Center for American Progress

Stronger Unions Needed to Sustain Recent Middle-Class Gains

Stronger Unions Needed to Sustain Recent Middle-Class Gains

New census data show income growth for middle-class households. More worker power can help continue those gains.

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that typical American households are finally seeing their incomes grow since the recession. The median household income jumped from $53,718 in 2014 to $56,516 in 2015, an increase of 5.2 percent. Notably, gains in income were broadly shared in 2015, with lower- and middle-income families seeing faster gains than the rich. However, there is much ground to make up: The share of national income accruing to the middle class remains near record lows.

Unions can help rebuild the middle class. When working people join together in unions, they are better able to secure a fair share of income. Unfortunately, the proportion of American workers joined in unions has declined dramatically over recent decades. In 2015, a little more than 11 percent of U.S. workers were union members, the lowest share since the passage of the landmark National Labor Relations Act in 1935. Without strong unions, workers lose power in the workplace and in the political realm, weakening their ability to negotiate for higher wages and beneficial public policies for the middle class.

The above excerpt was originally published in CAP Action. Click here to view the full article.

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Alex Rowell

Policy Analyst

David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project