye-glases. School was free, Mom even bought the school supplies. Perhaps, we need some hard times to re-learn that security ain't the natural order of things, that it (whatever "it" is) won't be there unless enough of us value and fight for it, to have it and to keep it.

Consider for example what the last 2008 crash would have been like had millions of $600-$1400 Social Security checks NOT gone out every single month, directly into the hands of folks who spend them almost immediately? We'da had so many marginal folks living out of shopping-carts in the streets, there'd be no carts in the stores. Every morning there'd be frozen bodies that didn't make it through the night. Hundreds of thousands; or more.

Think of the "stimuluous" effect -- of those bucks immediately circulating around the local economy. AND YET, over half the citizenry apparently doesn't appreciate that at all !!! It coulda been a whole hellova-lot worse. BUT, nobody even acknowledges that in all the political jibber-jam. And we People don't DEMAND that our government do whatever it takes to tune or adjust Social Security as a secure ongoung safety-net, and a basic retirement plan that WE paid into, expecting long-term.

I hate to be too Machievellian, but sometimes worse has gotta preceed better. At least that's a good rational excuse if the know-nothings hold sway this next election. Folks widely don't appreciate UNIONS -- and all the "natural-benefits" that we assume came with our birth-rights. Not so, the 40-hour week for example, -- maybe we and the union-movement need to start back at basic basics -- relearning and re-teaching how things really work. That way we MAY catch this rip-off in time to reclaim what we are losing.

HalFonts's picture
HalFonts 11 years 38 weeks ago

On a different tack, I'm not sure we can simply "restore what we had before." I don't have the economics to back this up, but the problem is very complex.

In the early 70s, back from Peace Corps and 5-years working overseas, the "exchange-rates" and wage-scales concerned me, even if I didn't understand why, or what all was involved. Even then I saw US workers making 5, 10, 20-times what other more-or-less capable workers were making for similar work. Yes, US workers were often more innovative and more productive; but not 20 and more times as much. And as long as commerce was local, within local markets, it worked. Exchange-rates were a banking problem.

Shipping then was roughly 30-cents/lb anything, anywhere around the world. Then in the 80s, the Internet hit. Drawings could be shipped to India (where US trained Professors were training good Engineers, and Designers). Material take-offs or shop drawings could be e-mailed back the next morning. I've always realized imperfectly that these wage disparities cannot be maintained in a modern (Internet) world.

NOW in the US, after already gutting our educational systems, we can no longer produce the smartest and most highly-trained workers. How the hell we gonna compeat, much less justify 20-times what others better and more hard working that we, are making?

Just asking. ... Is it just a "Union-Problem" that can make it all like it used to be -- or have we let ourselves get so far behind the power-curve, so far behind that we may not be able to catch up as a nation. Our "leaders" aren't having these discussions, and correcting the problem. It's up to US to figure it out, and fix it ourselves -- unless it's too late and we've lost whatever it was that "we" (our parents and grand-parents) had before.

dowdotica's picture
dowdotica 11 years 38 weeks ago

democracy in the work place? are you joking? helz belz and ginja" snaps, these days? say one wrong thing and count on termination! yup! been there done that! worked for a non union trucking company. someone was messin' with my rig and stole my holiday turke the company gives out just before Christmas. the boss wouldn't do nothing about it so i posted an impromptu notice about how ghetto it was to be doing that kind of stuff just before the holiday. man it sure pist a lot of my co-workers off to the point where i got suspended (do you think ethnicity had somthing to do with it?). you want to know what my immediate sup said to me, 'dude i can't help you, you got to face it, this is an environment of gangsters and thugs. you got to learn to deal with it..." huh? what? So as i groveled for 2 and a half hours the day after christmas with the corporate heads in respects to the work environment and the potential to be a hostle work place and potential harassment along with the fact that my num nut sup said what he said? i get a call at 4.30 later that day. "Uh, sorry sir you are terminated". it only got worse as shortly there after? my identity got ripped off and i am quite confident it had to do with the place i worked. problem is? i could not prove it and when i talked to a labor lawyer? she said (paraphrase)'like dude your screwed i can't help you your white and as easily as you cry discrimination your ethnic bros will just counter because of your notice and the mention of ghetto and in this day and age? hard for dudes like you to get a break!lolol democracy in the work place? what a bunch of bull!!! employers don't give a crap anymore. they only care about bottom line. oh by the way why do you suppose there are some 200,000 truck driving jobs out there....its hard dangerous work and average out drivers don't make jack! I had it good though wage cap was $21 and all the OT you could get. that is as long as i could get along with the gangsters and thug!

dowdotica's picture
dowdotica 11 years 38 weeks ago

exceptionally put! but who's gonna be our Jimmy?

ken ware's picture
ken ware 11 years 38 weeks ago

Unions are great; I worked for a union shop and was treated fairly well because of the union contract. But, unions or no unions, as long as we have free trade agreements we cannot compete with cheap foreign labor or the huge profit corporations make using them to produce goods or answer customer service lines, etc., etc.. Tariffs were the tool we used to keep jobs here. As long as goods and services can be made out side of the United States and shipped here cheaply we are screwed. Both parties are responsible for signing these agreements and there is no sign this trend will change. I sometimes wish I was born a decade earlier when we had good jobs (union and non-union) and strong tariffs on imported goods to make foreign goods as expensive as goods made here. We have been sold out and Obama is pushing for the new free trade agreement, the TTP with Asian countries. It is over for the American worker in today’s global multinational corporation run planet.

