Labor, Unions, Minimum Wage

Chicago Public School teachers strike, 2012.  Photo credit:  Brad Perkins | CC2.0, Wikimedia Commons


labor, unions, and the minimum wage

These resources explore moral and ethical problems in business and economics, specifically labor, the role of unions, and the importance of a minimum wage. These convictions are rooted in God’s creation order and God’s vision for relationships between human beings, and also between human beings and the created world.

Books and Articles on Christian Approaches to Labor, Unions, and the Minimum Wage

Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) (Vatican website, 1981) and (Amazon book, 1981)

Darren Cushman Wood, Blue Collar Jesus: How Christianity Supports Workers' Rights (Amazon book, Feb 15, 2005)

Marco G. Prouty, Cesar Chavez, the Catholic Bishops, and the Farmworkers' Struggle for Social Justice (Amazon book, Sep 15, 2006) 

Medway Village Church, Human Worth and Capitalism: Market Basket, Corporations, and the Local Community (Medway Village Church, Sep 29, 2014)

Books and Articles on Labor, Unions, and the Minimum Wage

Free2Work (website) on labor practices behind various products

The State of Working America (website)

Economic Policy Institute (website)

Wikipedia, Child Labor Reform (Wikipedia article)

Wikipedia, United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (Wikipedia article) an intriguing example of a successful labor union

Global Slavery Index (website)

David Card and Alan B. Krueger, Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (The American Economic Review, Sep 1994) “On April 1, 1992, New Jersey's minimum wage rose from $4.25 to $5.05 per hour. To evaluate the impact of the law we surveyed 410 fast-food restaurants in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania before and after the rise. Comparisons of employment growth at stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (where the minimum wage was constant) provide simple estimates of the effect of the higher minimum wage. We also compare employment changes at stores in New Jersey that were initially paying high wages (above $5) to the changes at lower-wage stores. We find no indication that the rise in the minimum wage reduced employment.”

David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, The Struggle over Employee Benefits: The Role of Labor in Influencing Modern Health Policy (Milbank Quarterly, Mar 2003) means that striking workers can and do lose their health benefits and even pensions (like the GM worker strike); means that unions can be pressured to accept less comprehensive health plans (see this); means that union leaders and benefits coordinators make commission money from selling insurance to union members (see this); and why union-funded Senate Democrat Sherrod Brown (D-OH) opposes Medicaid for All (see this), even though he is otherwise progressive

David Keys, Revealed: Industrial Revolution Was Powered by Child Slaves (Independent, Aug 1, 2010)

Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, Partners in Iniquity (NY Times, Apr 2, 2011) about the American North and South on slavery

Jane Slaughter, Emergency Decree Cuts Wages for Detroit School Workers (Labor Notes, Aug 2, 2011)

National Low Income Housing Coalition, Hours at Minimum Wage Needed to Afford Rent (NLIHC, 2012)

John Schmitt, The Minimum Wage is Too Damn Low (Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mar 2012)

Caroline Fairchild, Minimum Wage Would Be $21.72 If It Kept Pace With Increases in Productivity: Study (Huffington Post, Feb 13, 2013)

Dylan Matthews, North Carolina Needed 6,500 Farm Workers. Only 7 Americans Stuck It Out (Washington Post, May 15, 2013)

Tali Kristal, How the Decline of American Unions Has Boosted Corporate Profits and Reduced Worker Compensation (Scholars Strategy Network, Sep 17, 2013)

David Madland and Keith Miller, Middle Classes are Stronger in States with Greater Union Membership (American Progress, Sep 20, 2013)

Denmark is Considered the Happiest Country. You'll Never Guess Why (Huffington Post, Oct 23, 2013)

Mark Karlin, The Rage of the Angry White Male Continues Its Battle Against Equality (Truthout, Nov 22, 2013)

Nancy Updike, Rental Gymnastics (NPR, This American Life radio, Nov 22, 2013) about housing discrimination in NYC

Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Missionary (NPR, This American Life radio, Nov 22, 2013) about George Romney's attempt to reverse housing discrimination as Secretary of HUD

Pat Garofalo, What We Can Learn from Switzerland's CEO Pay Cap Vote (US News, Nov 25, 2013)

Peter Dreier, Walmart Workers Will Make History on Friday As America Confronts Growing Inequality (Truthout, Nov 27, 2013)

Sarah Kendizor, Charity is not a Substitute for Justice: Poor Americans Need Higher Wages, not Food Drives (Aljazeera, Dec 6, 2013)

Economist, Raising the Floor: Raising America's Minimum Wage Would Do More Good Than Harm (Economist, Dec 12, 2013)

Dale Belman and Paul J. Wolfson, What Does the Minimum Wage Do? (W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2014) This book attempts to make sense of the research on the minimum wage that began in the early 1990s. The authors look at who is affected by the minimum wage, both directly and indirectly; which observable, measurable variables (e.g., wages, employment, school enrollment) the minimum wage influences; how long it takes for the variables to respond to the minimum wage and the size and desirability of the effect; why the minimum wage has the results it does (and not others); and the workers most likely to be affected by changes to the minimum wage.

