The world needs a pay rise
This October (Saturday 18 – make sure it’s in your diary!) the TUC will be marching under the slogan ‘Britain needs a pay rise’. But it isn’t just Britain. Last week, the Executive Council of our sister organisation in the USA, the AFL-CIO, adopted a statement with a similar analysis and the same conclusion as the TUC. Rebuilding collective bargaining is vital to restore people’s living standards, deliver sustainable economic growth, and mend the social fabric and democratic politics.
The USA – as you’d expect if you were raised on Hollywood Technicolor blockbusters – does it larger than the UK. Wages have been stagnant for longer, the ratio of CEO pay to average pay is bigger, and money is more dominant in politics (with turnouts lower among the poor and the vulnerable.) But the direction of travel, and the issues raised, are remarkably similar. Insecure employment is a feature of both the US and British labour market, for example. It’s worth reading the whole statement to see just how similar things are.
Above all, and despite the work that both the TUC and AFL-CIO have done to raise minimum wages, the key problem is the decline in workers’ wages. Not just at the bottom, but at every level except the very top – what the US first started calling the 1% – where life is sweet and getting sweeter (although there’s something going on even there that makes the very richest feel victimised and hard done by!)
And the solution identified by both the AFL-CIO and the TUC is the same too. It’s not globalisation or new technology to blame, it’s the reduction in union influence over wages. Beyond a pay rise, workers in Britain and the USA need collective bargaining to be rebuilt, including government support for it.
The UK and US labour movements have always had a lot more in common than our common language and an Atlantic shoreline. We started exchanging delegates to each other’s congresses or conventions (that’s the common language, there) in the century before last and we’re looking forward to welcoming Ben Davis from the USW in Liverpool next month.
We’ll be cheering the candidates the AFL-CIO supports for political office in November, and no doubt they will be cheering us on as we march through London on 18 October. Workers need a pay rise, and collective bargaining is the way to get it.