Journalist Edward McClelland lays it on the line at Salon in “The ‘Middle Class’ Myth: Here’s Why Wages Are Really So Low Today”.
Some key points:
In the relatively recent past, an “unskilled” worker straight out of high school could get a union job and earn enough to buy a car and rent an apartment.
Workers aren’t simply paid according to their skills. They’re paid based on how much they can get from their employers.
The anti-union movement’s biggest victory hasn’t been the elimination of existing union jobs. It’s been preventing the unionization of other jobs.
Companies claim that low-paid jobs were never meant to support a family or lead to a career, but that’s simply a way to justify paying low wages. And they can do that because they don’t have to deal with unions.
Today’s workers have to stop thinking of themselves as middle-class, just because they don’t work in a factory or they went to college: “Unless you own the business, you’re working class”.
“The smartest people I ever met were guys who ran cranes in the mill…They were smart enough, at least, to get their fair share of the company’s profits.”
It’s an excellent article and not very long.
While we’re on the subject, Pete Seeger sings “Which Side Are You On?”, written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer, during Kentucky’s Harlan County War.
PS – Wikipedia says Florence Reece took the melody from a Baptist hymn. Pete Seeger was only 12 in 1931.