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For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers' right to strike.
The decision is extremely important. Especially since the 1981 PATCO air traffic controllers strike – when President Ronald Reagan fired all the controllers, who struck over safety issues, and permanently replaced them – employers routinely fire striking workers and bring in “permanent replacements,” or threaten to, sometimes even before a strike begins.
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