Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Putting Class Warfare in Context

Context is often the first victim of activism — a truism I’ve picked up from this blog. One of our goals at the Center for Union Facts is to put the context back into any debate where isolated facts are held out with no regard for the larger picture.

Case in point: the report released late last month by the lefty Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which decries the current share of national income going towards corporate profits, as compared to the share going towards employee wages and salaries. (Naturally, the AFL-CIO blog jumped on this report like a dog on a dropped hamburger.)

It’s not very hard to put the context back into this picture, since the CBPP provides all the necessary tools. In trying to make things look positively awful for American employees (from the way they’re presenting things, you’d think Cornelius Vanderbilt was coming back from the dead to feast on the souls of the working class), the CBPP also publishes two telling facts: in 2006 employee compensation was 64% of national income and corporate profit was 13.8%.

What this means is that even if you took every last dollar of profit and redistributed it into wages and benefits, it would amount to a 21.6% hike across the board.

And then the economy would collapse, because no sane businessman will stay open (and thus provide jobs) if he’s forbidden to make money.

In the class warfare rhetoric so frequently employed by labor union leaders (the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, for example, has just called for a “maximum wage”), it’s assumed that “corporate America” is simply sitting on piles of money that it just won’t share. But the reality is more humble: unless more wealth is created, there really isn’t that much more to redistribute.

Categories: Teachers Unions