Currently, there is a lack of unionization among American workers. Union membership remains at an all-time low. However, during the period when union membership has fallen to such dismal levels, the wealth of the upper class has continued to increase. Meanwhile the average American worker and the middle class person has become poorer overall with each successive year. In the past decade, there has been a tremendous economic collapse and upheaval. The collapse of the housing market has resulted in many individuals losing their homes. Furthermore, many jobs were eliminated and sent overseas. People have had to work harder to keep their jobs. They are scared to speak out about horrible working conditions for fear of retaliation. The only way to combat these conditions and this trend against the middle and the working class is through a return to union membership.
We need to strive for a future in which people have a chance to succeed. People should not fear working at jobs that might be sent overseas. They should not be scared to speak out against unsafe working conditions. Unfortunately, many individuals are scared to report these conditions because they believe that they will be singled out for termination. They are scared that if they try to unionize to make their workplace stronger then they will also be terminated (Human Rights Watch, 2015). Since the Great Recession, American workers continue to work longer and longer hours. They rarely take off all of the time that they have earned at their jobs. Americans work more hours than most other industrialized nations. This has grown worse since the Great Recession since employers realize that they have the upper hand. Employees realize that the job market is unstable and they may not be able to find another job. Employers are taking advantage of the weak job market and the fear of their employees. This is unethical (Kelly, 2011).
The only way to reverse this trend is to return to the concept of unionization. Unions can be credited with creating strong employees who were not in fear of their employers taking advantage of them. The tradition of unions extends back to the Nineteenth Century when immigration gave rise to a large group of employees who were easy prey for unscrupulous and company owners. The labor movement began out of the mining industry, where a large number of immigrants worked in hideous and dangerous conditions. John Mitchell struggled to achieve a decent workday for the immigrant miners in the mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Mitchell fought for an eight hour day for workers at the turn of the Twentieth Century. He also supported and depended the workers during the Anthracite Coal Strike at the same time (National Park Service, 2015).
Workers also managed to achieve great strides forward with regards to unionization during the era of the New Deal. Labor unions began to fail at the time of the Great Depression. Ironically, it was similar circumstances. Since employers knew they could take advantage of the weak job market and the fear of their employees, they did just this. This is quite similar to what has happened in recent years. However, the labor unions came out of the era to significant membership levels and tremendous strength. This was because President Franklin Delano Roosevelt supported labor unions and enacted a number of laws aimed at helping them. This is what must be done today. Labor will only survive if there are laws to support it.
The current economic period is bleak for labor. The upper class has made a tremendous amount of money while the middle class and the working class have lost what little gains they had made. The Great Recession created ideal opportunities for employers to take advantage of employees. This has happened. The only way to change this is to improve labor membership. Laws are required that support this goal.
- Human Rights Watch. (2015). Blood, sweat and fear. Retrieved from: https://www.hrw.org/report/2005/01/24/blood-sweat-and-fear/workers-rights-us-meat- and-poultry-plants
- Kelly, T. (2011, October 11). Employees work longer hours, take less time off since the recession started. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/employees-longer- hours_n_1005111.html
- National Park Service. (2015). John Mitchell Monument. Retrieved from: http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/delaware/crt.htm