In 2013, Gallup, a leading polling agency, showed that 54% of Americans approve labor unions. Nearly 1 in 3 of public sector workers are covered by collective bargaining, while in the private sector, only 1 in 15 workers are likely to be in a union.
What this means is that todays union worker is more likely to be white collar, better educated, and work in the fields of educator or clerical worker, as opposed to a mechanic or electrician in a trade craft. Surprisingly, there are more women than men making up America’s organized union ranks.
This shift happened when many of America’s blue collar manufacturing jobs were shipped oversea or across ourborders. Since 2000, there have been an estimated job loss in manufacturing of 5 million jobs, many of them union jobs.
Todays labor movement is heavily swayed by the unions who have the largest membership. America’s largest union is the National Education Association (NEA), who has a membership of 3.2 million members. The Service Employees International Union boasts a membership of 2.1 million members, followed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has 1.6 million members and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) represents its 1.5 million. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union rounds out the top 5 unions, with 1.3 million members.
This is why, in 2011, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attacked public sector workers, it was a big deal for labor. Anti-union forces are targeting public sector workers. The recent Supreme Court Decision just handed down in Harris vs. Quinn deals another blow to public sector unions in stripping the funds from labor that represents their constituents.
Labor has responded in a way that they always have, by organizing. The recent and current political climate has been a shock to organizers, with the actions on Tennessee lawmakers during the UAW campaign to organize VW in Chattanooga, and Nissan in Mississippi. What labor learned is that the forces arrayed against them inhabit almost every institution they would normally turn to when corporate forces employed dirty and illegal tactics in thwarting them. In the middle of this are the workers, often left dazed, confused, and worried that if unionization is not available to them then where can they turn for more job security, better wages, and the kind of benefits that matter to them and their families.
A report ran by the National Labor Relations Board between 12/01/2013- 12/31/2013 proves conclusively that people want the security and voice that comes with being union. In all the cases cited, 63% were WON by the union petitioning for an election. Each case represents brave workers who stepped up and took a stand. Six out of every 10 got the protection and voice they were seeking, but the four out of 10 were left exposed to their employers post election wrath.
Union accomplished this result even in the poisoned and polarized atmsophere that has permeated the social fabric of America. This may also be why publoc sector unions are growing. Public sector employers, who are paid and answer to federal and state regulators, are less likely to employ tactics during organizing that would make them liable to charges from the National Labor Relations Board in violating the National Labor Relations Act.
Private corporations feel no such constraint. Depending on the corporate theology, corporations that are anti-union will intimidate, threaten, bribe, and even fire workers for excercising their rights to the protected activity of organizing and deciding whether or not to form and join a union. Many times, these actions are adjudicated through the courts, but years after the fact and too late to help workers who may have been made an example of by those companies.
The biggest mistake most people make is thinking UNIONS and not equating PEOPLE: PEOPLE ARE THE UNION. That person holding a sign on a picket line is out there because there’s something they believe in and will fight for. The UNION protects them while they engage in that activity, but it’s THAT person who made their sign and showed up.
The precedent set is simple: if you’re going to organize, you BETTER WIN!
The other precedent is that if you’re lucky enough to be represented by a union, you can’t afford not to be active in your union.
Union members are out, in force, fighting for the the rights of all American workers to earn decent wages, have some job security, be able to have benefits that protect their families, and have a voice in the workplace and legislators who make the laws that govern them.
Please visit the “ORGANIZING” tab on our site, and visit the UWUA main site. The UWUA is a great union in that it recognizes and reacts with action to the challenges facing all workers and their members.
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