Donuts and anti-union sentiment

IF YOU HAVE trouble understanding why so many workers are anti-union these days, consider this analogy.

A dozen donuts are sitting on a table in front of a CEO, a nonunion worker, and a union member.

The CEO takes 11 donuts and puts them in his briefcase.

Then he whispers to the nonunion worker, “That union guy is trying to steal your donut.”

But in reality, a dozen donuts is not nearly enough to illustrate the true disparity. The average CEO made 185 times as much as the average worker in 2009, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

That wage gap has been growing for decades, largely because business interests have been successful in reducing union strength. In the early 1970s, when one-third of male workers were unionized, CEOs made “only” 27 times as much as workers.

The plain truth that no one on Fox News is going to tell you is that unions are good for workers — both union and nonunion — and good for the economy. During the decades when unions were strongest in the United States — the 1940s through 1960s — the rising economic tide lifted everyone. Unemployment was low, wages increased faster than inflation, and each year a few more people got employer-provided pensions, paid vacations, and other benefits.

This occurred not because employers were more generous but because unions were negotiating those things into their collective bargaining agreements and nonunion employers had to offer them in order to attract the best employees.

In the past three decades, private-sector union membership has steadily declined, along with the economy, wages, and benefits. Corporations have shipped jobs overseas and gotten federal tax breaks to do so. They have waged anti-union campaigns and deducted the costs as ordinary business expenses. They have gotten government contracts despite significant safety violations and numerous unfair labor practices against their employees.

And after dubious banking practices and corporate greed caused a global financial crisis that sucked trillions of dollars out of the economy, they’re blaming teachers and other public employees. They’re blaming unions. They’re telling us the only way to revive the economy and avoid unbearable future debt is to cut Social Security, reduce spending on programs that benefit workers and their families, and eliminate collective bargaining and union representation.

Oh, yes. And continue to reduce taxes on the rich.

Only when all workers — union and nonunion — stand together will we be able to make legislators recognize that they need to listen to the needs of the hard-working majority, not just to the highly-paid minority. We’re not going to get anywhere fighting each other for that last donut.

Donald Caswell
The Boilermaker Reporter