37 million Americans live below the poverty line in the richest country on earth
New York (24 May 2007) - A major American research group has called for a rebirth of unionization in the United States, the heart of global capitalism and the richest country on earth.
That's one of the key recommendations of an important new report on poverty by The Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action.
Entitled From Poverty to Prosperity, the report says 37 million Americans – one citizen in eight, many of them children – now live below the official U.S. poverty threshold of $19,971 a year ($21,661 Cdn) for a family of four.
More than 90 million Americans – one third of the entire population – are struggling to make ends meet because they also are poor. Their incomes are less than double the official poverty rate. In other words, they are families of four living on less than $39,942 ($43,328 Cdn) a year.
"We don't see poor people on television or in the advertising that surrounds us like a second atmosphere," Bob Herbert writes in the New York Times.
"We don't pay much attention to the millions of men and women who are changing bedpans, or flipping burgers for the minimum wage, or vacuuming the halls of office buildings at all hours of the night. But they're there, working hard and getting very little in return," he notes.
"The number of poor people in America has increased by five million over the past six years, and the gap between rich and poor has grown to historic proportions. The richest 1% of Americans got nearly 20% of the nation's income in 2005, while the poorest 20% could collectively garner only a measly 3.4%."
'It does not have to be this way'
The CAP says bluntly: "It does not have to be this way." Its report makes a series of policy recommendations that, if adopted, would cut U.S. poverty in half over the next decade.
One of the most crucial steps the United States could take is to ensure that workers are allowed to form unions and bargain collectively.
"Promote unionization by enacting the Employee Free Choice Act," the report declares.
"The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers signs cards authorizing union representation and establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights. The increased union representation made possible by the act would lead to better jobs and less poverty for American workers."
Among those endorsing the report is former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, now running for the Democratic Party nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
"Organizing is so important. We have 50 million service economy jobs and we'll probably have 10 or 15 million more over the next decade," Edwards told the Times. "If those jobs are union jobs, they'll be middle-class families. If not, they're more likely to live in poverty. It's that strong."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
? From Poverty to Prosperity - pdf