The union movement built the middle class. For most of the past century, big business and plutocrats have waged war on unions and have largely succeeded. As the following analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows, the high point of the labor movement was in the in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As the strength of unions waned, inequality grew.

The EPI study begins:

Unions improve wages and benefits for all workers, not just union members. They help reduce income inequality by making sure all Americans, and not just the wealthy elite, share in the benefits of their labor.

Unions also reduce racial disparities in wages and raise women’s wages, helping to counteract disparate labor market outcomes by race and gender that result from occupational segregation, discrimination, and other labor market inequities related to structural racism and sexism.

Finally, unions help win progressive policies at the federal, state, and local levels that benefit all workers. And conversely, where unions are weak, wealthy corporations and their allies are more successful at pushing through policies and legislation that hurt working people. A strong labor movement protects workers, reduces disparities, and strengthens our democracy.