As reported in The New York Times this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has stated that, even in the face of weak job gains and reduced consumer confidence, rising wages would be enough to spur household spending and economic recovery efforts through the coming fiscal quarters.
This rare piece of financial optimism begs the question – how do we do it? Clearly, getting economic relief to those who need it most is a priority, and for those millions of workers currently under- and unemployed, economic growth can’t come soon enough. We could wait for Congress, but bills typically pass through their chambers at glacial speed.
What then, I ask, can we do to spur economic recovery and lift all boats with a rising tide? The answer is clear: unions!
As Bernanke said, raising wages makes for a growing economy, and there is no better way to raise wages than to protect workers’ rights to form a union and bargain collectively. According to the Economic Policy Institute, union workers receive 20 percent higher wages compared to their non-union colleagues – 20 percent! As a result, unions reduce inequality, diminishing the gap between the poor and middle class, and even raise the wage rate of non-union workers in the same field by five percent, on average. Now that’s a rising tide!
But it’s about more that just wages. Union workers receive up to 28 percent more health coverage than non-union workers, and have up to 54 percent higher employer pay-ins on their pensions. All of this comes together to create a more secure future for working people and their families, and lays the foundation for a thriving economy.