It is more than a little ironic that the last remaining bastion of the American labor movement are professionals, often in government. From schoolteachers to hospital and office workers, the backbone of the union workforce increasingly not traditional blue-collar manufacturing or industrial jobs, but these professional positions.
And that these unions spend much of their time attempting to raise the minimum wage laws in the U.S. may at first blush appear surprising. Why does it matter to a hospital worker, earning $30 per hour, that an employee at a fast-food restaurant should earn at least $15 per hour?
Well, in a consumer economy, where earnings are used to buy goods that in turn pay other salaries that then buy more goods and services, and so on, the stagnation of the minimum wage since the 1970s is one reason why the American economy has been so lackluster for anyone outside of the top 1 percent.
The off shoring of much American manufacturing gutted the power of many industrial unions. Because these workers incomes no longer functioned to raise the benchmark for all workers’ pay, the minimum wage has become more important.
However, by that time, the political pressure of an organized labor movement was reduced and ineffectual, leaving only the constant harping by the owners of capital that raising wages would cost jobs.
If that were true, given the decline in the minimum wage’s purchasing power (in 2014, it would have to be $8.91, merely worth as much as 1980’s $3.10 was), there should be more jobs available, given that argument.
Which makes wage and hour violations even more reprehensible. When employers misclassify employees as independent contractors or force them to work off the clock, it further reduces the purchasing power of those employees, and robs them of their income.
Unions know that fighting for higher minimum wages in the end benefits all of their members, by raising the floor of salaries for all workers.
Scpr.org, “Why unions lead the $15 minimum wage fight, though few members will benefit,” Ben Bergman, January 29, 2015