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Can Union Clout Save Worker Benefits?

Labor unions have played an important role in protecting the wages and benefits of workers in the United States. Both union members and non-union employees have benefited from the actions of union groups. Historically, unions have represented trade laborers and employees working in the public sector, however there are organized unions representing workers in all areas of the work force.

Unions have wielded significant power in the past, making it possible for workers to earn fair wages and provide benefits that might otherwise have been unavailable. In recent decades there has been a drop in union membership, therefore reducing some of the power held by these organizations. Despite changes in the landscape of unionized workers, public-sector unions have a combined membership totaling just over 7.5 million workers. These members are responsible for donating over $20 million to 2010 midterm election political campaigns. This would suggest they still have considerable power in advancing the rights of members.

Budget cuts and reduced funding for government agencies has resulted in a need to reduce spending and cut back on pension costs. Unions will be counting on their political clout to fight these changes and preserve workers wages and benefits. At risk right now are the workers’ compensation benefits of public employees in New York and Ohio. In addition, Wisconsin workers may find themselves forced to pay higher pension contributions while seeing limited collective bargaining power.

The unions have a tough fight ahead of them in these uncertain economic times. This fight may seem like an uphill battle, however it may also be just what the American worker needs to wake up and fight for better wages and benefits.