It is the strangest contradiction: things have not been so bad for workers probably since the Great Depression, with wages declining, health care costs going up, pensions becoming a thing of the past. People are really angry and frustrated. Yet, at the same time, unions continue to decline in numbers and power.
It got worse:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nationâ€™s overall employment rose by 2.4 million. The percentage of workers in unions fell to 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the bureau found in its annual report on union membership. That brought unionization to its lowest level since 1916, when it was 11.2 percent, according to a study by two Rutgers economists, Leo Troy and Neil Sheflin.
And, even worse:
The portion of private sector workers in unions fell to just 6.6 percent last year, from 6.9 percent in 2011, causing some labor specialists to question whether private sector unions were sinking toward irrelevance. Private sector union membership peaked at around 35 percent in the 1950s.
And it will likely get worse, if thatâ€™s possible.
Now, I am not one who believes it is over. BUT: there needs to be a serious debate about what needs to be done. I agree with all the outside obstacles: the billionaires who want to kill unions, the right-wing march to eviscerate public sector unions and the growing numbers of big manufacturers who are setting up non-union operations.
But, a more systematic, honest analysis of what is not working internally is warranted.
This post was originally posted on Working Life on January 23, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is a strategist, organizer, activist, commentator and writer, primarily focusing his energies on the topics of work, labor and the economy. On June 11, 2009, he announced that he would challenge New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the 2010 U.S. Senate special election in New York. However, Tasini later decided to run instead for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010.