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Letter: Unions were a path to middle class

U.S. Army veteran John Wendel, of Farmingdale, stands

U.S. Army veteran John Wendel, of Farmingdale, stands beside his American flag at the Field of Honor display at Farmingdale Public Library. (Nov. 3, 2013) Credit: Ursula Moore

"Blocking off our roads to success" [Opinion, March 16] was a good start, but columnist Peter Goldmark left out the strongest ladder to the middle class: a collective bargaining agent that empowers workers by seeking a greater share of productivity gains.

The decline of unions has not been an accident. A concerted effort was started in 1947, after veterans returned home from saving the world for democracy, with an act passed over the veto of then-President Harry Truman, who called it an assault on free speech.

The Taft-Hartley Act diminished the power of unions. From the allegiance clause, to the ban on secondary boycotts, to the right to work for less laws, the legs were cut out from under the working class. That assault saw unions decline from a high of 35 percent of the private-sector workforce to 6 percent in a continuing onslaught.

The attack continues, now focused on public-sector workers and their unions and pensions. Teachers and their unions have become public enemy No. 1.

Yes, they, not the plutocrats, are responsible for the dismal test results of impoverished students, even though studies show the correlation between test scores and income. Yes, they will be replaced by privately owned, yet taxpayer-funded charter schools, employing low-paid, non-union inexperienced teachers until they burn out.

Joel Herman, Melville