White-collar workers who face greater job insecurity, worsening wages and benefits, and diminished control of their jobs and influence with management will be the “next wave of union protesters,” according to a recent article from the Los Angeles Times. It is yet to be seen whether this mass movement of white-collar unionization will materialize, but the problems of the lawyers, judges and insurance agents profiled in the article echo many of reasons why WGAE members say they need the Guild in order to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.
A new video series from the Center for American Progress Action Fund demonstrates what union membership means for white-collar workers by profiling two WGAE members, writer Susan Kim and Vice President Jeremy Pikser.
We are all dealing with health issues, with family issues, with trying to save money for our retirement, with trying to save money when the job market gets really terrible and all the things the Guild does very much addresses these things. It draws a line in the sand so that everything we fought for over the years doesn’t get rolled back every time an individual needs to re-up a contract, because you have more power when you are bargaining collectively.
Unfortunately, union membership rates are at record lows—largely because the legal and political environment prevents workers from freely exercising their right to join a union. As unions have become weaker over the past four decades, the middle class has suffered, with the share of income going to the middle class falling along with the percentage of workers in unions.
Critics of unions like to argue that unions are a relic of the past and largely irrelevant in today’s economy. Still, last year, more than 14 million American workers exercised their right to participate in a union, thereby allowing them to maintain a middle-class lifestyle—that is, 14 million Americans used their collective voice to ensure that they are paid fair wages and benefits, receive the training they need to advance and are considered in corporate decision-making processes.
And increasingly, unions are helping workers respond to the shifting economy by organizing in growing sectors of the economy—including both professional workers and low-wage, service workers—and helping workers with non-traditional employment relationships, such as freelancers and independent contractors, win important benefits.