Cenk Uygur, Obama Sets Bear Trap, Republicans Walk Right Into It (video, Jan 30, 2014) on women's labor rights and the State of the Union address

Richard D. Wolff, Obama's Economic Significance (Truthout, Mar 9, 2014)

Clare O'Connor, Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance (Forbes, Apr 15, 2014)

Conrad Hackett, Maternity Policies Around the World (Twitter, May 12, 2014)

Evan Soltas, Would Raising the Minimum Wage Help the Poor? (Vox, Jun 5, 2014)

Peter Olney and Rand Wilson, Viewpoint: Unusual Victory at Market Basket (Labor Notes, Sep 22, 2014)

Jared Bernstein, Wages Should Be Growing Faster, But They're Not. Here's Why (Washington Post, Oct 6, 2014)

Ishaan Tharoor, The haunting poetry of a Chinese factory worker who committed suicide (Washington Post, Nov 12, 2014)

Damon Beres, Undercover Video Reveals Harsh Conditions Inside Apple Supplier Factory (Huffington Post, Dec 19, 2014)

Thomas E. Perez, All Labor Has Dignity: Dr. King's Other Legacy (Huffington Post, Jan 16, 2015)

Gregor Aisch and Robert Gebeloff, The Changing Nature of Middle Class Jobs (NY Times, Feb 22, 2015)

John Judis, Robots vs. the Underclass (National Journal, Feb 28, 2015)

Sabina Dewan, Unions Are Key to Tackling Inequality, Says Top Global Financial Institution (Huffington Post, Mar 5, 2015)

Kevin Kruse, A Christian Nation? Since When? (NY Times, Mar 14, 2015) how U.S. corporations linked libertarian capitalism (anti-New-Deal) and Christianity from the 1930's

Adam Davidson, Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant (NY Times, Mar 29, 2015)

The Economist, Innovations in Youth Hiring (The Economist, date unknown)

John Oliver, On Paid Maternity Leave (Last Week Tonight, May 10, 2015)

Daniel Munoz, Highest Minimum Wage in Australia (RT, May 14, 2015)

Steven Greenhouse, How WalMart Persuades Its Workers Not to Unionize (The Atlantic, Jun 8, 2015)

The Daily Take Team, What's Good About the Guaranteed Basic Income (Truth-Out, Jul 3, 2015)

Lynn Stuart Parramore, 11 Jobs Where a Hard Day’s Work Only Results in Poverty (Salon, Jul 15, 2015)

Paul Krugman, Liberals and Wages (NY Times, Jul 17, 2015) about how higher minimum wages actually produce more jobs

Drew DeSilver, Five Facts About the Minimum Wage (Pew Research Center, Jul 23, 2015)

John Nichols, Ben Carson is Wrong About the Minimum Wage (The Nation, Nov 11, 2015)

Roderick Benns, Economics Professor Says Evidence Shows Basic Income Grants Used Responsibly (Leaders and Legacies, Nov 11, 2015)

Carrie Sheffield, How We Can Reform Unionized Government (Bold, Nov 19, 2015)

Kelly McEvers, Utah Reduced Chronic Homelessness By 91 Percent - Here's How (NPR, Dec 10, 2015)

Jeff Nesbit, The War on Coal Exists, but Miners Are the Targets (US News & World Report, Jan 21, 2016)

David Dayen, The Verizon Strike Signals a Larger Economic Battle (New Republic, Apr 15, 2016)

Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus, What If We Just Gave Poor People a Basic Income for Life? That’s What We’re About to Test (Slate, Apr 14, 2016)

Shruti Singh, Denied Breaks, U.S. Poultry Workers Wear Diapers on the Job (Bloomberg, May 11, 2016)

Michael J. Hicks, Donald, Hillary and Bernie Are Lying to Us About Those Lost Manufacturing Jobs (MarketWatch, May 14, 2016)

Eric Levitz, The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana (New York Magazine, Mar 18, 2016)

Paul Krugman, Obama's War on Inequality (NY Times, May 20, 2016) discusses overtime pay, predistribution, cross-country comparisons on labor law

Lawrence Mishel, The Trump Trade Scam (Economic Policy Institute, Jun 29, 2016)

Matt Kennard and Claire Provost, Inside the Corporate Utopias Where Capitalism Rules and Labor Laws Don't Apply (In These Times, Jul 25, 2016)

