Union labor losing ground in U.S.

Neal Morgan

Port Arthur News Online

It’s evermore amazing to me how labor unions all over this nation grow smaller and smaller. It is even more astounding how more and more union guys are joining the Republican party. After watching the PBS full week series on the Roosevelt family — FDR, Teddy, and Eleanor — I was pushed to remember...

It was, sure enough, labor unions in the early 20th century which caused the minimum wage, overtime pay, a 40 hour-5 day work week and the banishment of child labor. Plus, probably, a bunch of other things I’m leaving out. And, as is constantly the case, Corporate America is doing everything in its power to destroy unions.

The Walmart story has been told, as has the fact that large, international, American-based and originated corporations are moving to communist countries. Corporate America, you see, loves serfs, like those laborers in Mexico and China. And, sorry as I am to say it, both the Republican and Democrat congressmen have said very little or nothing about it. That is, of course, a US congress of which over 50 percent are millionaires...which may explain the whole circumstance.

In 2013, the number of American workers belonging to labor unions declined to the point that was the lowest in a century. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the total number of union workers fell by 400,000 to 14.3 million, even though the nation’s employment rose by 2-4 million that same year. The percentage of union members fell to 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent the Bureau reported. Which, sadly, brought unionization to its lowest level since 1912, when it was 11.2 percent — says “The New York Times.”

The steep decline, labor experts say, was caused by new laws that lessened the power of unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, and other  states without unions, and the growth of small businesses that rarely have unions.

Union membership dropped in Wisconsin and Indiana. Wisconsin passed laws pushed by its governor that curbed the collective bargaining rights of public employees. And in Indiana new right to work laws got many workers to just drop out of unions. In Wisconsin union membership fell by 13  percent in 2012, and by 18 percent in Indiana. The laws in those states do not allow unions to require employees to pay union dues or fees.

The people dropping out of unions, or never joining, are — I’m quite sure — younger folks who see the Great Depression and what followed as nothing more than just another piece of history, like the Civil War. They don’t, can’t, see the hard-core reasons for labor unions. Those reasons include workers’ voices being heard and listened to, having a safe environment, adequate pay, adequate overtime compensation, proper health benefits, and protection from tyrannical bosses.

Though numbers are dropping, unions still have enough power to influence politicians and provide a voice for average Americans. A union represents its members in courtrooms, and even on the Senate or House floor. It can — with hundreds of thousands of workers — compete successfully for laws that protect their homes and families.

All the above, obviously, is the reason Walmart workers and fast food restaurants have gone on strike so many times and are demanding $15 an hour in wages...and a union to stand up for them.

In the Corporate America that doesn’t have unions, an employee’s salary is considered confidential and up to employer decisions. In that manner, employers can favor one employee over another. Unions don’t allow that to happen, they demand all workers be treated equally. The AFL-CIO tells us that union members earn 30 percent more than non-union workers. Almost 70 percent of union workers have a guaranteed pension, and almost all of them have health insurance. A big union can defend any worker who has been shabbily treated, and when fired a union can give legal assistance to an employee.

The future of organized labor, however, looks as if it’s going to have severe problems. The private sector unions fell from 6.9 percent in 2011 to 6.6 percent in 2013. And union membership in the public sector fell to 35.9 percent in 2012 from 37 percent in the previous year. Many teachers, police officers, and others lost their jobs — government workers in unions fell by 234,000.

I have some unprovable ideas about the decline of unions in Texas and elsewhere — even if you don’t blame Gov Goodhair. I fear that too many younger people visualize union members as guys wearing hardhats with dirty, greasy clothes and smears of oil on their faces. It’s the same reason there’s such an increase of Republicans in Texas.

It has become more “socially acceptable.” It’s the “in” crowd.

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