Fox News continued its assault on the labor movement during a Cashin' In panel discussion that characterized unions as parasitic “vestigial” lobbying organizations that do nothing for their members and harm the economy. As evidence of their claims, the panel referenced a decades-long decline in union membership, but ignored the sustained political assault behind the drop as well as the empirically established economic benefits of a robust labor movement.
On the September 14 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling introduced a segment about union membership drives and protests taking place this month, asking whether the effort was “bad for workers.”
Fox regular Jonathan Hoenig explained that the membership drive was necessary, because unions are “parasites” that “need new blood.”
Guest Sabrina Schaeffer complained that unions are “no longer representing workers. They're representing political views.” She added that labor unions provide “very, very little” to their members.
Fox guest Wayne Rogers argued that unions are “vestigial,” saying, “They're not doing anything for the worker.”
The panel blamed unionized workers for the demise of Hostess, the textile industry, and the health of the overall economy while gloating that union membership has reached a 40 year low.
Bolling's panel was content to dedicate their airtime to glib metaphors and baseless attacks, ignoring a more substantive discussion on the reasons for declining union membership and the benefits that organized labor provide to union worker, non-union workers, and the economy as a whole.
A decline in union membership cannot be attributed to unions' failure to provide their members with benefits. In fact, surveys indicate the desire to join a union has been growing since the 1980s. Unions are in decline in part because of an ongoing campaign from the political right that has resulted in legislation at state and federal levels making it more and more difficult to engage in the unionization process. So-called “right-to-work” laws pushed in several states by the likes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and conservative billionaire Charles Koch have “blindsided” the labor movement and resulted in precipitous declines in those states. And U.S. law places significant obstacles in the way of workers attempting to unionize.
Unions provide significant benefits to workers, and a strong union base is also healthy for the American economy overall. According to the Economic Policy Institute, unionized workers make 13.6 percent more in wages than non-union counterparts and are 53.9 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions. Others have pointed out that “unions restore demand” to the economy by raising wages and “putting more purchasing power to work.”
Most striking, however, is the impact of unionization on income inequality, especially when looking at the racial wage gap in America. Meredith Kleykamp and Jake Rosenfeld, professors of sociology at the University of Maryland and the University of Washington, completed a study which found the following:
• Had union membership rates for women remained at late-1970s levels, racial wage inequality among women in private sector jobs today would be reduced by as much as 30%.
• If rates of union membership among African American men working in the private sector were as high today as in the early 1970s, weekly wages would now be about $50 higher. For a full-time worker, that translates to an income increase of $2,600 a year. Regardless of race, all male workers have lost ground in the private sector as unions have declined.
Unsurprisingly, Fox's pundits ignored this reality, content instead to perpetuate their longtime assault on organized labor.