The Future Of U.S. Jobs Looks Bleak. Unions Are the Answer.

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Above Photo: New data shows a grim outlook for U.S. jobs. The answer is more unions. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) 

Note: While unions are part of the answer to this developing jobs crisis, there is more to it. Worker-ownership models are growing from worker-owned  businesses (e.g., cooperatives) to workers on the boards of major corporations. And, an ecosocialist Green New Deal could create millions of jobs not included in this outlook. These new jobs are an opportunity to re-make the economy and empower workers in multiple ways. Transformation of the economy from capitalist to ecosocialist may become essential to confront the climate crisis.  KZ

We were just handed a wake-up call. Newly released numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project that six of the ten occupations expected to have the most total job growth over the next decade pay less than $27,000 a year. Three of those six are low-paying jobs in the restaurant industry. Even more striking is the concentration of low-paid healthcare jobs at the top of the list, with personal care aides at number one and home health aides at number four. These jobs are disproportionately held by women and by people of color.

The low earnings in these fast-growing jobs provide a grim glimpse into what the future of work in the United States will look like if nothing changes. But this future is not ordained. These jobs pay poorly  because we allow it. Weak labor standards (such as a low federal minimum wage and weak overtime protections), weak enforcement of these standards, and labor law that does a poor job of protecting workers’ right to unionize, all mean employers have the power to suppress workers’ wages. This will continue to be the case unless we, as a society, make different choices—choices that empower workers and give them more power in their workplaces.

For those who might respond that these low-paid workers should just go to college to get a decent-paying job, the new BLS data has an answer for you. In 2028, only 27.2 percent of jobs will be in occupations where a college degree (or more) is typically required. In other words, even in nine years, a college degree won’t actually be required for a huge share of the jobs employers will need workers to do. If everyone gets a college degree, those non-college jobs will simply be filled by college grads. Put yet another way, college cannot solve this. Unless you’re willing to write off almost three-quarters of the labor market as undeserving of a decent job, we need another approach. We need to make sure even those 72.8 percent of jobs that don’t require a college degree are good jobs.

The good news is that we know how to do that. We must implement strong labor standards, strong enforcement of those standards, and reform labor law so that workers who want to join a union are able to do so. As we think about these different choices for our future, it’s worth noting that manufacturing jobs weren’t always good jobs—in fact, they were often terrible, and dangerous. Unionization changed that. Unionization could do that for the fast-growing jobs of the future, too.

  • voza0db

    First the sad part… Modern Slaves don’t know how to do a proper STRIKE, not even if they are members of an Union. The main problem with today’s unions is that they are too much embedded with the political scoundrels and when they go out to do a strike they do it following the RULES AND ORDERS of the scoundrels that wrote the “laws” in order to weak the power and usefulness of the strike. And they always do the same stuff… Marches, shouting slogans and waving some flags and signs and that’s it. Many times these end up with amusing parties with the modern slaves in police uniforms, whose work is to defend the scoundrels…

    Now the fun part… In a near future not even the job of “cleaning” side walks is going to be available for uman animals…

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Good article! Thank you! Go Bernie!

  • GaryReber

    Increasingly, the only job prospects are low-paying positions, which are still cheaper as a business cost than substituting non-human “machines.” As the article points out, three of six low-paying jobs are in the restaurant service industry. Of course, as technology becomes increasingly more cost-effective, even those jobs will be threatened, at least in part.

    For more and more Americans, the future of work is living on tips, low wages, minimal benefits and unpredictable hours. The minimum wage for waitresses and other tipped workers varies by state from as low as $2.13 (the federal tipped minimum wage) in 17 states, including Texas, up to $9.35 in Hawaii. In 36 states, the tipped minimum wage is under $5.00 an hour.

    Waitresses are emblematic of the type of job expected to grow most in the American economy in the next decade––low-wage service work with no guaranteed course or income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs like personal-care aide (medium annual wage $24,020), food-prep worker ($21, 250), and waitstaff ($21, 780) are among the fastest-growing occupations in America.

    This “sometimes” work has put the stress of earning a weekly wage, paying for health insurance, and saving for retirement squarely on the shoulders of workers, who have noting to fall back on in the event of a downturn in the economy, and in any evident, increasingly are reliant on tax-payer government services. Sadly, as the economy transforms to producing using non-human “machines,” eliminating formerly middle-class household earnings, the “sometimes” work is becoming a fallback.

    Yet, sadly, the American people and its leaders still pretend to believe that labor is becoming more productive and couch all policy directions in the name of job creation and minimum wage legislation. Americans ignore understanding how the wealthy consistently get richer and the necessity to broaden personal ownership of wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets simultaneously with the growth of the economy.

