I was reading an excerpt from author Marianne Cooper’s book today called “Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times” at Salon.com (According to the Amazon summary, “Cut Adrift makes an important and original contribution to the national conversation about inequality and risk in American society.”) and I began to think about the decline of unions and unionizing in America today. Part of it reads below:
In this new [employment] environment, unions are struggling. Although manufacturing workers have a long history of labor organizing, service sector workers such as restaurant and retail employees [which makes up 80% of occupations in America today] do not, making it harder for service employee unions to grow. Moreover, globalization, technological changes, and the spread of flexible work arrangements have combined to enable employers to make an end run around unions by moving jobs to countries or parts of the United States where anti-union attitudes and laws predominate. As a consequence of these developments, union membership has steadily declined.
A productive workers’ organization is a must for a good quality working-life. Before unions there were 6-day workweeks, 16-hour days, and unspeakably dangerous conditions. There was no OSHA, no breaks, and you could be fired swiftly and without recourse. And during our darkest days you could be badly beaten, or killed by a group of Pinkerton detectives for even being perceived as organizing. There were even war-like firefights between workers and local deputies hired by boss-capitalists at times like the one during The Battle for Blair Mountain.
This led me to another interesting piece of information I found from February 20, 2014 at the Pew Research Center:
In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2013, about half (51%) of Americans said they had favorable opinions of labor unions, versus 42% who said they had unfavorable opinions about them. That was the highest favorability rating since 2007, though still below the 63% who said they were favorably disposed toward unions in 2001. In a separate 2012 survey, 64% of Americans agreed that unions were necessary to protect working people (though 57% also agreed that unions had “too much power”).
So what this tells me is that there is a real, perceived value in union organizing today. But how do we get back there to 1954 when 28% of all workers in the country belonged to unions at it’s peak? I am afraid that I do not have the answer at this moment, nor probably for many afterward. But unionizing is the biggest threat to capitalism as it runs more and more rampant across the globe and almost completely unbridled here in the United States.