Unions Are Among the Very Few Interest Groups that Represent the Middle Class

Source: David Madland and Danielle Corley, Center for American Progress, November 14, 2014

Buried deep inside Princeton University political scientist Martin Gilens’ research highlighting the excessive influence the rich have on modern U.S. politics, there is a hidden gem exploring which interest groups best represent the priorities of the middle class. Gilens found that, while most powerful interest groups advocate for policies that predominately benefit their narrowly defined members, relatively few focus on policies that the middle class supports. According to Gilens, most of these middle-class oriented groups are unions, which is a big problem for the United States, as unions have been declining in membership and losing power for decades….

…What is striking about Gilens’ findings is that all five of the unions studied—the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the United Automobile Workers, and the National Education Association, or NEA—and a few other groups, such as AARP, the National Governors Association, or NGA, and the collective advocacy efforts of universities, are among the only groups that more often than not lobby for policies the middle class supports. Many leading interest groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oil companies, and other business organizations, actively advocate against policies that the typical American favors. All in all, of the 40 groups Gilens presented analysis for, only 8 strongly supported the interests of the middle class….