Harold Meyerson on inequality in the wake of the UAW defeat in Tennessee:
Between 1947 and 1973 — roughly the one period of union strength in U.S. history — productivity increased by 97 percent and workers’ compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) by 95 percent. Since 1973, however, as unions have weakened, productivity has increased by 80 percent and compensation by just 11 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
If no longer to workers, where have those gains from productivity gone? According to economists Robert Gordon and Ian Dew-Becker, they have gone entirely to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans — increasingly in the form of capital gains and dividends. Wages today account for the lowest share of the nation’s economy, and profits the highest, since World War II.
The conventional wisdom among critics of unions is that the decline in workers’ income is their own fault. Today’s workers, we’re told, lack the skills to compete in the harsh new economy. But with all the gains in productivity accruing to the top 10 percent, and with most of those gains coming in capital rather than labor income, it’s unlikely that schooling explains all this inequality.
Read the op-ed at the Washington Post.