Let's save the middle class!
Today, many Americans consider themselves “middle class.” However, compared to the standards of the 1960s, the so-called middle class is dead, and the war on unions is directly responsible. In 1965, Americans willing to take dangerous, difficult work – like a midnight shift shoveling waste at a steel mill – could earn about $2.30 an hour. That may not sound like a lot, but it's the equivalent of over $17 dollars an hour today. These jobs were often filled by unskilled workers with high school diplomas or less, but they still paid well enough to cover the cost of an apartment and car.
Today, those same unskilled workers are often forced to work for corporate giants for minimum wage - $7.25 an hour – less than half of what they would have been paid in the 1960s. Automation and outsourcing did eliminate many of the manufacturing jobs that previously paid decent wages. However, it's the fact that workers have been unable to unionize that's really kept wages low in the service jobs that replaced manufacturing.
In the 1950's, more than 35 percent of private-sector jobs were unionized. Today, less than 6 percent of private-sector workers belong to a union, and that number continues to decline. Those labor groups fought for higher wages, workers' rights, and employment regulations – including many of the protections that workers now take for granted. Today, the average employee has virtually no power against their employers, and the corporate masters are fighting hard to keep workers from standing together.
This is why today's labor battles are so important. The “Fight for 15” isn't only about higher wages – it's about bringing back the middle class. For a real chance to make the American Dream a possibility for all, we must fight for our labor unions, so that they can fight for us.