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Protesters against Michigan's right to work law.
Surprising no one who's paying attention, the percentage of American workers belonging to a union fell once again last year, dropping from 11.8 percent in 2011 to 11.3 percent in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Public sector workers are unionized at much higher rates than private sector workers—35.9 percent to 6.6 percent—and if you pay attention to monthly jobs reports, the public sector has been shedding jobs while the private sector adds them (albeit slowly). And of course unions are under fierce attack in both the public and private sectors, through legislation targeting public workers in states like Wisconsin and through the pitched warfare of intimidation and firings in retail stores and restaurants and factories.

"Working women and men urgently need a voice on the job today, but the sad truth is that it has become more difficult for them to have one," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in response to the figures. "What will define the labor movement of the future, however, is not assaults or the changing economy, but how working people come together to respond to them. We enter 2013 with our eyes open and understand that these challenges offer real opportunities for working people to reshape the future."

When Trumka says the question is "how working people come together," that should and must mean not just union members but all workers, since we know that the continuing decline in union membership is bad news for all workers.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 08:32 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I Often Hear (15+ / 0-)

    That several things wrong with our economy are the fault of The Unions. Given that so few workers actually belong to unions, this seems increasingly unlikely.

    Especially since, as union membership declines, things keep getting worse, not better, for the average family.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 08:38:39 AM PST

    •  CA republicans probably believe it (0+ / 0-)

      b'cuz union membership here is only down to 18% and unemployment is higher than average...but of course they are 100% WRONG, because 18% IS down for this state.

      ...or so I was told, today.

      "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

      by Sybil Liberty on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:35:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reducing size of govt=reducing unionization % (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      midwesterner

      Given wide disparity between public sector unionization levels and private sector unionization levels, there's a direct correlation.  That fact should be recalled in all discussions about cutting govt spending, esp at state & local levels.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 06:03:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  At one time, unions were corrupt, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    demjim, midwesterner, auapplemac

    bosses misused union funds, wages were too high, etc. etc. These arguments are still used today to marginalize unions as main sources of funding to Dems. But now it's overkill.

    I ♥ President Obama and have his back.
    Hands off SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid. NO subsidies to rich Corps.
    Rich pay more, bloated DoD steal less. End war on Afghanistan 01/01/14.

    by OleHippieChick on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 10:08:45 AM PST

      •  the question is, how do we flip the narrative? (5+ / 0-)

        Whenever I talk to anyone about unions here in Iowa, I get one of two arguments, either the one above about unions being corrupt ect, or  that "unions aren't needed anymore, they are obsolete." The latter just drives me insane. We may have a lot of good stuff thanks to unions, but how can anyone believe for a second that we wouldn't lose it all if no one fought to keep it?

        anyways, wandered off the point there. I agree, the corrupt ones are on Wall St now, but it's getting to be a "pox on all thier houses" sort of thing. It's a damn shame, but i'v no idea what can be done about it.

        "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

        by sixeight120bpm on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:12:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, they do. That's why "at one time" (0+ / 0-)

        Shit does happen and shit does change.

        I ♥ President Obama and have his back.
        Hands off SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid. NO subsidies to rich Corps.
        Rich pay more, bloated DoD steal less. End war on Afghanistan 01/01/14.

        by OleHippieChick on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:00:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Some Unions Were Corrupt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron

      I'm really skeptical that wages were "too high," though. How exactly would that be measured?

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:17:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, thinking of car making, (0+ / 0-)

        and how others judged the salaries of those on the line. I don't think they were too high but the optics were bad as everyone else started having to take less for what they do.

        I ♥ President Obama and have his back.
        Hands off SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid. NO subsidies to rich Corps.
        Rich pay more, bloated DoD steal less. End war on Afghanistan 01/01/14.

        by OleHippieChick on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:02:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Philly union's still have image problems. Here's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OleHippieChick

      part of an article from Philly.com about suspicious fire at non-union construction  site for a new Friend's meeting hall.

      Vandals attacked the Mermaid Lane construction site four days before Christmas, causing $500,000 of damage in what police said was a dispute between union members and the contractor. The vandalism, coupled with summer arrests at the Goldtex construction site on the edge of Center City, has focused attention on Philadelphia's history of labor-related violence.

      It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

      by auapplemac on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 12:36:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, image and optics and wrong-headed (0+ / 0-)

        memories about the formerly corrupt parts of unionism are hard to dislodge.
        I am completely in favor of unions.

        I ♥ President Obama and have his back.
        Hands off SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid. NO subsidies to rich Corps.
        Rich pay more, bloated DoD steal less. End war on Afghanistan 01/01/14.

        by OleHippieChick on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:05:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Unions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hnichols, Dirtandiron, Scientician

    Well, where is the President on this issue?  He is not going to be re-elected, he can do something.

