Union Membership Decline Essay Outline


The percentage of workers in the private sector who belong to labor unions has shrunk to 6.9 percent. Labor historians report that this is the lowest rate of union membership in America since 1910. Despite the expenditure of vast amounts of money, effort and government influence by the labor movement, this trend shows every prospect of continuing. How did union membership decline so much?

Simply put, American workers now see the unions as part of the problem, not part of the solution. There are a number of reasons that account for this negative perception.

1. Unions often seem irrelevant. In good times, workers don’t need unions to secure increases in wages and benefits because everybody profits from economic prosperity. In bad times, unions can’t protect their members from layoffs, wage and benefit reductions and tougher working conditions. In fact, union contracts often seem to make things worse. The high cost of union labor is often cited as a contributing factor to the demise of many companies. Whole industries have fled the United States, attracted by the lure of cheap foreign labor. Other industries struggle to remain competitive.

2. Unions have a poor public image as being bloated, inefficient and often downright corrupt. Stories about labor racketeering, mob influence and trials of union officials for embezzlement and bribery are common fare on the evening news. Employers are often able to use this aura of greed and corruption to blunt union organizing campaigns.

3. Workers are often “out of sync” with union politics. The labor movement is perceived as being a vassal the Democratic Party and a champion of liberal causes. These most recently include immigration reform and national healthcare. Vast amounts of money and manpower have devoted to support labor-approved candidates and issues. Yet many workers, particularly in the South, are deeply conservative and simply do not support these causes. They do not want their union dues going to support issues and politicians with which they disagree.

4. Most Americans now turn to government, not unions, for basic protections. Workers rely on the government for pensions, healthcare, protection against discrimination and a whole variety of other benefits that were formerly provided exclusively by unions.

Unless the labor movement finds a way to reverse its long-standing decline, unions run the danger of their membership shrinking into irrelevance.

Perry Heidecker is senior counsel for Milman Labuda Law Group PLLC, Lake Success, N.Y. The firm is a full-service Employment Law practice focused on counseling, preventive advice and training, policy and procedure design, representation before administrative agencies, litigation, and appeals.




POSTED ON: 4/24/2013

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Decline of Union Membership Essay

2289 Words10 Pages

Organized labor has seen a long and ever changing history in the United States. What began as minimal organized labor movement catapulted into astronomical union membership rates as the nation grew and developed. The intense power unions possessed only lasted so long and in the years since 1970, union membership in the United States has collapsed. This paper will examine the most significant reasons for the decline in membership. In brief, organizational redesigns, the development of technology and substantial public policy changes have all contributed to the drop in affiliation rates. In addition, policy suggestions will be provided in an attempt to support the continuation of the trend. Much of the research regarding this topic refers to…show more content…

In 1913, Congress created the United
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State Department of Labor as a direct result of pressure from organized labor (MacLaury). Shortly after the creation of the Department of Labor, the Great Recession hit the nation. With the depression came an increased unemployment and lesser wages however significant legislation was also created during that time that impacted union membership. The most significant law was the Fair Labor Standards Act. Following shortly after this FLSA, the United States amended the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Occupations Health and Safety Act of 1970. Although these acts were supported by the power of unions, these acts in particular impact union membership which will be discussed later in the paper. It was at this time in the nation’s history that unions began to see a decline in membership. Unions today cast a wide umbrella of membership and consist of trade unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Laborers International Union of North America to service unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers. Although their membership has declined, unions that were once affiliated with a defined group skilled labor employees now can be found in almost any industry representing any group of employees.
There is significant data that tracks union

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