Thursday, May 12, 2005


Krugman, in today's (Friday) NY Times column, Always Low Wages. Always, compares the past prosperity of automotive industry workers and the sorry state of today's Walmart employees.

In 1968, when General Motors was a widely emulated icon of American business, many of its workers were lifetime employees. On average, they earned about $29,000 a year in today's dollars, a solidly middle-class income at the time. They also had generous health and retirement benefits.

Since then, America has grown much richer, but American workers have become far less secure.

Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest corporation. Like G.M. in its prime, it has become a widely emulated business icon. But there the resemblance ends.

The average full-time Wal-Mart employee is paid only about $17,000 a year. The company's health care plan covers fewer than half of its workers.

Krugman leaves out something very important. The UAW. Unions have been beaten down so badly that we forget it was unions and sometimes simply the threat of union organization that supported the wages for everyone who worked. Now, powerless workers are barely paid substance wages while Walmart's CEO makes an unimaginable $17.5 million.

Unions are not perfect but we are in sorry shape since we peacefully let the cheap wage conservative Republicans destroy the one structure that gave us the power to negotiate.

Krugman owes the working people that read him at least a nod to the unions that made automotive industry jobs good enough to fund a decent middle class life.

1 comment:

Blue Cross of California said...

Unions can be great for health insurance benefits.