Black Workers Could Save Dying Unions

The South might be the perfect place for unions and black workers to save each other.

Black workers and unions in the south could help one another, says Marc Bayard, director of the Black Worker Initiative at the Institute for Policy Studies.
National Journal
J. Weston Phippen
Add to Briefcase
J. Weston Phippen
June 5, 2015, 12:12 p.m.

As the coun­try ad­ded 280,000 jobs in May, un­em­ploy­ment re­mained un­changed this month, though it was down al­most a full point since last year. Over­all, black work­ers had seen con­sec­ut­ive months of fall­ing un­em­ploy­ment, drop­ping to 9.6 per­cent last month, the low­est since the re­cov­ery. But May ruined that with a 10.2 show­ing for the group (com­pared to 4.1 for Asi­ans, 4.7 for whites, and 6.7 for Lati­nos (6.7).

It’s not all bad news though. Marc Ba­yard, dir­ect­or of the Black Work­er Ini­ti­at­ive at the In­sti­tute for Policy Stud­ies, has lately found reas­on to feel op­tim­ist­ic: uni­ons. “Black work­ers are at a very, very fra­gile and crit­ic­al place right now,” Ba­yard said. “And the labor move­ment is at a fra­gile and crit­ic­al mo­ment, too.”

It may seem out­land­ish to be­lieve that uni­ons could save any­one these days. They’ve reached an all-time low in mem­ber­ship. Today, about one-in-ten people are card-car­ri­ers, down from the hey­day of the 1950s, when mem­ber­ship stood at around 35 per­cent. The Mid­w­est, the former uni­on bas­tion, has turned on them—es­pe­cially in Wis­con­sin where Gov­ernor Scott Walk­er has just about de­clared war on uni­ons.

“How can the two cham­pi­on each oth­er?” Ba­yard says of black work­ers and uni­ons, “that’s really the crux of it.

Black work­ers are more likely to join uni­ons than white work­ers. And when they do, black work­ers earn more than their nonunion coun­ter­parts, about 27 per­cent more per hour, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic and Policy Re­search.

By 2020, around 65 per­cent of jobs will re­quire some post sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by Geor­getown Uni­versity. This could mean trouble for young blacks, who have one of the low­est edu­ca­tion­al at­tain­ment rates in the coun­try.

On the bright side, black work­ers with low edu­ca­tion­al at­tain­ment are among the most helped most by uni­ons. Black work­ers without a col­lege de­gree saw their hourly wage in­creased by 20 per­cent, ac­cord­ing the the Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Policy Re­search study.

And where is the best place for this to hap­pen?

The South, of course.

“Get on the wave, get in­volved and be a long term, au­then­t­ic part­ner,” Ba­yard says. The tim­ing is near per­fect for a real eco­nom­ic justice move­ment of uni­ons work­ing in the South with Afric­an Amer­ic­ans.”

More than half of the coun­try’s black pop­u­la­tion lives in the South, where uni­ons are prac­tic­ally non-ex­ist­ent. Poverty levels, wages, and edu­ca­tion­al at­tain­ment are some of the worst in the na­tion.

“The pub­lic con­scious­ness has been raised by the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment and the demon­stra­tions,” said Sean Thomas-Breit­feld, co-dir­ect­or of the Build­ing Move­ment Pro­ject, an or­gan­iz­a­tion that sup­ports so­cial change move­ments. “The pub­lic ac­tions have cre­ated an op­por­tun­ity to have dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions about the eco­nom­ic prob­lems that Afric­an Amer­ic­ans are fa­cing in this coun­try.”

What We're Following See More »
TEXAS AND ARKANSAS BASES COULD ACCOMMODATE KIDS
U.S. May House 20K Immigrants on Military Bases
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"The United States is preparing to shelter as many as 20,000 migrant children on four American military bases" in Texas and Arkansas, "as federal officials struggled to carry out President Trump’s order to keep immigrant families together after they are apprehended at the border."

Source:
CONFERENCE ASKS FOR FURTHER CHANGES
Vote on Compromise Immigration Bill Gets Bumped to Next Week
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"House Republican leaders are further delaying a vote on a compromise immigration bill, planning to make changes to the legislation for a vote next week. The news comes after a two-hour Republican Conference meeting Thursday, in which authors of the bill walked through its contents and members raised concerns about issues the bill doesn’t address, multiple GOP lawmakers said. Many members requested the addition of a provision to require employers to use the E-Verify database to cheek the legal status of their employees."

Source:
COMPROMISE BILL TO GET VOTE TOMORROW
Conservative Immigration Bill Goes Down to Defeat
3 days ago
THE LATEST

After a conservative-backed immigration bill failed in the House, 193-231, leaders "postponed a vote on a 'compromise' immigration proposal until Friday. ... GOP leaders, however, are under no impression that they'll be able to secure the 218 votes needed in the next 24 hours to pass the text. Rather, the delay is to give members more time to read the bill."

Source:
CONFUSION REIGNS
Immigration Votes May Get Delayed Until Friday
3 days ago
THE LATEST
FOLLOW-UP TO YESTERDAY’S EXEC ORDER
Prosecutions of Families with Children at Border to Cease
3 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login