Why are Unionization Rates at Historic Low?

In 1955, overall rate of unionization was 35 percent; last week, 11.3 percent.

The same week, 2013, Dow Jones Industrial Average on the stock market broke 14,000 for the first time in five years—the market's at a historic high.

Non-unionization correlates with high stock markets?

Non-unionization correlates with growing gap between rich and poor?

Remember, correlation does not mean cause!

Explanations of why union density falls:

1. internal forces

a. Unions slow to recognize changing global economy;

b. they were resistant to immigrant workers belonging to unions;

c. not innovative in organizing strategies;

d. not aggressive about corporate globalization.

2. external forces

a. employers on offensive against unions in past 30 years;

b. changed labor laws and regulations;

c. corporations break laws to fight unions and keep them out of the workplace;

d. changing rules and regulations about workers’ rights. 

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Replies to This Discussion

I recall a time when the AFofL craft worker unions were refusing to acknowledge the CIO manufacturing worker unions. I don't know if racism was the reason. The AFofL later got smart and the AFL-CIO resulted.

The economic rapacity of American business made unions inevitable and the US government, always an ally of business, did little but attack unions and working people at least until the Roosevelt administration. During the decades before WW2, the only ally unions and working people had was the Communist Party. After WW2, the US Senate's demagogic Joe McCarthy based a short political career on attacking unions and working people for Communist leanings.

I first joined a union during WW2 while working part-time in a grocery store and was most recently a member of the AFL-CIO Writers Union.

The current low membership of unions saddens me. It's due in part to anti-union government policy such as right-to-work laws, and due in part to anti-union company policy. I don't know if internal corruption played a part.

I have for decades favored employee ownership of workplaces. As it becomes a reality, unions will be less important to workers.


Tom, I have been spending the last half hour trying to track down a video of employee owned or directed enterprises. Richard D. Wolff, economist, explores for such companies around the world, trying to see how they work, why they work, and what it takes to make them successful. I am drawing from memory now and will get you the citation as soon as I find it.
He says employees trained to be an obedient worker or a follower of directions does not have the skills necessary to make on the spot decisions or planning for the future. With training, they can learn how to be a participant in planning and implementing production work, and increase the efficiency.
Labor unions have a very bad reputation of crime and misrepresentation of workers. Those can be overcome ... or change to worker owned enterprise. Are there other options?

Humankind have put a lot of effort into a trip from political tyranny to democracy. The trip has begun but is not finished.

A similar trip from economic tyranny to democracy, (aka worker self-directed enterprise) has also begun.

By Richard D. Wolff, at Amazon:

Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, published October 2012 with excellent reviews. I have a sample on my Kindle but have yet to buy the book.

Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It, published September 2012, also with excellent reviews.

By Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, a free edition at Amazon for Kindle readers:

Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution, published March 2011. Two reviewers liked it; one, an xian who opposes evolution, panned it. This is a study of cooperative societies, human and non-human. I read this decades ago and liked it.

Yes, Tom, I first read Richard Wolff's "Capitalism hits the fan" and I respect his definition of what happens in capitalism. I haven't liked his remedy ideas and continue to read his work because he is evolving. The village in either Spain or Portugal to which he refers as an example of his theory in practice makes sense to me.

Thanks for the reference to Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, "Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution"; I just downloaded it from the internet.




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