Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced that former President Ronald Reagan will be inducted into the Labor Department’s Hall of Honor. For anyone familiar with the 40th president, you know Reagan has a shaky reputation when it comes to labor, making this honor hypocritical. Reagan is infamous for firing 11,000 air traffic controllers due to a worker strike and thus began the dismantling of unions in the U.S.
Over the past several decades, Republicans have conveyed the message that unions are evil. Unfortunately this line of thinking has been adopted by many people, even the working class which used to rely on unions to provide a middle class lifestyle. The evidence is overwhelming in favor of union membership. Wages and benefits are typically 20% and 28% higher than their nonunion counterparts. There has also been little evidence to suggest that unions have a negative impact on economic growth. In fact, GDP growth was higher in times of increased union membership (1950’s and 60’s).
While there are certainly downsides to unions as well, the size of the middle class is proportional to union membership rates which makes it difficult to think they’re bad for the average worker. It’s a new economy and unions may not be as practical as they once were. Nonetheless, the president which began the dismantling of the middle class and the era of wage stagnation does not deserve a place in the Labor Department’s Hall of Honor.