On Wednesday, April 24, an 8-story building outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed. Over 600 people were killed, and over 1,000 injured – but the death toll may rise as rescue crews continue their search.
The building housed a variety of businesses, including a bank and five garment factories that employed over 3,100 garment workers – mostly young women. Observers noticed a large crack develop on in the building on Tuesday, and the bank on the second floor told its workers not to come in the next day. The garment factories decided to stay open for business, and the result was tragedy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership last week. Union density – the percentage of workers who belong to unions – is now down to 11.3%, far below its historic high of around 35% in 1955. This is bad news for workers – unions are still one of the only ways workers can get any job security or protection against ‘at-will’ employment. And despite unions’ losing power over the past several decades, unionized workers are still far more likely than non-unionized workers to receive health benefits, a pension, and paid days off. And on average, unionized workers make more than 27% more than non-union workers.
Stephanie Luce is an Associate Professor of Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute, City University of New York. She has authored or co-authored three books on living wage campaigns in the United States, including Fighting for a Living Wages (2004). She has also conducted extensive research on the impact of globalization on jobs and workers. She has served on the staff of Congressional Committee on Agricultural Workers, directed research projects for U.S. unions, and participated in a wide range of other scholarship useful to activists, community-based organizations and the labor movement.
Please check back shortly for Stephanie’s first post.