The decline of the middle class

Once upon a time the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world. The rest of the globe looked at us in envy and wondered what we were doing right.

The decline of the middle class

These observers instead argue that, since unions helped to enshrine many of these gains into American law, the unions themselves are no longer necessary. If one takes a closer look at the modern workforce however, we can easily tell that declining union strength has had severe consequences for American workers.

As the power of unions The decline of the middle class over the past thirty plus years, the working class has suffered tremendously as a result. Since the s, workers have increasingly been asked to work harder and accept less in return. In addition to the regression for workers that has taken place, they are also under assault more every day by business friendly politicians who seek to gut regulations designed to protect workers.

It is not uncommon today to hear politicians suggest weakening our child labor laws and workplace safety laws. Without a vibrant labor movement to protect labor laws, the advancements achieved by labor during the 20th century could easily disappear during the 21st.

One argument that you do not hear often from anti-union commentators is that unions harm their own members. The reason is because unions undoubtedly deliver for their members. While there are many legitimate critiques one can make against labor unions, no one can ever dispute the fact that unions are extremely effective in servicing and protecting their members.

In fact, over 80 percent of union workers approve of the labor movement.


Numerous studies, evaluating the effect of unions on workplace, show that unions help workers tremendously in terms of wages and benefits. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the union wage premium-the percentage higher wage earned by those covered by a collective bargaining contract-is What this means is that the workers who are members of unions, on average, get paid In addition to getting higher take home pay, unions also deliver better health insurance policies and retirement options for their members.

Unionized workers are Not only are union workers more likely to have health insurance, they also have better quality insurance, and pay lower deductibles. Another benefit union workers enjoy is more paid time off. Union workers on average receive three weeks of paid vacation time per year, totaling over 14 percent more time off than non-union workers receive on average Mishel, The evidence that unions benefit their members is overwhelming, so much so that even the most strident anti-union people will admit that unions benefit their own members.

Instead, anti-union people often argue that unions benefit their own members to the detriment of the rest of the workforce. This argument is clearly refuted by the facts outlined above and by careful observation of what unions do.

Since unions begun to decline at beginning of s and that declined accelerated in the 80s, so too power of the average working person. Today, workers are continually asked to do more work for less in return. In recent years the productivity of American workers has gone up at a record pace, while their pay has not.

The decline of the middle class

The chart below, from Madland and Bunker demonstrates this gap: From through the early s, when unions represented as much as one third of the overall workforce, wages and productivity tracked very closely together. When unions began to lose power in the late 70s and 80s, productivity surged while compensation stayed flat.

Over the past 30 years, workers have not benefited from their increased workload. Instead, the gains in productivity have contributed to the ever increasing incomes of the upper percentage of earners, the owners of capital: Over the past 30 years American workers have become ever more productive, yet their wages have hardly increased at all.

In contrast, throughout the middle part of the 20th century—a period when unions were stronger—workers were rewarded for their productivity increases with higher wages on a roughly one-to-one basis, meaning that as they become more productive they received a corresponding increase in compensation.

But this link is now broken.

The decline of the middle class

It is no coincidence that America built the greatest middle class the world has ever known, in the years following World War II.

A major part of the reason the middle class exploded in the late s and into the s and 60s was the growth and strength of the labor movement. As union density in the United States has shrunk over the past 30 years, the middle class has suffered greatly. The figure below shows as union density since has decreased, the middle-class share of national income has tracked closely with it: The close correlation between declining union density and declining middle class share of income is astounding.

The relationship between these two makes it nearly impossible to refute the idea that unions are good for the middle class as a whole.The great shrinking of the middle class that has captured the attention of the nation is not only playing out in troubled regions like the .

The Importance (and Neglect) of America's 'Middle Neighborhoods' When a neighborhood isn't rich -- and isn't poor -- government tends to forget about it. But missing from the debate – and, in fact, much current discussion of America's politics – is the single biggest issue facing the country: the destruction of the American middle class.

The black middle class consists of black Americans who have middle-class status within the American class is a societal level within the African-American community that primarily began to develop in the early s, when the ongoing Civil Rights Movement led to the outlawing of de jure racial gains accrued by the .

The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century.

Find out what is behind the decline of the middle class in America and how the hourglass economy may effect consumption.

Death of Organized Labor: Death of Middle Class | The Progressive Press