February 4, 2011
Middle Class share of national income in 40-year decline
If you care about the middle class, you have to care about the decline in union membership. The fates of both are linked. Unions organized tens of millions of workers in the middle of the last century. As an organized force, these workers had the power to negotiate higher wages, better benefits, and a larger slice of the economic pie.
But over the last 40 years as union membership has been in decline, the middle class has been squeezed to the point where its share of national income has dropped below 50%.
A new report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund analyzed the most recent data available at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau and found a strong correlation between declining union membership and declining middle class wealth:
“The middle class is markedly stronger when workers join together in unions. As the chart below demonstrates, the sharp decline over the past 40 years in the percentage of workers organized in unions has been associated with an equally sharp drop in the share of the nation’s income going to the middle class — those in the second, third and forth income quintiles*.”