    Significantly though, no matter how much labor is necessary or unnecessary, it is imperative that the issue of concentrated capital ownership is addressed, and policies are enacted to simultaneously create new capital owners of the corporations growing the economy, both established and viable start-ups, as the economy grows.

    Yet, the author of this article, completely fails to address this underlying cause of economic inequality in the United States. While, the author points to worker-ownership models such as worker-owned businesses (e.g., cooperatives) to workers on the boards of major corporations, she fails to acknowledge numerous other financial mechanism that can be used more effectively to broaden personal ownership of the productive assets underlying the capital wealth of the economy (e.g. equal allocation Employee Stock Ownership Plans and Capital Homestead legislation). While the proposed Green New Deal is argued to create millions of jobs in building and renovating our country’s infrastructure, these are “temporary” jobs, as once the infrastructure projects are completed no longer will massive of workers be required.

    The illogic of all of this is the sole focus on job creation and boosts to minimum wage requirements, while completely ignoring or recognizing the detrimental impact of concentrated capital wealth ownership.

    At Agenda 2000 Incorporated, the advocacy firm I founded with binary economist and author Louis O. Kelso (and father of the ESOP), we used 90 percent, while the Rand Corporation statistic was 98 percent, to represent the productive capital factor input to creating goods, products and services. In concentrated capital ownership terms, the estimates were that roughly 1 percent own 50 percent of the corporate wealth with 10 percent owning 90 percent. This leaves 90 percent of the people scrambling for the last 10 percent, with them dependent on their labor worker wages to purchase capital assets and speculate on securities exchanges purchasing stock previously owned. Thus, we have the great bulk of the people providing a mere 10 percent or less of the productive input. Contrast that to the less than 5 percent who own all the productive capital providing 90 percent or more of the productive input, and who initiate and oversee most of the technological advances that replace labor “work” by workers with capital “work” by the owners of productive capital assets. As a result, the trend has been to diminish the importance of employment with productive capital ownership concentrating faster than ever, while technological change makes physical capital ever more productive. Corporate decision makers know this, whether in the United States or China, or anywhere organized assemblies of people engage in production. Technology is an easier and faster way to get a job done with quality consistency. Because technology increases the profitability of companies throughout the world, technology always has the advantage over human labor when the costs of them are the same. But because this is not well understood, what we as a society have been doing is to continually shift the work burden from people labor to real physical capital while distributing the earning capacity of physical capital’s “work” (via capital ownership of stock in corporations) to non-owners through government make-work job creation, minimum wage requirements, and welfare programs. Such policies do not function effectively.
    The solution is to build a democratic growth economy that recognizes bot human and non-human productive inputs. and in which the ownership of productive capital assets would be spread more broadly as the economy grows, without taking anything away from the 1 to 10 percent who now own 50 to 90 percent of the existing corporate capital asset wealth (until death). Instead, the ownership pie would desirably get much bigger and their percentage of the total ownership would decrease, as ownership gets broader and broader, benefiting EVERY citizen (all children, women and men), including the traditionally disenfranchised poor and working and middle class. EVERY citizen would become a full-voting capital asset owner in the corporations growing the economy, effectively enabling operating decisions to be made from the bottom up, eliminating the lopsided distribution of profits, and creating democratic control. Thus, productive capital income, from full corporate earnings dividend payouts, would be distributed more broadly and the demand for goods, products, and services would be distributed more broadly from the earnings of capital and result in the sustentation of consumer demand, which will promote and support environmentally responsible economic growth and more profitable and responsible enterprise. That also means that society can profitably employ unused productive capacity and invest in more “green,” environmentally productive and enhanced productive capacity to service the demands of an environmentally responsible growth economy. As a result, our business corporations would be enabled to operate more efficiency and competitively, while broadening wealth-creating, income-producing capital ownership participation, creating new capital owners and jobs resulting from the growth spiral, and “customers with money” to support the goods, products, and services being produced.

    For an in-depth overview of solutions, including the transformation of the labor union movement to a producers’ ownership union movement, see my article “Economic Democracy And Binary Economics: Solutions For A Troubled Nation and Economy” at

  • rgaura

    Well, most of the striking teachers were going wildcat, breaking the rules to strike, with lots of successes. I think we need to repeal Taft-Hartley first, then work on a draft of worker´s rights.

    Supposedly, the Trumpers say there are trillions of offshore money that can be repatriated to build infrastructure and being production again in the US. Well see.

    Even if the capital comes from Public Banks, which is more likely, people need to get creative, look around their communities, and start healthy initiatives, groups who can form coops, or small businesses. Regulations that hurt small businesses need to be waived, sort of the reverse of what goes on generally.

  • voza0db

    mutTrumpers don’t know that the financial terrorists have trillions in offshore money paradises!

    The only problem with starting at the community level is that the size and power of the rest of the Herd can destroy any progress made if this progress is seen by the rest of the Herd as a threat!