Here’s one reason: the decline of unions.
Scott Walker is not stupid—he knows this. And he hates it.
In 1988, the income of an average American taxpayer was $33,400, adjusted for inflation. Fast forward 20 years, and not much had changed: The average income was still just $33,000 in 2008, according to IRS data.
Meanwhile, the richest 1% of Americans — those making $380,000 or more — have seen their incomes grow 33% over the last 20 years, leaving average Americans in the dust.
Experts point to some of the usual suspects — like technology and globalization — to explain the widening gap between the haves and have-nots.
But there’s more to the story.
One major pull on the working man was the decline of unions and other labor protections, said Bill Rodgers, a former chief economist for the Labor Department, now a professor at Rutgers University.
Because of deals struck through collective bargaining, union workers have traditionally earned 15% to 20% more than their non-union counterparts, Rodgers said.
But union membership has declined rapidly over the past 30 years. In 1983, union workers made up about 20% of the workforce. In 2010, they represented less than 12%.
“The erosion of collective bargaining is a key factor to explain why low-wage workers and middle income workers have seen their wages not stay up with inflation,” Rodgers said.
Without collective bargaining pushing up wages, especially for blue-collar work — average incomes have stagnated.
This doesn’t explain why so many union employees are not making that much more money, but it’s likely due to the recession—those benefits that you hear people bashing are not free. Union workers have been trading higher paychecks to keep them. So when Governor Walker wants to take money out of public workers’ paychecks AND get rid of their right to bargain for pay, he’s taking everything they’ve worked for. Imagine losing ten percent of your pay, starting June 1st, 2011. Public employees are willing to do it. But Walker also wants their right to bargain for fair pay and benefits—Ever.
Do you really think an employer is going to care about fair pay and benefits? Do you think the State of Wisconsin is going to make sure their employees are treated fairly and make a decent wage?
If you said yes, you’re either lying or brain-dead. Or both. Or maybe you’re just a Republican. Same thing.