Letter to the Editor: Union organizing spreads despite foes
The Aug. 4 “Red-Blue America” column (“Is union organizing a civil right?”) by conservative Ben Boychuck and liberal Joel Mathis reflects what opinion polls report is a deeply and evenly divided American public. The liberal Mathis concludes, “[U]nion organizing is a civil right.” The conservative Boychuck concludes, “[I]t’s a license to commit extortion.”
Pennsylvanians have been exposed to this ideologically driven debate during the state Legislature’s recent consideration of a so-called “paycheck protection” measure that would prevent public-sector workers from negotiating contracts that would allow their government employers to deduct union dues.
This is what opponents, like Boychuck, call “extortion,” even though private-sector workers do the same. And similar deductions are made by employers, public and private alike, for donations to charitable community-chest groups. The semantically misleading, union-busting “paycheck protection” proposal has stalled in the current session of the Legislature.
One fact not mentioned in the opinion column is indisputable: Union workers are better off than their nonunion counterparts nationwide. And the long decline of union membership, aided and abetted by relentless union-busting efforts like the “paycheck protection” ruse, has coincided with a decline in the well-being of American workers overall.
It’s no coincidence. As Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman repeatedly has documented on the Gazette’s opinion page, a half-century ago the nation empowered workers to bargain for living wages and benefits, including retirement. We also taxed the rich and the corporations at higher rates. And we prospered.
While opinionated food fights like the “Red-Blue American” column feed and reflect division, purple areas of the nation are showing collective promise: Northwestern University football players are seeking union representation; McDonald’s fast-food workers are seeking unionization, and their recent success is likely to spread to fast-food workers industrywide; efforts to raise minimum wages are cropping up in cities across the country.
Whether it’s called union organizing or a civil right, efforts to raise the wages and well-being of working people are spreading, despite organized efforts to stop it.
P.R. Committee chair