Grumpy 11 years 38 weeks ago

Born, Raised, Worked, and will probably Die in Right-To-Work states. Never had the opportunity to join a union or even have a beer with known union workers. Certainly was never asked to join a union. But I probably would have joined if I had been approached. Don't know much about unions, or the lack of them. Certainly seemed that most union workers made better wages, more benefits, more "protective rights" than I or my working friends. It seemed like a "good deal" in the 70s and 80s, then they seemed to disappear from the news stories, and most folks like me just forgot about the Union Workers since they never were around anyplace I worked.

megalomaniac's picture
megalomaniac 11 years 38 weeks ago

To be or not to be, is a decision, tis noble to join a union or endure the free market which we all are becoming to know as a fading existence.

Recently exampled by business news in that Congress person of California Maxine Waters is relieved of ethics charges in that she was steering efforts or paths of tax money to a bank her relative happens to be in charge of. This convenience has been the main stay of our current deranged, pathetic, criminal, swindling, commercial lying, and deliberate legislative bank rolling Congressional body for decades. Obviously stock market deception insider trading or real-estate state flipping has been regular stuff so much so it appears now ethics definition is what has been repealed into a new law. Ethics to nowhere, as in bridge to nowhere, but a nice bank account for our rich Congress.

Ladies and Gentlemen of America it isn’t term limits stupid that the electorate needs, it is the bank account. Any member of Congress who makes millions should be removed from Congress. Any judge who makes millions is removed from the judicial system, etc. Please since the ordinary citizen can only make a certain amount of money retiring into social security those persons who want to be lobbyist must compensate that huge salary or commission by a tax of 99% retroactive fifty years ago. With a smile and a chuckle. More over the Federal Reserve needs to key three times the current social security benefits to my bank or my pay pal. LOL. The Republicans or the Democrats would really choke on that one. But it’s likely to happen. Yes, they choke or my bank balance goes up. I win either way.

When you hear the expression “Kick the Can down the Road” Ladies and Gentleman the game of “Kick the can” when you were a kid this game had no rules. Rules got made up as fast as that “old battered tin Can” was flying through the air, and as it landed, or then some attachment rules as it bounced. In essence, who ever had the assertiveness to take leadership all of a sudden realized, hey, one can make any rule they want to win.

It was until later on in my life that the realization of unionism is fundamental to the first amendment. Yes, very simple, the right to assemble, the right to free speech, the right to submit grievance to the government. Here is the kicker today; all assemblies are usually met with police action instead of a hearing or good journalistic debates. Hell, America offers more in negation recognition, or just plain ordinary constitutional rights to people in other lands in a war time, to people like Al Qaeda, than to regular Americans. It’s really freak in crazy. Ladies and Gentlemen of America, We the people are the government all these politicians hate. We the people issues a business license for these big business people to exist. We the people can remove anybody we want. We can arrange the country any way we want. Vote.

It was interesting what Glen beck said the other day Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC sleeps with Allan Greenspan. Of course we know Andrea Mitchell likely is privy to trillion dollar deals that the ordinary American could not conceive. Yet, Andrea Mitchell preforms ignoring such claims. Talk about the wizard of money behind the curtain. The Great OZ speaks. But the way Glen Beck said it as though it was seedy slanderous. Something one would hear from the Don Wade and Roma show WLS Chicago style. Talk radio in Chicago is cranked up turbo political hate rape sedition provoking divisive lie raging with Limbaugh, Michael Medved, Mark Levin, and Hannity. After Carters Grandson obtained that now famous video of the real Romney. Or did Romney change his name from Rommel the desert fox to the Romney the presidential Fox news anchor. LOL. Of course those Cayman Island accounts could be right next door to Arabs hundred or so accounts on the same island.

js121's picture
js121 11 years 38 weeks ago

I have lived the American Dream! As a child, father fought in WWII, got his education under the GI Bill, bought a modest home on a hill, and worked for Eastman Kodak. Three kids to raise, my mother stayed home until we were teenagers. She went to work to put an addition on the house and her own car. I had a Very good education, worked, had a car, got married, had a child. I guess Vietnam was the beginning of the end of that Dream. My husband graduated from University and we both worked good jobs that paid well and had benefits. My daughter went to a good school and we bought our 1st home. We planned for the that would be worth more; retirement savings; savings; and figured we'd both have full social security upon retirement. Slowly, the "New Right" party (Reagan, Bush's) kept taking more away from us and giving more to their corporate buddies. In the end, under Bush, we lost everything. Our jobs were outsourced to China when we were 61...we spent all our savings to "last" to Early retirement (1/2 pay), our home was devalued and we couldn't even sell it if we wanted to and our Retirement Savings was basically worthless. It wasn't our fault..We DID what we should have. The Banks, Wall Street, Deregulations took everything. The New Right of Paul Weyrich together with their 600+ corporations just kept taking our money, our freedom, our lives. The attacks are unending and they continue to pursue to lower the standard of living for all of us. Their Theocracy/Oligarchy form of gov't threatening to replace Democracy. Yes, I DID live the American Dream; but, now it seems like only a Dream as Reality is a Nightmare!

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