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News 14 on Union Challenges, Opportunity

Jeremy Sprinkle
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VIDEO: Interview with James Andrews, David Zonderman

Jessica Cervantez of News 14 Carolina interviewed State Fed president James Andrews for a story about the work of the AFL-CIO in North Carolina and the recent victory at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel.

"It's a great victory for the workers there at Smithfield. For more than 16 years, they have tried to form a union. [The company] decided to allow workers to vote in a fair and free process and that led to this victory." -- News 14, 12/12/08

Cervantez also interviewed David Zonderman, a professor at NC State University and member of the Hear Our Public Employees coalition, about the reasons for low union density in the southeast - including right-to-work (for less) laws and the ban on public sector bargaining.

Zonderman also raises the reasons employers generally oppose organizing - power and keeping wages low:

"To a certain extent, that is one of the goals of unions is to get people living wage. But what we have to remember is when people make that wage they also often spend that money," Zonderman said. "So union wage in some ways is actually good for an economy.” -- News 14, 12/12/08

The decline in bargaining power for middle class workers since the 1980s corresponds with declining wages despite huge gains in worker productivity. Profits that should have been shared in wage increases were taken by executives and shareholders. Meanwhile exploding costs for health care, food, housing and transportation have put the squeeze on consumers' buying power, and our economy suffers the consequences.

You can read the article and watch the video online.