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8 - Union Decline

Can Labor Law Revisions Be Enacted and Have an Impact?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2022

William B. Gould IV
Affiliation:
Stanford University Law School
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Summary

W. E. B. Du Bois said that race was the major issue of the twentieth century, and it may be that, based on the last forty years beginning at the end of that century, it is inequality as well as race that pose the major challenges of this century.1 The decline of organized labor first obtained the attention of commentators in the early 1960s and has galloped along at a crescendo-like pace during the past fifty years, accelerating during the Reagan era and continuing steadily into this century – and simultaneous with it the growing gap between productivity and pay, particularly since 1979 (productivity enjoying a 69.6 percent increase with hourly pay only increasing by 11.6 percent).2 As can be seen in Figure 8.1, Between 1973 and 2016, productivity grew six times faster than compensation. Initially, “[r]apid productivity growth brought rising prosperity to all, as Western societies rode the wave of expanding factory employment.”3

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Chapter
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For Labor To Build Upon
Wars, Depression and Pandemic
, pp. 137 - 175
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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