Andrew Prokop, 23 Maps That Explain How Democrats Went From the Party of Racism to the Party of Obama (Vox, Jul 29, 2016) note the role of labor in the New Deal and the anti-unionism in the South

Daniel Griswold, Globalization Isn't Killing Factory Jobs. Trade is Actually Why Manufacturing is Up 40%. (Los Angeles Times, Aug 1, 2016) argues technology, not trade, is responsible for job loss

Michael Wasser, Unions Could Make a Comeback - If We Help Them (Washington Post, Aug 3, 2016)

Hunter Blair, Trump's Plan for the Economy Does Little to Help Working People (Economic Policy Institute, Aug 9, 2016)

Colby Itkowitz, This Republican Mayor Has an Incredibly Simple Idea to Help the Homeless. And It Seems to Be Working (Washington Post, Aug 11, 2016)

Jake Rosenfeld, Patrick Denice, and Jennifer Laird, Union Decline Lowers Wages of Non-Union Workers:  The Overlooked Reason Why Wages Are Stuck and Inequality is Growing (Economic Policy Institute, Aug 30, 2016)

Maurice Weeks and Marilyn Sneiderman, Why Labor and the Movement for Racial Justice Should Work Together (In These Times, Sep 2, 2016)

John Nichols, Donald Trump Is the Anti–Labor Day Candidate: Running Against Fair Wages, Worker Rights, and Unions (The Nation, Sep 4, 2016)

Scott Santens, The Progressive Case for Replacing the Welfare State with Basic Income (Medium, Sep 8, 2016)

Economic Policy Institute, “The State of Working America, 12th Edition” Finds That Policy-Driven Inequality Has Undercut Low and Middle-Income Workers for Past Three Decades (Economic Policy Institute, Sep 2016)

Elise Gould, Austerity At All Levels Has Created a Teacher Shortfall (Economic Policy Institute, October 7, 2016)

Valerie Wilson, Black Workers' Wages Have Been Harmed By Both Widening Racial Wage Gaps and the Widening Productivity-Pay Gap (Economic Policy Institute, October 25, 2016)

Elise Gould, A Women’s Economic Agenda for the 45th U.S. President: Investing in the Infrastructure to Support a 21st Century Economy (Economic Policy Institute, October 26, 2016)

Kenneth Dickerman, 20 Haunting Portraits of Child Laborers in the 1900's (Washington Post, Oct 31, 2016)

Dan Berger, Rattling the Cages (Jacobin Magazine, Nov 18, 2016)

Luciana Zorzoli, Not One Less (Jacobin Magazine, Nov 19, 2016)

Robert VerBruggen, Trump and the Unions (The American Conservative, Nov 20, 2016)

Mike Ingram, Lessons of the Harvard University Dining Services Strike (World Socialist Web Site, Nov 23, 2016)

Harold Meyerson, Trump and The Crisis of Labor (Talking Union, Nov 24, 2016) also notes that the former Confederacy originated "right to work" laws because of their low view of labor

Robert Reich, Trump's Trickle-Down Populism (Huffington Post, Dec 4, 2016)

Michael D. Greaney, There's a Better Way, Mr. Trump, Part 1: What Is (The Just Third Way, Dec 6, 2016) S-Corp worker owned corporations

Gretchen Morgenson, Portland Adopts Surcharge on CEO Pay in Move vs. Income Inequality (NY Times, Dec 7, 2016)

Jason Schulman, Where Is Our Labor Party? (Jacobin Magazine, Dec 2016) why there is not a labor party in the US

Lee Fang, In Statehouses Won by Republicans, the First Move is to Consolidate Power by Weakening Unions (The Intercept, Jan 7, 2017)

Paul Roserberg, Al Franken's Grilling of Gorsuch Exposes the Heartless Cruelty Behind Conservative Legal Philosophy (Salon, Mar 22, 2017)

Matthew Yglesias, The Case for Immigration (Vox, Apr 3, 2017) from an economic growth standpoint

Sam Becker, The $70,000 Minimum Wage Experiment Reveals a Dark Truth (CheatSheet, Jan 26, 2017)

Alanna Petroff, Ontario Launches Guaranteed Income Program for 4,000 Residents (CNN, Apr 24, 2017)

Thom Hartmann, Richard Wolff: A Labor Manifesto for the Global Left (The Big Picture RT, May 16, 2017) and Noam Chomsky, I Would Vote for Jeremy Corbyn (BBC, May 10, 2017)

Dave Jamieson, Trump Repeals Regulation Protecting Workers From Wage Theft (Huffington Post, Mar 27, 2017) re: fed govt contract requirements

