Reader’s view: Sweden proves unions help the economy and middle classThe countries with the greatest income equality — Sweden and Norway — have no government-
By: Paul Martin, Duluth News Tribune
The countries with the greatest income equality — Sweden and Norway — have no government-
mandated minimum wage. This surprising statement came recently from a conservative commentator from Forbes magazine, dodging a question as to whether she advocated completely abolishing the minimum wage here.
Really? I took this up with a friend who hails from that alleged bastion of unfettered, dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all, no-minimum-wage-freedom from Big Government: Sweden. And indeed it’s true.
Unions are functioning well in Sweden, rendering minimum-wage regulation largely unnecessary. The Swedes are a happy, healthy people with a strong economy. At 71 percent, union membership is high, although it has fallen from its 1995 peak of
86 percent. Conversely, private-sector unions here represent about 13 percent of the workforce.
I am not a union member and I am as cognizant of past union excesses as I am of the shameful behavior of Wall Street money managers and the machinations of David and Charles Koch. But how un-Swedish this wage equation seems in view of the stereotype — and, ironically, how very American.
Private unions negotiating with private industry with no government mandate regarding wage levels: What is difficult to comprehend is how the same conservatives in this country who are working to eliminate unions seem also to be working to eliminate the minimum wage.
Edward R. Murrow’s memorable question to Joseph McCarthy more than 60 years ago seems to be cited more and more these days. It’s no wonder why. To paraphrase for today we would ask the following: Have you no sense of decency, at long last? After eliminating the trade unions that created and sustained the middle class in this country, must you also exact the final pound of flesh from the poor in also eliminating a livable minimum wage?