Organized Labor is Finally Making a Comeback in the United States
Organized labor saw deep declines in membership and popularity starting in the late 1970s and continuing into the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s caused by the offshoring of manufacturing jobs, automation, and changes in labor laws that favored management. At the peak of the union movement in the 1950s, more than a third of American workers belonged to one, but by 2020 only about 6% of workers in the private sector held a union card.
However, this year may mark the beginning of a renaissance for organized labor. And it's happening in some unexpected sectors of the economy.
New York Times: "The United States is seeing a revival in union membership. In the last six months, the National Labor Relations Board has recorded a 60 percent increase in workers filing for petitions that allow for union elections to take place."
Washington Post: "A red-hot labor market that has afforded workers more bargaining power with employers is fueling a string of recent union victories at high-profile U.S. companies. Workers have voted to unionize for the first time in recent weeks at Trader Joe’s and Chipotle. Unions have also made significant inroads at Amazon, Starbucks, Apple and REI, employers that have long resisted unionization."
Americans are also more supportive of the labor movement than they have been for decades. In a Gallup poll released this week, 71% of Americans approve of unions, matching a 53-year high, according to the polling organization.
There are a variety of reasons for union resurgence. Low unemployment is certainly part of it. However, there is also a growing understanding that after Donald Trump's corporate tax cuts in 2017 America's largest companies are awash in cash and that most of it is going to executive pay and stock buybacks which enrich management and stockholders rather than workers. And, unions now also have a friend in the White House.
Yahoo News: "President Biden has repeatedly pledged to be the “most pro-union president” in American history and has staffed his administration with a long list of pro-labor appointees, including naming a former union leader as his secretary of labor."
Organized labor will probably never recapture the stature it enjoyed in the 1950s, but it may find its voice again to influence public policy at the state and federal levels. America's workers need a revitalized champion to lobby for policies that address the nation's growing income inequality.
Happy Labor Day!
By: Don Lam & Curated Content