Election year bluster aside, manufacturing jobs are not coming back. The coal industry is not the future of the American economy.
The future of the American labor force is in the service sector. Look at the above graph from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Total manufacturing jobs have stayed level for three decades now. The major growth in the labor market comes from service industries … which presents a bit of a problem.
In the past, manufacturing jobs were were expected to be quality blue-collar jobs for men and women working to support a family. Muscle jobs needed to pay the bills and put the kids through college. Restaurant and service industry jobs were supplemental income, a stop on the way to something more substantial. Well, it’s time to admit that something more substantial isn’t coming. These service jobs are the jobs our economy is creating. In terms of goods and services, our economy needs labor to produce fewer goods and more services. These jobs need to pay the bills and put the kids through college.
As the service economy picks up, it’s time for service labor to get organized.
Labor unions have never been more important, and the general public seems to be catching on. A recent Gallup poll puts organized labor’s approval rating at 61% – up from 48% pre-Obama era. Even among Republicans support for labor unions has jumped from 26% in 2011, to 42% today. Here’s why.
Part of the reason CEO pay has grown 90 times faster than typical worker pay since 1980 is that the typical service sector worker no longer belongs to a union. It’s no surprise that the world’s 8 richest men hold more wealth than half the world’s population put together, or that one out of every 1000 households have their hands on 90% of the wealth. All the power and the money is controlled by the top 1% (more accurately the top .001%).
The only way to counteract this kind of lopsided power structure is through strong labor unions.
I know. The political right-wing has done a great job of denigrating labor unions for decades. We hear the phrase and immediately think of Jimmy Hoffa and mobsters in cheesy Italian suits. But, let’s not baptize Wall Street CEOs and corporate boards as the last bastions of virtue. These are the guys who brought us Enron and the financial collapse of 2008. They got a 2 trillion dollar bailout to solve a problem their unfettered power caused in the first place. Yes, there’s a history of corruption in labor unions. But at least with organized labor in the industrial economy it was a fair fight.
Management v. Labor needs to become a fair fight again.
Service industry jobs need to provide a living wage. This is a moral and spiritual issue for our society. When all of the power and money is held by those at the top of the corporate ladder, labor must organize in order to balance things out. It’s time for the service economy to get organized. If they don’t, then corporate corruption will continue unchecked.