Writings and observations

Union of last resort?

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This year’s legislature has been good to lower paid workers.

Sick leave? check.

Enhanced retirement options for workers who don’t have retirement plan through work? Almost check.

And now Democratic House leaders are introducing a bill that will increase the minimum wage incrementally to $13.00 hour by 2018. (inevitable check)

And lets not forget the Affordable Care Act, assuring that low income workers are able to afford health insurance.

With this increases in minimum wage, paid sick leave, more retirement options, and health insurance guaranteed, the State of Oregon, along with the feds who are supplying the subsidies for health insurance, have “negotiated” some pretty solid contracts with America’s workers.

The 2014 union rate for the US was 11.1%. In Oregon it was quite a bit better at 15.6%. But still…..15.6% is pretty low historically.

Is there correlation between the shift of income from the middle to the top a and the shift of power between capital and labor because of the reduction in the power of private labor unions? And if so, will the enhanced employment requirements passed by the State Legislature help boost the middle class workers situation? Or will the enhanced benefits required by law now remove the reason for lower income workplaces unionize in the first place?

It’s an interesting development, Oregon State is legislating compensation packages for lower paid workers that are substantially better than the typical compensation packages available in other States. It’s acting like a union of last resort. The consequences could be positive – historically higher unionization meant more for the middle class. And it’s certainly better for the lower paid worker. More income to spend in the community. Better protections for workers. Healthier workforce. More incentive to work and save for retirement.

Or could it backfire? Perhaps, besides the obvious danger of a loss of jobs as employers find ways to trim operating expenses, it could also mean that the lower paid less skilled workforce, the one that could arguably benefit most from a strong private union, no longer has a reason to unionize. Of course, unions had been struggling to unionize low wage workers for some time.

Now, if we can just elect some responsible “union” leaders in 2016.

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