The union movement is growing. In the last year, thousands of workers took to the streets to protest low pay and their lack of ability to organize. They have stood up to the nation’s largest retailers saying they demand respect in the workplace. And new U.S. Labor Department numbers released today back that up.
The private sector added 281,000 union jobs in 2013, halting the recent trend of falling numbers for organized labor. The uptick from 6.6 percent to 6.7 percent was viewed as a positive step by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who said unions are essential to building a strong middle class in this country.
“When workers have a seat at the table, they are better able to bargain for their fair share of the value they helped create; and that leads to greater economic security and economic mobility for everyone,” he said. “As our economy continues to recover and we work to create good jobs, we need to ensure workers can lift their voices to raise wages, reduce inequality and help more people climb ladders of opportunity."
Secretary Perez is saying what the Teamsters have stated all along – union jobs are better. Don’t believe it? Just look at the numbers. In 2013, among full-time and salary workers, union members made a median salary of $950 a week, $200 more than their non-union counterparts. There are 14.5 million workers belonging to unions nationwide.
Protests against the increasing inequality gap in America are getting the attention of President Obama and members of Congress. That’s why there have been increased discussions about raising the minimum wage and increased heat placed on Republicans who have been dragging their feet to extend long-term unemployment benefits.
The attention is good and needed. But the numbers don’t lie. If America really wants to help average workers, the union movement is going to have to be a significant part of the solution. That means state lawmakers will have to show real conviction against the corporate class’ no-rights-at-work push that is coming in Missouri and elsewhere.
The people are begging for leaders to lead. Now is the time for them to do so.