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5 Reasons America Needs Labor Unions

Updated on September 25, 2014
The strangler fig wraps itself around a palm tree until the palm tree dies.  Which do you feel like the strangler fig or the palm?
The strangler fig wraps itself around a palm tree until the palm tree dies. Which do you feel like the strangler fig or the palm?

5 reasons America Needs Labor Unions

When Labor Unions were strong the middle class was strong.

In the years following World War II unions grew and the middle class prospered. Unions represented over 33% of the working class and we all benefited. In 2011 unions represent less than 12% of us and the Country is not doing so well. The middle class is struggling. The U. S. A. has a consumer driven economy and without a working middle class the consumer has no money. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone speaking for you in Washington D. C.? Wouldn’t it be good for the economy to have a strong middle class?

When the middle class was strong America was strong.

Germany has strong unions and they are doing well. In 2010 Germany’s 2.2% growth helped the euro zone outpace the United States. Germany is the fifth largest economy in the world and the largest in Europe and prides itself on its highly skilled labor force. Germany has strong Labor Unions, a strong green economy, strong public education, strong social security and unemployment benefits and a trade surplus. They also have higher income taxes than the United States.

They have strong unions representing working people and creating a strong middle class. Here in the good old U.S.A. we blame Unions and workers for our problems. Union busting is good for corporations and bad for you and me. It is also good for governments who don’t want to tax the few that have most of the wealth.

Corporations are profit centers and workers are a cost.

I have no idea how many CEO’s have received a big bonus for cutting costs by laying off workers. By cutting costs, profits go up. Profits also go up when they hire cheaper labor overseas. Profits also go up when they lobby congress for tax breaks. Profits also go up when they keep profits off shore so they don’t pay U.S. income taxes. You and I get less jobs and lower pay because we can’t compete with the children and low wage earners in China and Brazil and India and all the other countries where American Corporations create jobs.

Corporations can afford lobbyist you and I can’t.

Lobbyists represent corporations in our State capitols and in Washington D.C. They have access to our elected officials because their clients donate large amounts of money to the elected officials for re-election campaigns. You don’t have a lobbyist. You don’t have that access. You don’t get that kind of representation. It is a wonderful world when you have access to legislators who want to make you happy.

As of June 2011, American Corporations have one and one half trillion dollars in cash. That buys a lot of lobbyists. How many lobbyists do you have?

Labor Unions are the only organizations that solely represents working people.

Labor Unions only represent working people. Part of your union dues pays for someone to lobby elected officials on your behalf. Corporations don’t like this because they want to keep as much money as possible for themselves. They don’t want you to have higher wages, or better benefits, or more unemployment, or better workers compensation. Union lobbyist argues for you, the working majority. They are your voice, the voice of the middle class. They argue against eliminating or reducing Social Security and Medicare and unemployment and workers compensation. They work for you.

Since Unions are not nearly as strong as they once were, your voice has weakened. You can see the result of that in our economy. Those who have a voice are doing well. The rest of are paying the price.

You should also know that there is a huge amount of money spent by Corporations to convince you that Labor Unions are not good for you. They have been very successful. Search the AFLCIO website and get a feel for what Labor Unions are trying to accomplish for you. I think you will be happily surprised. I know you will be better informed.

Unions favor people over money. Most corporations favor money over people.


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    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 9 months ago from Florida

      You are right, We are a downhill ride with the new administration. We need to elect politicians that care about the working class.

    • Angel Guzman profile image

      Angel Guzman 9 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

      We are in for a very scary ride with this new administration.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 2 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Companies developed "great benefits" WWII to the late 1970s, but they have been declining since. Notably defined benefit pensions in the private sector have all but disappeared. 401k plans partially replace traditional pension plans, but the regulations are in need of revision to increase participation and reduce administration costs.

    • profile image

      Elias Rufus 3 years ago

      I'm glad that you bring up the importance of a strong middle class. These unions are mostly there to support this class. I've noticed that the decrease of unions has lowered the amount of people within this class. Sometimes unions are the best, or even only method to ensure the safety and fair treatment of employees.

