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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

December 12, 2012 at 9:53 AM

The right to work (for a lot less)

It’s a good thing that Michigan is reining in unions considering that they pocketed trillions in profits making dodgy loans and derivative swindles, while paying huge compensation to their leaders, on the way to propelling the world economy into the Great Recession… Oh, wait. That was the banksters, who got away with it and are back to the same hustles as before.

In fact, one can draw a precise connection between the decline of unions and the diminishing fortunes of the middle class and dramatic rise in inequality. Fast food is one good “right-to-work” field that has added jobs at more than twice the U.S. average since the recovery began. Many more older workers are left with no option but to take such low-wage work. A Bloomberg analysis of these jobs paints a bleak picture.

The pay gap separating fast-food workers from their chief executive officers is growing at each of those companies. The disparity has doubled at McDonald’s Corp. in the last 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At the same time, the company helped pay for lobbying against minimum-wage increases and sought to quash the kind of unionization efforts that erupted recently on the streets of Chicago and New York.

Bloomberg profiles one man, who like millions of others in poorly-paid, dead-end “right to work” service positions, must work two jobs just to get by at $8.25 an hour. He “would need about a million hours of work — or more than a century on the clock — to earn the $8.75 million that McDonald’s, based in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, paid then- CEO Jim Skinner last year.”

In the America that was, unions played a critical role in the delicate balance that created widely shared prosperity and opportunity. Both unions and big business had their flaws and moments of over-reaching, but big business got even bigger, crowding out, killing off and buying competitors in numerous industries, and tilting the field against new competition, effective regulation and workers. As a result, ALEC, backed by consolidated industries, quasi-monopolies and cartels, writes bills such as the one passed in Michigan. And average Americans keep seeing their wealth erode and their economic mobility stymied. The echo chamber that controls much of the media has convinced millions that this is because of “union thugs.” It’s because of thugs all right, but not unions.

And Don’t Miss: The smartest and dumbest things Microsoft did in 2012 || Kotaku

Today’s Econ Haiku:

On this day of twelves

Twelve big bankers in prison?

Dozens of slapped wrists

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