David Rolf is president of an SEIU local in Seattle and an architect of SEIU’s home-care worker organizing campaigns.
The old model of collective bargaining can’t be resurrected. Herewith, some new models of how workers can win and wield power.David RolfApr 18, 2016
This article appears in the Spring 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine . Subscribe here . Between the 1930s and the 1970s, unions and collective bargaining helped to power the creation of America’s vast middle class. Unions smoothed the distribution of wealth over the entire economy, constraining the percentage of wealth and income concentrated at the top of the economy while lifting up the bottom and the middle. But union strength has been on the wane since the 1950s and, beginning in the 1980s, suffered a catastrophic free fall in the private sector that continues to this day. The ability to form a union and bargain collectively is inaccessible to more than 93 percent of private-sector workers—a major reason why working people have experienced 40 years of wage stagnation even as the economy grew and the rich got richer. Most progressive economists, scholars, think tank analysts, and centrist or left-of-center politicians in the United States agree: The scale has...
David RolfDec 12, 2012
This piece is part of the Prospect' s series on progressives' strategy over the next 40 years. To read the introduction, click here . The crisis facing workers in the United States began decades before 2007’s recession, and that crisis is inextricably linked to the decline of the labor movement. America’s workers are the world’s most productive. They work harder and longer than workers in any other industrialized nation. Yet two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. It hasn’t always been this way. Between 1935 and the mid-1970s millions of workers joined the middle class, and our nation’s tremendous economic gains were shared almost equally among workers in every income group. This shared prosperity was made possible, in large part, by America’s industrial labor unions and the particular model of worker organization enshrined in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). But the world in which unions grew and thrived has disappeared. Our...