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 3 years ago

      When you consider how many people struggled and died over how many years to bring workers representation- merely a voice at the bargaining tables- it is sad how easily Americans will give up on Unions.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 5 years ago from Florida

      FSlovenec, Without unions workers have no voice at the table. CEO's have a contract with there employer, working people need one too.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Hostess out of business today 18,500 jobs lost...they could not settle the strike...Unions are way pas their value. Today 70% of union workers are government employees..event he socialist Franklin D Roosevelt said public employees should not be able to unionize...this might be your #6 reason... "thins out the Union workforce" all good.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 5 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      The Teamsters under Jimmy Hoffa, sr. was corrupt, but there has never been a significant instance of corruption in the UAW nor in most other major unions. Walter Reuther was one of the smartest and most honest union leaders in American labor history. His successor, Leonard Woodcock was named ambassador to China when he retired from the UAW. (There has been corruption in some of the unions in NYC and on the west coast.) It's true that some unions are more effective in representing there members than others who have a reputation for taking the dues and not doing as much as they should for their members. WRT, Teamsters corruption--Jimmy Carter took the wind out of the sails of the Teamsters when he de-regulated inter-state trucking.

    • HoneyBB profile image

      Helen Laxner 5 years ago from Illinois

      Excellent hub! I just wrote a pro union hub myself and I found out a lot more from yours than I had found through research. Thanks for sharing. Voted++++

    • grumpiornot profile image

      grumpiornot 5 years ago from South Africa

      Great hub! I have a few thoughts for readers to consider, bearing in mind that I write this from South Africa, where unions have become a terrible limitation to employment.

      Unions can quickly become too powerful and unnecessarily throw their weight around. Unionised labour is strongly allied with government and our legislation is accordingly designed to accommodate those unions. Simply put, if government does not agree with labour, millions of workers are mobilised to vote the ruling party out of power.

      However, unions here consistently encourage their workers to make unrealistic demands e.g. wage increases double inflation actual inflation. This discourages employers from hiring and leads to enormous antagonism against workers.

      Unions are good for the underdog worker fighting against huge employers laying off staff during recession. But too much power is undesirable and stifles employment growth.

      Food for thought.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida


      I do not know of an organization run by humans that does not have some faults. Most organizations outlive their usefulness. I also do not know of an organization that soley represents working people except Labor Unions. Working people need representation, we need it badly. We need Unions even with their faults.

      I was a Union Rep for years and without a successful Company we don't have workers to represent so we really do want the company to suceed. But, like the company executives, we are also human.

    • RetailRich profile image

      RetailRich 6 years ago

      I agree with most of what you said. I grew up in a Teamster Union Family. However, even my own union dues paying dad, told me that unions abuse their power, just as large companies can sometimes do. He watched totally lazy people with poor attitudes get by with their unproductive ways on a constant basis, and who stood by them at all costs and all reason----the union. The union in general does not seem to be interested in the final product or the health of the business. In fact, for decades many of them hafve helped protect the unproductive! Stories like this is also where unions lost a lot of the American people. Powerful and corrupt union bosses are no different than the large corporate counterparts except that they don't produce a thing.

      The one thing I do buy into, is that the mere threat of having a union keeps many, many employers more honest in what they do to their employees. Pepsi Cola employees have benefited for decades from the fact that Coca-Cola employees were unionized. The threat always helped lift their benefits, just from the mere threat of possibly goining union!

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      gswags,I have to agree with you, we disagree.

    • profile image

      gswags 6 years ago

      I have to respectfully disagree with all of your premises. First is your comment that when the Labor Unions were strong the Middle Class was strong. While this may be considered true it does not mean that the labor unions were responsible for making the middle class strong. Large Corporations were also strong, does that mean we had a strong middle class because large corporations were strong. Both have lost steam and in reality there are other real reasons why the middle class has been hurt. It is the middle class excessive spending through debt, it is the lousy housing market, and I could go on and on. The weaker union is the result of greed at the top of the union leadership along with corruption.

      When the middle class is strong, America is strong. Another accurate statement but this was not attributable to the unions. It was all workers who had pride in their work and who spent only money they had. When we budget and spend wisely we are so much stronger. When we invest we are stronger. Today we have the I need this now desire so debt skyrocketed. We bought houses we could not afford and we began relying on the governement to bail us out. This is true for individuals, corporations, and unions. This is a more logical reason for the weakening middle class.

      Corpoations are in fact profit centers which is the reason a business starts. However I disagree that workers are a cost. As an accountant I would classify a worker as an investment. When a worker is hired they are expected to provide a return greater than their cost. If I purchase steel my expectation is to turn that into something that costs more than the price of the steel. If not I am wasting my time and effort. This is economics in the basics. A business invests in its workforce to make money, the better they perform the better I do. Therefore they are an investment.

