Business

Black Workers Could Save Dying Unions

(Light Brigading/Flickr/CC By N.C.-2.0)
(Light Brigading/Flickr/CC By N.C.-2.0)

J. Weston Phippen, THE NATIONAL JOURNAL

 
(The National Journal) — 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.”

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