Unions are various organizations are formed by and for workers to practice collective wages, objectives, rules and benefits in a workplace environment. Unions started to grow mainly after the civil war as one of the reactions to contemporary industrial economy requirements.
Labor unions began forming in the mid-19th century, but because of their large scales and poor organization, soon collapsed. At its peak membership and power in the 1970's, private sector union membership sill continues to decline. Careful consideration on the necessity of union support in relation to union decline, influential generational aspects, and also external impacts as well as direction are detrimental in the success of unions in the 21st century. (Borjas, 2009)
There have been a lot of factors contributing to the success and failures of unions. Few of them include the federal and international labour laws, disagreements amongst workers as to form unions and what kinds of unions to form, the perception of unions amongst baby boomers, the impact of globalization and policies adopted by both the government and the unions to enable and form new unions.
Unions have held an important role in certain areas like the education, journalism, auto industry and politics of the country. And their role has had a direct impact on the way Americans work and lives- for better or worse. (Borjas, 2009)
The recent trend, spanning over the last 40 years with respect to unions, is of a decline in the strength and power of unions. Different factors have contributed to this trend. Unions are proposing changes to policies that would lead to resurgence but many businesses hope that it does not happen.
The trend toward De-unionization
During the past three decades, labor unions have been facing a lot of difficulties in recruiting new members. There are both some internal and external factors accounting for this trend. In this section a number of these factors would be discussed.
On a statistical note, labor union membership as a percentage of the U.S. working force, shows a decline as well. The study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2005), the membership is down to 12.2 per cent in 2004 compared to 12.5 per cent in 2003. When these figures are compared with the data from 1983 (a year when the first such data was collected), the membership stood at 20.2 per cent. This shows a significant reduction. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005)
The advent of Globalization has increased competition amongst industry stakeholders and the profits margins once enjoyed by companies are no longer there. Union members in the past demanded their rights from these profit margins. So with diminishing profits the bargaining power of Unions has faded and has led to a decrease in unionization.
As the labor unionism's strength and unity is directly influenced by its members and the effectiveness of the organization, the current retrenchments are directly weakening unions' financial base. The primary source of a unions' income is generated from their members to carry out their operations, thus retrenchment weakens their financial base. A researcher explained: "We are responsible for our members when employed and after more and more workers are retrenched, would we be in the position to take care of these people? We get our income from our members, if they are not employed then we don't have the funds to carry out our activities." For this reason a high unemployment rate gives employers leverage to undermine workers and their trade unions and they need to work. (Holger, 2004)
Furthermore, baby boomers are less inclined to support the unions than the people who belong to the category of mature and Generation X'ers. As baby boomers were born in the era during which the unionization in the private sector was on the decline (Holger, 2004)
Statistics from 2007 show that only 22 per cent of the young workers have a union available, while 34 per cent for the adult workers. Data from 1983 shows a similar trend but at a higher percentage. (54 per cent for young workers and 70 per cent for adult workers)
The difference in strength of union membership between the two age categories show that baby boomers in propensity rather than opportunity and choose not to form unions even if the option to form unions is available to them
Researchers have suggested another reason why baby boomers are less likely to unionize, they say that they have spent a very short amount of time in the labor market and have not quite experienced the effects of workplace frustrations and poor management. Lastly, researchers say that if policies preferences of union members are found out then the significant difference in the opinions and the attitude of the average baby boomer would be highlighted from the concerns of Generation X-ers, showing the unwillingness of the young workers to join. (Holger, 2004)
In the context mentioned above, the declining trend in the formation and strength of unionization is seen. In this context a few methods would be analyzed that could be adopted to reignite the impact of unions.
The current scenario, where a strong opposition from management is expected, the process of organizing unions would require a long-term strategy. Firstly the labor unions should take up the option of investing in to social marketing technique to recruit new and potential members as not only a change in behavior but a change in attitude is required.
Along with a need to change in behavior there is a need to re evaluate the purpose of the unions. They have to understand that with increased competitions, the profit margins that once existed are no longer available, so their demands would need a rethink. So a solution would be to push for a collective bargaining agreement with the employers. (Berg & Kucera, 2008)
Labor Unions find themselves in a difficult state and they would need to make use of external factors as well as internal factors. Gaining political influence is very vital. Currently the formation of unionization is a long and difficult procedure. Pressure should be put to introduce more union-friendly laws. Union needs political influence to implement the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, to introduce the system of card checking voting during union elections. The present system is using a secret-ballot election. This practice has made unionizing harder. A change to card-check method would make it a lot easier for unions to organize their workers. And workers would be able to join a union as soon as the majority of the workers sign a slip that says they want to organize. (Holger, 2004)
Furthermore, leaders cannot create the required political structure for the growth of local unions into more powerful and organized communities. They need to delegate assignments and insist on employer neutrality when organizing campaigns. And the more members are involved in the process, the more popularity this would get.
Union and Politics
The role of organized labor has always been politically active in the United States of America ever since this concept of unionization surfaced in the later parts of the 19th century. The recent developments have seen unions taking a hard and firm stance over trade liberalization. The leaders of labor unions have voiced their opinions to oppose all legislative initiatives to aid trade liberalization since the 1980s. A few examples are the opposition to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), introduction of China in to the World Trade Organization, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CATA), presidential Trade Promotion Authority and some of the pending trade agreements like that with Colombia and Panama. (Holger, 2004)
Organized labor has a lot of influence on the nation's politics. They not only contribute financially but also volunteer for the Democratic Party in Unites States of America. Researchers go as far as saying that the labor unions provide a backbone for the Democratic Party. In the elections of 2008, labor unions played a key role in electing Barack Obama as the president of United States of America and enlarging the majority of the Democratic in the houses of Congress.
They have aligned themselves with the Democratic Party in hope to get something in return from their democratic allies like some labor friendly policies. At the moment the leaders of the labor Union are pushing for the Employee free choice Act in an attempt to reduce barriers for form unions. Currently the process of certification for unions is a lengthy process (spanning over several months). A change in policies, notable the introduction of the card-check method to form unions, would certainly give the unions a lot of power. If the President and the Congress passes this Act then the shrinkage of unions would possible convert into a growth- once again. Hence unions are very desperate for the congress to pass the employee free choice act and there are many businesses who are showing their concern to stop this change. (Holger, 2004)
Theorists have posed compelling arguments for and against the influence of Unions on politics. Whether a re-unionization…