      When you say corporations can afford lobbyists but you can't. This is again not completely accurate. Corporations in most cases hire lobbyists for reasons beyond their employees. There are regulation controls, foreign competition and fairness, it may be regarding raw material purchases. I don't know the percentage but lobbying against its employees is probably a minimal part of this expense.

      Labor Unions are the only organizations that solely represents working people. This is an absurd statement. You contradict yourself by saying only 12% are represented today. This means 88% of the people have no voice? What about state agencies for worker's compensation, OSHA, job and family services departments in most states, colleges, high schools, other government agencies, and other private organizations.

      The one point you did not mention is that today most government workers and especially teachers are represented by unions. Why is this? Government agencies have no profit motive and our politicians should be held accountable for safe working conditions. Unions should not be involved with these employees but have taken advantage of the government the psst 30 years. Our government costs are out of control at the local level and it is because the unions have taken advantage of the taxpayer. It is time for you to rethink your position and look at the fall of the middle class as something the union has helped to happen.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Sembj, You are so correct. When the IBEW was formed in the late 1891, 50% of the linemen died on the job each year. That was an exceptable loss to the corporations. Right now we are going backwards to that type of standard. Only the workers are mostly overseas.

    • Sembj profile image

      Sembj 6 years ago

      Great Hub! Corporations had a history of exploiting people terribly prior to the unions. Admittedly there were always a few enlightened employers but they were very few - corporations were rarely known for their generosity to their employees! Generally large corporations and employers are in the business of making money and only ascribe to any form of morality as a public relations gesture. Mining and many other industries were horribly exploitative and had little regard for the safety of their workers since looking after such concerns ate into the profits.

      It is worrying that the propaganda of the right seem to have done a good job of demonizing a movement that helped make America strong.

      Good work brother.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Ralph, I learned two things working as a Union Representative. Unions need to get back to their roots and working people need a voice. I think unions can change. The AFLCIO is as good as it has been in 20 years. The key to union strength is organizing and Obama let us down on that one. America needs a strong middle class. American workers need representation in the political process. What happened in Wisconsin will be the beginning or maybe the end of the American middle class depending on how unions and working people respond.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      The Koch brothers and other "forces of evil" are trying to do away with unions so they must be okay. I spent 34 years bargaining with the UAW, and I have great respect for that union because it was a strong representative of its members and none of its officers were involved in the scandals that characterized the Teamsters under Jimmy Hoffa and several other unions.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Will, What I saw were unions acting like corporations. To unions, members are income and taking care of members is an expense. They took the money and didn't do their job. That was at the highest levels. The union local I worked for tried hard to represent the members. The national union lost site of the members.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      You're ignoring the union corruption, graft, and greed that caused their demise.

      That's why I said unions must now regain the respectability they once had. Their demise was self-inflicted, and I think you know it.

      The Wisconsin government unions were bankrupting Wisconsin, and that is a mathematical fact. Until unions concede that they can no longer have it all, they will have nothing.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Business does create jobs but they don't share very well. There would not be a need for unions if all workers were treated fairly. There wouldn't be a need for laws protecting workers if they were treated fairly. Blaming a politian is like trying to pick up a slug. They slip away and leave slime behind.

      If workers don't stand up for themselves this country is going down. What the politicians did in Wisconsin is not the answer. Working people are not the problem! Lack of representation for the majority of Americans is the problem. I am tired of do nothing politicians who can only sing corporate songs. Where is Woody Guthrie?

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 6 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      I love it when Will put's it all out there with plain old common sense!!

      I agree with him and I too have witnessed corruption by the Unions and literally ruin one of the most productive Auto Industry cities in this nation...all due to greed.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Jobs are created by business, but business in the US is hampered by the hostile environment created by the left.

      Like it or not, jobs come from successful people, and we have placed such heavy tax and regulatory burdens on them that many have moved their operations overseas in order to compete with businesses from other countries.

      Unions need to take a good look at whether they aid or hinder business. Giving the employer a fair day's work for a fair day's wage is good for both sides, but when unions become too powerful and too greedy, we start to see rules that slow down work, and create costs that make business unprofitable. That too drives companies out of the country. Just look at California.

      There are two sides to the coin, GNelson, and I've been on both sides. 'Greed' is a term that is almost always applied to the employer, but 'greed' is the reason unions are dying out in the US. Today, most unions are in government, where there is a greedy, incestuous relationship between labor and their Democrat politician employers! That's exactly what was going on in Wisconsin, and that's why it was finally abolished.