Josh Bivens, Lora Engdahl, Elise Gould, Teresa Kroeger, Celine McNicholas, Lawrence Mishel, Zane Mokhiber, Heidi Shierholz, Marni von Wilpert, Valerie Wilson, and Ben Zipperer, How Today’s Unions Help Working People (Economic Policy Institute, Aug 24, 2017) “Giving workers the power to improve their jobs and unrig the economy” a wealth of stats and policy commentary

Garrett Epps, The Bogus 'Free Speech' Argument Against Unions (The Atlantic, Feb 14, 2018)

Alan B. Krueger and Eric Posner, Corporate America Is Suppressing Wages for Many Workers (NY Times, Feb 28, 2018)

P.R. Lockhart, The Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike and MLK's Unfinished Fight for Economic Justice (Vox, Apr 4, 2018)

Ariel Ramchandani, The Overlooked Children Working America’s Tobacco Fields (The Atlantic, Jun 21, 2018) children as young as 10 and 11

Eric Sherman, How Many Workers Must Live In Poverty For McDonald's CEO To Make $21.8 Million? (Forbes, Jul 12, 2018)

Alexia Fernández Campbell, Trump Wants to Fire Federal Employees at Will. A Federal Judge Said He Can’t. (Vox, Aug 27, 2018) because of unionization of federal employees

Arthur Delaney, Donald Trump Hasn’t Scared American Companies Out Of Ditching U.S. Workers (Huffington Post, Aug 30, 2018)

Hayley Petersen, Donald Missing Wages, Grueling Shifts, and Bottles of Urine: The Disturbing Accounts of Amazon Delivery Drivers May Reveal the True Human Cost of 'Free' Shipping (Business Insider, Sep 12, 2018)

Annie Lowrey, Wages Are Low and Workers Are Scarce. Wait, What? (The Atlantic, Sep 19, 2018)

Barry Ritholz, What Minimum-Wage Foes Got Wrong About Seattle (Bloomberg, Oct 24, 2018) the minimum wage increase to $15 did not lead to lay-offs and over-automation

Heather Long, Arkansas and Missouri Just Approved Big Minimum Wage Increases, a Liberal Victory in Red States (Washington Post, Nov 7, 2018)

Christopher Ingraham, Politicians Have Caused a Pay 'Collapse' for the Bottom 90% of Workers, Researchers Say (Washington Post, Dec 17, 2018) "While many economists pin much of the blame for wage stagnation on impersonal market forces, such as free trade and technological change, EPI’s Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz contend that specific policy decisions — including efforts to weaken unions, the decay of the minimum wage and monetary policy that prioritizes low inflation over full employment — are responsible for tilting the balance of power away from workers and toward their employers."

Natalie Kitroeff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Planned Parenthood Is Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees (NY Times, Dec 20, 2018) subtitled "Employers that champion women face accusations of discriminating against their pregnant workers, showing how widespread the problem is in American workplaces"

Rachel M. Cohen, Could Expanding Employee Ownership Be the Next Big Economic Policy? (The Intercept, Dec 26, 2018) discusses actual legislation by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Steven K. Vogel, Elizabeth Warren Wants to Stop Inequality Before It Starts (NY Times, Jan 3, 2019) on employee ownership in corporate equity; limitations on executives; etc.

Lois Weiner, Why the LA Teachers Strike Matters (The Intercept, Jan 9, 2019) "This week's Los Angeles teachers strike starkly poses the question: will the public or privatizers control public education?"

Valerie Wilson, Before the State of the Union, a Fact Check on Black Unemployment (Economic Policy Institute, Feb 1, 2019)

Robert E. Scott, The State of American Manufacturing: The Failure of Trump's Trade and Economic Policies (Economic Policy Institute, Feb 5, 2019)

Rachel M. Cohen, Unions See An Opening in the Wake of a Ruling That Was Supposed to Finish Them Off (The Intercept, Feb 12, 2019)

Danielle Ofri, The Business of Health Care Depends on Exploiting Doctors and Nurses (NY Times, Jun 8, 2019) we treat health care professionals as an infinite resource

Matthew Desmond, In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation (NY Times Magazine, Aug 14, 2019) “The uncompromising pursuit of measurement and scientific accounting displayed in slave plantations predates industrialism. Northern factories would not begin adopting these techniques until decades after the Emancipation Proclamation. As the large slave-labor camps grew increasingly efficient, enslaved black people became America’s first modern workers, their productivity increasing at an astonishing pace.” 

Robert Reich, The Five Biggest Lies Corporate Lies About Unions (Robert Reich, Sep 2, 2019) (1) “labor unions are bad for workers”; (2) “labor unions hurt the economy”; (3) “labor unions are as powerful as big business”; (4) “most unionized workers are in industries like steel and auto”; (5) “most unionized workers are white, middle-aged workers”

Christian restorative justice, business, and economics: Topics

Christian restorative justice critique of the right: domestic policy topics

Christian restorative justice critique of the right: philosophical influences