Harold Meyerson takes on the most common anti-union argument in the United States:
One of the most common arguments against unions is that they were necessary in the bad old days, when sweatshops abounded, wages were low, and the wage-and-hour legislation of the New Deal was yet to be enacted. They were needed in the pre-New Deal economy, but have been superfluous since. What the argument misses is that we’re now deep into a post-New Deal economy, and the low-wage work, wage theft, unpaid overtime and job insecurity—in the technical parlance of economists, the shit jobs—that abounded before the New Deal have returned in full force. Among the occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says will have the most job growth between 2010 and 2020 are cashiers (median annual wage as of 2010, $18,500; projected growth 250,000 new jobs), childcare workers ($19,300; 262,000 new jobs), home health and personal care aides (roughly $20,000; 1.3 million new jobs), food prep and fast-food workers ($17,950; 398,000 new jobs), and retail sales workers ($20,670; 707,000 new jobs). According to a paper from the National Employment Law Project [April 2012 Issue Brief, “Slower Real Growth, Declining Real Wages Undermine Recovery], 30 percent of this decade’s job openings will have a median wage around $20,000. According to a report issued earlier this month by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a survey of food workers—from farm workers to processing workers to kitchen workers to servers—found that just 13.5 percent made a wage that was at least 150 percent of the regional poverty threshold. And need I point out that the nation’s largest private-sector employer, with more than 1.4 million workers (excuse me, associates) based in the United States, is WalMart? And that many thousands more work in Wal-Mart’s low-wage supply chain, among them port truckers who struggle to break even and warehouse workers who make just over the minimum wage?
In short, shit jobs abound. The shit jobs that are often the only jobs that workers who’ve lost decent-paying jobs as American manufacturing can find.
Workers in shit jobs need unions—and most jobs in the United States are becoming shit jobs.