  •  Since my husband and I (7+ / 0-)

    were able to secure Union jobs a few years back, mine in civil service, his in education, we have been spared some of the worst of the recent financial down turn.  Which is great, because other members of our family who have not been so "lucky" have needed our help.  I wish more people understood the advantages of collective bargaining & the rest of what comes w/ Union membership. Yes, there have been crooked union bosses, but still, there is no employment situation I can think of that's better.  Keep up the good work!

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:19:34 PM PST

    •  Big business has been allowed to crush unions (5+ / 0-)

      It's no accident that public sector unions are essentially the only unions left standing.

      However, as the ongoing privatization of govt functions continues, we can expect to see further declines in union membership.

      Our bought and paid for govt no longer cares.  In fact unions were among the first Obama supporters to be sold out by the administration's tack to the right after securing the election.

      It's all part and parcel of the 1% python like grip on the levers of power and their insatiable appetite for the whole pie.

      A standing army is like a standing member. It's an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure. Elbridge Gerry - Constitutional Convention (1787)

      by No Exit on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:32:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I find it fascinating (11+ / 0-)

    ...in a sad way, that GOP operatives (for lack of a better word) have managed to turn working class Americans against working class union member Americans.  It's remarkable, really.

  •  Next Generation Sectors have been shut out (3+ / 0-)

    I pointed this out in a post a few weeks ago.  At last check, Apple has a $122B cash reserve.  32,000 employees in the US (roughly).

    If it gave every employee a one time bonus of $100,000, it would be $3.2B, less then 3% of their cash reserves (not counting profits and equity).

    Why?  Because next generation sectors, including retail workers, IT, and all next generation jobs haven't managed to unionize.   Workers are on salary making $60k-$80k a year (decent to fair wages!) but they are putting in 70 hour work weeks (not good).   Retail workers are making barely above the poverty line.

    And there is no intent to unionize.

    And only a real effective union can bring to bear a negotiating stake that says: profits cannot be hoarded, and workers deserve a better pay scale.

    But as old economy jobs go away, so do the unions that represent them.  And the cost of labor within an enterprise as a percentage keeps going down.. and down.. and down.. and down.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:09:47 PM PST

  •  I would love to join a union... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Scientician

    but Iowa is a right to work state, and I really doubt I would keep my job more than a heartbeat after management heard the "un" in "unionize". I know Iowa has a few union shops, but they seem to be pretty few and far between, and I'v never heard of one in the service industry where I am..

    Unions have really taken a beating, It's a damn tragedy. Worse is that whenever I talk to anyone about it, they all say the same thing "But we don't need unions anymore, they are sort of obsolete, aren't they?" It makes me want to scream.

    "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

    by sixeight120bpm on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:16:35 PM PST

  •  This is also a big reason why the GOP is going (9+ / 0-)

    after the Post Office so hard.  The United Postal Workers is one of the oldest and largest unions.  If they succeed in killing the Post Office.  Service will be privatized.  It will be more expensive, less efficient and run by companies with non-union workers who are paid lower wages.

  •  Depressing news. I was hoping for a surge in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, Mark Mywurtz

    union membership.

    But the demonizing of unions for the last few decades has really taken its toll. Here's to the future, and more workers' cooperation.

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:22:29 PM PST

  •  one family, huge wealth, from communities (6+ / 0-)

    remember the good old days when the local hardware store, baker, or banker were important members of small communities?

    where did all the wealth held in common go?

    one place it went is to WalMart and the overseas manufacturing

    one family the wealth of between 30 to 40% of the people at the bottom

    and many of them work, you can guess, for the wealthy

    these greedy bastards don't want a unionized work force of 1 million

    they don't want to support the communities or the country

    they are a key part of the corporate coup d'etat that has taken over the country

  •  It is so interesting how the rich have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stude Dude, Dirtandiron

    successfully destroyed the unions, and forced wages down, all at the same time.  It started with the Democratic Party ideals of equal rights for all, to include minorities.  So they found, and funded candidates who would play to the worst prejudices of the working class, and got them to vote against the Dems, because the Dems supported black equality, women's equality, and LGBT equality.  The rich are laughing all the way to the bank while leaving these idiots that they suckered, wondering why they don't live as well as they used to.

    There is no hell on earth appropriate enough for those who would promote the killing of another person, in the name of a god.

    by HarryParatestis on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:27:06 PM PST

  •  Unions Need to Adapt (6+ / 0-)

    I'm a huge supporter of unions, but they need to adapt to new realities.

    With the exception of the SEIU, which seems to have figured this out, I have yet to hear an official with a major union talk about how unions can effectively adapt to the 21st century workplace.

    My grandfather was a union man, who worked for 40 years at a petroleum refinery in Houston.  That job and that company were perfectly organized for union representation.

