Economic Inequality and the Decline in Unions

Tim Libretti, an English professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, argues that the decline in union membership and union influence has proven a major contributor to economic inequality and the decrease in hourly wages for all professions. The myth is that low wage jobs require less education and skills than higher wage jobs; according to Libretti, all workers have experienced decreases in real wages, even those who work in jobs that require advanced education and a high level of skills. He adds that ” it is not workers’ lack of skills driving down wages, but the all-out assault on workers and unions.”

In his December 31, 2015 blog post on People’s World, “The Skills Gap Myth: What’s Really Driving Down Wages?,” Libretti points out that:

Scott Walker [the Governor of Wisconsin] has proudly insisted that the minimum wage “serves no purpose” and stands by his roll-back of collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin. Moreover, Trump’s strategy for reducing wages perfectly describes what is happening in Haley’s South Carolina: corporations are moving there to avoid unions and pay workers less. It’s no secret, despite the “happy family” rhetoric that seeks to mask this reality.

If we are going to have a serious discussion of income inequality in this country, we need to see through the damaging and specious rhetoric that justifies inequality in so many people’s minds. A common -sense look at what is—and who is—really driving down wages for middle and working class people will show us that the assault on wages is linked to a devaluing of people and their skills simply in an effort to continue the socially destructive project of re-distributing wealth to the top, increasing profits at workers’ expense, and politically crippling the labor movement.


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