The Balance Of Power Between Workers And Employers Shifted In 2023. We Don’t Yet Know How Far It’ll Shift. - TPM – Talking Points Memo

This article is part of TPM Cafe, TPM’s home for opinion and news analysis. It was originally published at The Conversation.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Reagan. Ever the pig.


This is very important. Labor’s share of national productivity has been shrinking since Reagan and is still a long way from post-war levels of income distribution. Many of the distortions in our economics (boom/bust), politics and policies can be traced to that problem and by extension national priorities and law.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” ― Frédéric Bastiat


Working conditions, including health and safety concerns and time off, have also been at the root of many recent strikes.

Health care workers, for example, are going on strike over safe staffing levels. In 2022, rail workers voted to strike over sick days and time off, but were blocked from walking off the job by a U.S. Senate vote and President Joe Biden’s signature.

Understated factor of strikes. While striking workers often include higher pay and benefits as a key demand, the reason they strike in the first place is often working conditions. People can (and do) regularly accept poor pay and benefits, but not working conditions that put their health or life (or the health or life of the people they are serving) in jeopardy.

Also, it was remiss of the authors to fail to note that the Biden administration did get those rail workers paid sick leave, even though he signed a bill preventing them from striking over it.

The above is how a pro-labor President acts. And Joe is the most pro-labor President since FDR, delivering progress even when he has to upset people to do so.


No mention of the impact of the baby boomers on the erosion of unions and worker pay and benefits. I don’t think it is a coincidence that pay and benefits both stopped increasing when the bulk of the baby boom generation entered the workforce. I was told more than once over the years, but especially when I was younger, that if I didn’t like the pay I could quit and let one of the people in line behind me have the job. The generation now entering the workforce is much smaller and therefore has more leverage than we had. In fact I have noted that the local convenience store pays more than I ever made as an engineer. Corporate behemoths were able, with help from our government, to keep pay scales down for most of my adult life. About time that the workers get a bit of the pie.


employers can take many steps to discourage strikes

The two major components of the eternal conflict between capital and labor, fair compensation and safe working conditions, are both controlled by the capital side of the equation unless labor can balance the playing field with the power of an organized work force or government intervention. The Reagan administration clearly aligned government intervention on the side of capital, both with its dismantling of the ATC union and its antipathy to enforcing antitrust laws and all other forms of governmental regulation of business. The authors clearly illustrate this imbalance, noting that “Wages stagnated from 1973 to 2013, rising only 9.2% even as productivity grew by 74.4%.”

As @tindalos said above, society would benefit if we rethink the Golden Rule:



I’m an early Baby Boomer who entered the engineering workforce in 1968 when, per the authors, “Wages kept up with productivity gains.” My starting salary with a BS and no relevant experience would be the equivalent of $88,000 today. I left the engineering world and entered the inflation resistant private practice of law in 1976, so I never felt the effects of wage stagnation from 1973 to 2013.

Regardless of my personal experience, I agree with you that it is “About time that the workers get a bit of the pie.”


Even while retired I hafta pay attention to some goober stealing what I worked for (Social Security, state pension & Medicare)
Thieves everywhere


I’m going to predict that the next stage will be pundits proclaiming how sad it is that labor and management can’t just get along, and warning about all the terrible things that will happen if labor demands too much. (The terrible things that happened when management demanded too much are, of course, unhistory.)


The Balance Of Power Between Workers And Employers Shifted In 2023.



Three things are necessary to return to when most (if not all) blue collar workers were union members. One, the Labor Department needs to be considered one of the most important cabinet posts, not just somewhere you stick a party hack (or Senate Majority Leader’s wife). Two, the LRB needs to have a majority of union presidents as members. And three, a bill needs to be passed outlawing “right to work” laws at the state level. Good fucking luck!


Yes, even Henry Ford — hardly an egalitarian — realized that if he paid his workers enough to be able to buy one of his cars, he could turn his employees into customers.

Too many employers today are too short-sighted to realize that a healthy middle class is good for business.


What is so ironic, is the r/w conservative Republicans long for the 1950s without realizing that what they want a return to was brought about by high union membership.


There is no balance of power simply because the employers will raise the rates or whatever.

and high taxes


There was a slight shift during the pandemic, but it didn’t last. Wages rose and some workers got remote privileges out of necessity, but inflation quickly eroded the financial gains and employers are now pushing back hard on flexible schedules. Sadly, work is still just a means for controlling people and it hasn’t gotten much better.


After being laid off by rat fucking ideologue mgt at Yellow/Reddaway I’ve been working toward being a labor organizer. I was a steward for years and KNOW (not believe) that organized labor is the ONLY way things get better for the working stiff.
There is a new renaissance coming for organized labor and we’re going to enjoy the fight.
When we stick together we always win.

I had to listen to Yellow Mgt. lie in the press about how the Teamsters were the problem and causing our own death.
The reality was that they had a plan to break us up and sell us off after we gave back billions in pay cuts and a complete loss of our pension with no warning. These are also the assholes that got the $700 million illegal loan from the US Treasury.

I’m going to spend the rest of my life causing pain to asshole employers who fight being decent humans for profit and act like it’s ok not to have a conscience. Some friends have died since the layoff. One was a heart attack the other a suicide.
I will never forget their names. How many more have died that I don’t know of. 2 out of less than 100 at my barn. The company had 30,000 employees.

I’m gonna do this until I’m dead. Nice job ideologues.


It is not far enough until the CEOs of Big Pharma, the Insurance Industry and the Wall Street Bankers are saying “What theHell just happened?”

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Amen, brother.