This Letter to the Editor ran in The Baltimore Sun, February 7, 2014. The author is an attorney for Teamsters Local 311, Teamsters Local 355, and Teamsters Local 570.
Costco shows the value of unions
In your editorial about President Obama's visit to the Lanham Costco to advocate for raising the minimum wage you correctly point out that Costco "has prospered by paying higher wages and offering better employee health coverage than its competitors" ("The Costco example," Jan. 29).
What you failed to note, however, is that a significant portion of Costco's stores on the West and East coasts — including four stores in Maryland — are unionized, with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters representing those workers.
The Teamsters have been successful in negotiating industry-leading wages, benefits and working conditions for their members. Costco has to apply comparable (although not quite as good) wages, benefits and working conditions in its non-union stores to keep workers there from organizing.
The lesson is that a certain degree of union density is a rising tide that lifts all boats. The disparity in income in this country, which is unprecedented in modern times, is directly attributable to a reduction in union density, which is itself a consequence of employers taking advantage of toothless labor laws to beat back organizing efforts.