Study Labels Collective Bargaining as Key to ‘Prosperity Economics’

 

September 2012

 

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A new report from Yale University identifies collective bargaining and other rights associated with union representation as crucial components of rebuilding an economy that benefits America’s working families.

 

Professor Jacob Hacker and Nathaniel Loewentheil of Yale released their paper titled “Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All” during a July 31 event hosted by the respected, non-partisan think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, D.C. They were joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and officials from the EPI, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Community Change, and other civic-minded organizations.

 

Drawing on recent economic research, lessons from American history, and the success stories of other nations, Hacker and Loewentheil (a graduate student at Yale Law School) argue that the only path to sustainable, long-term growth is through an economy in which the benefits of growth are broadly shared. Prosperity economics depends on what they call the three pillars of prosperity: growth, security and democracy.

 

“To achieve an economy that works for all Americans, we must focus on innovation-led growth grounded in job creation and public investment; security for workers and their families; and an accountable, effective democracy,” said Hacker. “Together, these three pillars will strengthen the middle class and drive our economy forward.”

 

“Prosperity economics, as an integrated set of policies, offers a light at the end of the long economic tunnel of a generation of stagnant wages and financial crises,” said Trumka at the briefing. “Prosperity economics means jobs, it means investment and it means growth.”

 

The 84-page report features numerous specific recommendations for economic growth. They include “ensuring decent wages and job quality by guaranteeing that workers have the right to form unions and to collectively bargain…. Guarantee every worker has a voice in the workplace, including a quick, fair process for workers to choose union representation and have the power to bargain collectively. Enforce stronger penalties on companies that violate labor laws.”

 

The authors also noted, “Corporate power is not reigned in simply by empowering shareholders. Democracy also requires a counterweight to corporate power. Strong unions and community organizations are needed to ensure that workers, and the public more broadly, have an organized voice in our political process.”

 

Other recommendations contained in the report include “investing $250 billion per year for the next six years to rebuild our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, ports, airports and public transportation systems; restoring America’s manufacturing base by ending the trade deficit and tax incentives for offshoring; providing help to states and localities to hire back teachers, first responders and other public servants; (and) freeing government from corporate interests by reinstating the firewalls between investment and banking.”

 

The report features many additional suggested steps for “investing in people and productivity that will lead to good jobs and rising wages.”

 

The executive director of the Center for Community Change, Deepak Bhargava, stated, “The Great Recession shows us that when an economy is built on unequal policies, everyone loses. Prosperity economics increases revenue and growth and addresses the vast inequality and plummeting living standards that failed conservative economic policies have created.”

 

“Hacker and Loewentheil have created a serious, economically sound plan that meets the challenges facing America’s working people, specifically job creation and better job quality, the key elements of an economy that works for everyone,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the EPI.

 

One day after the Yale study was announced, the AFL-CIO Executive Council (on which SIU President Michael Sacco serves) approved a statement that read in part: “Our history and the experience of working people around the world tells us that only when workers have the right to organize and collectively bargain do societies enjoy shared, sustainable prosperity. America desperately needs a reinvigorated middle class, and an economy where dignity and opportunity are rights shared by all and where workers are our economy’s most valuable assets. But this vision will remain unfulfilled so long as the right to organize and bargain collectively remains an empty promise for most American workers. We know from our history and from the example of other countries that without strong unions, shared prosperity will remain out of reach.

 

“This is why Yale Professor Jacob Hacker’s blueprint titled ‘Prosperity Economics’ is so important,” the council’s statement continued. “Professor Hacker has proposed a comprehensive vision for our nation’s economic future—and he understands that for the vision to become reality, workers must be able to organize and bargain collectively. As Professor Hacker states, ‘Restoring the middle class means reversing the disconnect between wages and productivity, which means giving workers power to collectively negotiate for better terms of employment and a larger share of the rewards of growth.’ Shared prosperity requires policies that create good jobs and growth, provide families with economic security and restore democracy both in the public square and in the workplace. Shared prosperity also requires policies that promote collective bargaining as Congress recognized in the preamble to the National Labor Relations Act.”

 

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