      Just look at the relationship between SEIU and Obama. Obama worked closely with ACORN, and was even their lawyer in Chicago. SEIU was very instrumental in Obama's election, and both ACORN and SEIU were created by the same man! That sort of sleazy, near criminal activity, makes unions look very bad, and that too is killing union membership in the US.

      My whole family was proud union, but none of the next generation is union. What does that tell you?

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      feenix, I see the same thing and feel strongly it doesn't have to be that way. We need Americans to pull together and we are not doing that. Our so called leaders are not leading. It is much more important to create jobs than to make a political statement. I am tried of the posturing and name calling. I want solutions or I want them out. The middle class needs a voice and unions are all they have right now. Either use unions or find another way to speak but we need our voice heard. WE need jobs; only then will the consumer come back. I would think that ever Wachington D.C. could understand that.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 years ago

      Hello, GNelson,

      In my opinion, things don't look too good. Because the middle-class is shrinking rapidly, the country is quickly turning into a place in which there will only be the rich and the poor, or the haves and the have nots.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks feenix, I appreciate the comment. I don't know how all this will play out but I do know without a healthy middle class we all lose.

    • feenix profile image

      feenix 6 years ago

      Hello, GNelson,

      This is a very informative and enlightening hub. And it served to provide me with some new insights into the need for workers' unions.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      I agree with one of your points. Labor unions are almost gone. I am more concerned with the future of the working middle class. They are a large and powerful group and need to speak with one voice the issues that concern them, like work place safety. If I knew the answer I would say it, I just know there is a void.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      As I said, unions cut their own throat when they turned away from a legitimate brotherhood, dedicated to providing skilled labor for a decent wage and conditions, and allowed greed and corruption to replace that noble goal.

      Now we have to earn the respect of the public all over again. We can begin by distancing ourselves from unskilled, corrupt, politically oriented unions like SEIU.

      I remember the days when my father, uncle, and grandfather proudly marched in the Labor Day parade, dressed in their working uniforms, along with trade-dressed painters, carpenters, electricians, etc.

      All that is long gone, and trade unions are almost gone too. That demise can be laid directly at the feet of corruption, greed, and far-left political ties.

      BTW, union labor is also being rapidly replaced by illegal alien labor! Thank Democrats for that.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida


      You mostly hit the nail on the head with that comment but who is spesking for the working guy? We need representation and the only way to get it right now is buy it. Unions could do that if they get their act together.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      My grandfather was an original trade union organizer, and many in my family were trade union members, and yes, they fought for decent wages, 40 hour workweeks, and safety. In return, the union members provided highly skilled union labor, and trained new apprentices. Most trade union workers wore that trade's uniform, and took great pride in their skill and output.

      But, as always, greed raised its ugly head, and the unions became filled with corruption, leading to close associations with the crime underworld, and political bosses. Unions elected bosses with bad reputations, like Jimmy Hoffa, and started sending contractors the slugs and dregs, demanding that they too be hired, along with the good hands.

      Today, only a tiny percentage of American labor is unionized. Most union employees are now government, and union thugs like SEIU are enforcers for the likes of Barack Obama and the Democrats.

      The unions cut their own throats when they exchanged union skills and pride for corruption and greed.

      I know that for a fact, because I too was a long time union member. I even wrote a song about my father's union days:

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      Perer, I was never popular. Always took the underdogs side. Now the middle class is the underdog, just remember underdogs can bite. They will when they are pushed too far. Corporations want personhood except when it comes time to be socially responsible like paying taxes. Taxes are another expense to be cut.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      HSchneider, Unions did agreat job getting laws passed to protect workers, OSHA is probebly the most important but there were many more. Unions did a poor job of changing as the workforce went from manufacturing to the so called service economy we are in now. Those of us who don't own companies need to wake up to the new reality and start organizing again.

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      GNelson it has not been a very popular stand lately to support the unions, I grew up with unions in Detroit. Without them this world would be a different place, kind of like what we're headed to right now. Corporations are not "people"!! They never were and never will be no matter what Mitt and the Supreme Court Jesters say. Their only motivation and reward is MONEY, not people. This HUB is more true than you will ever know. The working people of the country need someone to speak for them in Washington because everyone there is practically owned by the Corporations, and not the little corporations the BIG ones. The unions still work for the working people, support them in their goals, Thanks,


    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub GNelson. The need for unions has declined over the years because most companies developed great benefits due to the threat of unionization. The working class is now under attack by corporations. Thus we need the unions to rise again. Maybe more than ever to check this insidious political power that they have developed.


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