America’s economy seems to rebound with flourishing labor reports except for three types of forgotten workers-the underemployed, working poor and chronically unemployed. These workers are awash in the tide of anti-unionism and the Right to Work. The “jobs reports” from 2017 are disguised with high numbers but few details on the type
of work Americans are gaining. The only people this mask benefits are politicians. We, as the entire labor force of America, must support our brothers and sisters in every working class because we are the next targets.
The Rise of the Underemployed
What is underemployed? According to Investopedia underemployed are the highly skilled working low paying and low skilled work and the part-time workers actively seeking full-time employment. A prime example of high skilled workers taking lower skilled work are the oil field workers delivering pizza. As fracking increases away from the water drilled wells, many have lost employment. Their skills are transferable but are still unable to find work. A
prime example of forced part-timers are the full-time professors at state universities across America who have found themselves working as adjuncts. Either way these underemployed workers could add more to the economy if they were either in higher paid skill positions or working full-time. As Capitalism is a money machine, the wheels
will rust without enough oil.
Underemployed are hampered by ineffective promotion contracts and economic instability, both protections of a union. Union representation contractually protects workers to gain full-time employment and skill matching. A union has contractual obligations with several companies to maintain employment of workers laid off when subsidiaries are shut down. Steelworkers found many new jobs as they hopped from state to state as unions fought against global price gauging in the 1980’s. Part-time workers gain credence on a seniority list. As full-time positions open up they are filled with the part-timers looking for full-time work. Crossing guards are a prime example. In Chicago as full-time positions in traffic services open, the crossing guards and traffic aids desiring full-time employment are promoted by seniority in a union contract. An increase in unions is a decrease in underemployment.
Working Poor is Perplexing
How could anyone possibly be working and poor? Low wage work. Period. The Fightfor $15 is a perfect example of why workers need to increase their wages. Full-time wages as a fast food worker, cashier or apparel assistant is still far below poverty level. Since offshoring has decreased higher wage work for decades, adults are now the principal face of “teeny bopper” jobs. Adult breadwinners and heads of household are serving hamburgers and bagging
groceries. As the battle for increased minimum wages continues, 21 states still pay only $7.25 an hour. Unions are the backbone of the fight for increased wages, many funding the Fight for $15 campaigns.
Unions successfully increase wages and benefits detracting high social transfers from state and federal agencies. That’s a win-win for taxpayers. Unions obligate billion dollar corporations, like McDonald’s, to pay healthcare for workers creating a healthier America. Low wages have created the incredible wage and class gap of America. We must join unions to help these workers celebrate the real meaning of Labor Day-the working prosperity of America.
A Chronic Economic Cold
Just take a minute to Google “chronically unemployed”. Everything under the sun pops up except chronic unemployment. Long-term unemployment is the majority. Yet, chronic unemployment is different. These are the people bouncing from one job being offshored to another. They’re the small business workers jumping jobs as Big Box stores ruin the local main street shopping district. These tens of thousands of fellow Americans aren’t even mentioned in the papers or at the dinner table. They’re America’s drifters.
Chronic unemployment rates are hard to formalize as these workers will consistently find new employment, at great
lengths, and add to the job roll. Before they’re considered as one of the millions of “discouraged workers”
they will add to the economy in Las Vegas, L.A. or Bangor, Maine. They’re reminiscent of the Dust Bowl workers. Travelling to keep our economic wheel running. Unions work to create long term employment goals with small to big business. Unions have even been known to shut down some Big Box stores when they win union contracts.
When those businesses close, new jobs in small businesses return to a flourish. Unions create funding capabilities for businesses to remain open and economically secure through AFL-CIO grants. Unions create stability and long-term employment for workers.
Unions Are The Answer
As unions have declined so have workers lives. These three workers-underemployed, working
poor and chronically unemployed-have become most of our workforce. In the 1950s-1970’s union workers were 1 in 3 of workers. Our Labor Days of the past shut down entire towns and small cities as work forces vacationed on their paid days off. The job rolls hide these three workers which hides our economic instability. If anyone is going to make America great again, it will be unions.