Unions Are Necessary to Rebuilding Our Middle Class

In this May 20, 2011, file photo taken in Salem, Oregon, Cathy Williams, center, of Portland, stands with thousands of state workers gathered at the Oregon Capitol. Oregon is one of the top states in the country when it comes to union membership, with more people joining unions there each year.

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Last year the middle class received the smallest share of the nation’s income since these data were first reported, according to U.S. Census Bureau numbers released today. The middle 60 percent of households received only 45.7 percent of the nation’s income in 2011, down from the historical peak of 53.2 percent in 1968.

The declining share of income received by the nation’s middle class has been driven by stagnant incomes for middle-class earners coupled with rapidly rising incomes for the highest earners. It’s a major shift brought about by many factors—factors that have either led to slower growing middle-class incomes, such as increased globalization, and factors that increase the pay of those at the top, such as the increasing financial benefit of a college education.

And then there is another often overlooked dynamic: the decline of labor unions.

Read the full column (CAP Action)