Center for American Progress

Unions Play a Major Role in Helping America’s Middle Class

Unions Play a Major Role in Helping America’s Middle Class

David Madland and Divya Vijay argue that encouraging union membership is essential to supporting middle-class workers.

Unions play a significant role in addressing income inequality and creating a more equitable and democratic economy. As membership in unions in America has declined over recent decades, the wages and welfare of workers and America’s middle class have suffered. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show a steady decline in the middle class’ overall share of income, paralleled by a significant decline in union membership. (see Figure 1) Compared with 1967, when 28.3 percent of American workers belonged to a union and 52.3 percent of national income went to middle-class households, in 2019, only 10.4 percent of workers belonged to a union and the middle class’ share of national income dropped to 45.1 percent. As families and workers have struggled to make ends meet during an unprecedented pandemic-induced recession, American billionaires have increased their wealth by $637 billion. Encouraging union membership and strengthening collective bargaining would play a major role in supporting the middle class.

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

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Divya Vijay

Special Assistant