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Yes, America Is Rigged Against Workers: No other industrial country treats its working class so badly. And there’s one big reason for that.

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Yes, America Is Rigged Against Workers

No other industrial country treats its working class so badly. And there’s one big reason for that.

By Steven Greenhouse

Mr. Greenhouse writes about labor.

Aug. 3, 201904greenhouse-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75

CreditCreditIllustration by Alvaro Dominguez; Photographs by Chris Clor and Classen Rafael/EyeEm, via Getty Images

The United States is the only advanced industrial nation that doesn’t have national laws guaranteeing paid maternity leave. It is also the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers any vacation, paid or unpaid, and the only highly developed country (other than South Korea) that doesn’t guarantee paid sick days. In contrast, the European Union’s 28 nations guarantee workers at least four weeks’ paid vacation.

Among the three dozen industrial countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has the lowest minimum wage as a percentage of the median wage — just 34 percent of the typical wage, compared with 62 percent in France and 54 percent in Britain. It also has the second-highest percentage of low-wage workers among that group, exceeded only by Latvia.

All this means the United States suffers from what I call “anti-worker exceptionalism.”

Academics debate why American workers are in many ways worse off than their counterparts elsewhere, but there is overriding agreement on one reason: Labor unions are weaker in the United States than in other industrial nations. Just one in 16 private-sector American workers is in a union, largely because corporations are so adept and aggressive at beating back unionization. In no other industrial nation do corporations fight so hard to keep out unions.

The consequences are enormous, not only for wages and income inequality, but also for our politics and policymaking and for the many Americans who are mistreated at work.

To be sure, unions have their flaws, from corruption to their history of racial and sex discrimination. Still, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson write of an important, unappreciated feature of unions in “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “While there are many ‘progressive’ groups in the American universe of organized interests, labor is the only major one focused on the broad economic concerns of those with modest incomes.”

As workers’ power has waned, many corporations have adopted practices that were far rarer — if not unheard-of — decades ago: hiring hordes of unpaid interns, expecting workers to toil 60 or 70 hours a week, prohibiting employees from suing and instead forcing them into arbitration (which usually favors employers), and hamstringing employees’ mobility by making them sign noncompete clauses.

America’s workers have for decades been losing out: year after year of wage stagnation, increased insecurity on the job, waves of downsizing and offshoring, and labor’s share of national income declining to its lowest level in seven decades.

Numerous studies have found that an important cause of America’s soaring income inequality is the decline of labor unions — and the concomitant decline in workers’ ability to extract more of the profit and prosperity from the corporations they work for. The only time during the past century when income inequality narrowed substantially was the 1940s through 1970s, when unions were at their peak of power and prominence.

more at

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/03/opinion/sunday/labor-unions.html

Edited by prettylight

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