Parks, James


James Park is the Senior Writer of the AFL-CIO Blog.

Study: Decline in Unions A Leading Factor in Income Inequality

By James Parks
AFL-CIO

With union members under attack across the country, a new study shows how important unions are to the economy. The study, “Union Decline Accounts for Much of the Rise in Wage Inequality,” published in the August issue of the “American Sociological Review,” says the decline in the percentage of workers who belong to unions is worsening income inequality and closely parallels the decline of the middle-class.

In fact, the decline of union membership explains about a fifth of the increase in wage inequality among women and about a third among men, says Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University and co-author of the study. According to Western:

Our study underscores the role of unions as an equalizing force in the labor market.

House Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits Extension

By James Parks
AFL-CIO

House Republicans blocked on Thursday an effort to maintain federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, making a lapse in benefits all but certain when they expire at the end of the month.

House Democrats tried to speed the extension through by calling for a suspension of the rules, a procedure which requires a two-thirds majority. Although 258 members—a significant majority—supported the bill, the final vote fell short of the needed margin. The bill, H.R.6419, would have extended UI through February 2011 for those who have exhausted 26 weeks of insurance provided by states. It also would provide 100 percent federal funding to state unemployment programs to cover additional costs.

A total of 143 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted against suspending the rules. Twenty-one Republicans voted for it. Check out the roll call vote here.

Poverty Figures Make the Case for a Stronger Safety Net

By James Parks
AFL-CIO

The numbers are bad enough: 14.3 percent of Americans or 43.6 million people live in poverty, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau. But several analyses out yesterday show that the headlines on poverty hide even deeper problems. The statistics prove we desperately need a strong safety net to keep more people from becoming poor.