    These days, outside the public sector and what's left of manufacturing, few workplaces seem to fit the "old" model of union organization.

    The unions need to figure out how to better represent people who do not work in traditional environments, and how to better represent individual workers as they are trying to organize unions.  I'm not sure how to do this, but I would think with the resources available, the major unions would be working on this.

    I'm certainly excited by the recent activities at Wal Mart, though!

    •  There is a union model for that: the trade unions (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, hosemore, JBraden

      with their hiring halls, training programs, benefits, etc.

      So many workers now are work-at-home contractors, free-lancers, etc, that they have come to fit the model we associate with carpenters and electricians.

      On the other hand, employers can hire overseas, and that really dilutes the power of a union.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:44:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unions should get...obstreperous. (5+ / 0-)

    Like they used to be.  Start making companies pay for not being unionized, until the fucks practically beg their workers to join.

    Pour yourself into the future.

    by Troubadour on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:35:58 PM PST

  •  I am one of the newest, proudest members (8+ / 0-)

    of IAMAW Local 751 (Machinists).  I'm proud to say that I have officially been a union thug for four days now.  I keep wondering when we're going out to corrupt the fabric of 'Murika, but, then, I haven't even been to a union meeting yet.  Maybe they'll let us know there.  

    If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then quit. No need to be a damn fool about it. - W.C. Fields

    by Isaacsdad on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:59:57 PM PST

  •  If you think about it, (5+ / 0-)

    the biggest problem with union membership is globalization. So, it seems to me, that just as corporations have globalized, the union movement must do the same.

    And just as corporations have modernized how they sell themselves to the public with years of careful research and branding, so must the labor movement.

    So yeah, I think AFL-CIO would do themselves well to remarket themselves to the public the way corporations do.  And offer a great product (a good job) in return for a bit of money and some elbow grease. That's the way you rebuild from the ground up.

    Then, and only then, should one start thinking about political action. AFTER you've got the numbers on the upswing.

    •  But, ahem, corporations control MSM megaphone. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Don midwest

      How do Unions remarket themselves without MSM platform?

    •  The problem is (0+ / 0-)

      corporations have successfully "marketed" the idea that anyone who tries to unionize will get fired. And it's pretty much true.

      No amount of union re-marketing will make that go away. One way to successfully organize a union is to lie to folks and tell them its against the law for the boss to fire them for unionizing, so there's nothing to worry about.

      Then hope you get everyone signed on before the first firing.

      The alternative is for folks to get so fed up they don't care if they get fired, they need a union.

      I hope that millions of people feel that way, before I die.

      Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

      by 6412093 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 11:47:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  strike 40 years ago - records sealed - travesty (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    midwesterner, JayRaye

    of justice

    happened in England

    article just out in guardian

    government cover up

    people convicted are dying off, but never seen the records

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/...

    actions against unions globally

  •  I'm sure there's no correlation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    midwesterner

    between this and the corresponding drop in wages and benefits over the same time period.

    Nope. Nothing to see here.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 06:50:43 PM PST

  •  The lack of Unions also has an impact (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    midwesterner

    on the skills of the work force. Without apprenticeships available to new worker's they have a harder time getting the training that is needed.

    A person who wants to work in  skilled trades is going to find it all but impossible to do so if they are working a Mc Job and also have to pay for schooling.

    •  I remember when unions were encouraged to let (0+ / 0-)

      Blacks into their apprentice programs in Philly. Union members had a hissy fit!

      Those openings were highly prized for family members and friends. They also didn't want to desegregate.

      Unions have to shoulder some of the blame for giving their enemies fodder to begin to attack unionization. Add to  incidents like this  the wide spread corruption of the 40s and 50s, unions were no longer considered the friend of the working class by the vast majority of Americans.

      They've never been able to recover.

      It’s the Supreme Court, stupid! Followed by: It's always the Supreme Court! Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive.

      by auapplemac on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 12:59:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Were it not (4+ / 0-)

    for my union job, I would be under insurmountable medical debt.  I am a bartender, and have worked for years in various places.  Early October in 2010, I got appendicitis, I had emergency room care, multiple tests, surgery, recovery.  I also had post surgical problems, so another emergency room visit, re-admittance, and a five day stay in the hospital.  Want to know what I paid for all of the hospital care? $0.  I also received short term disability pay, was able to use vacation and personal time during recovery, and even got flowers from the company.  That was from my corporate job, my corporate job from which I am a union member, with good benefits, and good healthcare.
    From my other job, I got a question as to "how long this was going to be a problem?" for them  And had that been my only job, for which I worked 30+ hours a week, I would have had no health insurance, no offer of health insurance, and no disability pay, nor clearly any care.
    Unions matter, unions raise people up, I wish more people could see what a union can do for the working people of America.  I'd never claim no faults, but you will never see me speak ill of the good unions do for their members.

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