Unions aren't going without a fight!

A little more than fifty years ago, over a quarter of workers belonged to some type of union. Today, fewer than 12 percent of all workers belong to a labor group, and they're under attack by corporations and their lackeys in state and federal government. A half century ago, union membership put power in the hands of employees, and led to some of the highest wages and employee protections in our history. However, thirty years of deregulation, outsourcing, and an overall war on workers cut the percentage of unionized workers by more than half.

Thankfully, today's labor groups aren't giving up without a fight. They're using some new tactics to demonstrate the importance of union membership, help other workers form unions, and plan ahead for the future. Recently, the Think Progress Blog spoke to labor activists around the country about some of the new ways they're fighting for workers. Unions like the SEIU 503 in Oregon are using so-called “Shop Mobs” to show up in huge crowds to support employee-owned businesses.

Other groups, like two trade unions in New York state, are forming coalitions to “pool resources and bring people together to fight.” The painters and allied trades union in St. Louis, Missouri is getting in touch with the community and offering apprenticeship programs to local residents, and the IBEW is training younger members how to be the next generation of union leaders. These groups are determined to ensure that workers of the future have the same rights and benefits that workers of the past fought hard to make possible. The anti-union lawmakers may have won a few battles, but labor groups won't give up until they declare victory in the war on workers.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 47 weeks ago

I want to keep repeating if we had one more democratic senator in the senate in 2009, we would have "card check". Please vote in the congressional election this year. Please vote for Democrats.

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 47 weeks ago

"a half century ago, union membership put power in the hands of the employees, and led to the highest wages and protection programs in history."

50 years ago the United States had basically a closed economy. Unions could hold companies hostage and get what ever they wanted. We live in different times now. You can email a CAD drawing and have a product delivered in days. The internet has changed the world. Suppliers are easy to find. Most of the developed world can speak English or we have Apps or programs to translate. Lets face it the new world economy is dragging the west down. The party is over adapt or get in the welfare line.

OR get rid of all free trade agreements and put taxes and tariffs on everthing coming in. Of course that would stop all exports from the United States as everyone would do the same to you.

Unions had their day but they became as greedy as the rich 1% and all the jobs left.

dianhow 9 years 47 weeks ago

Yes Trade agreements must go Citizens United must go as well. Foreign aid must be cut. Wealth favoring loopholes, subsides & corp tax cuts must end . Today powerful corps hold workers hostage . Unions were ones who pushed for fair wages, workplace safety, paid vacations, sick days, child labor laws. We forget the history of the ' Labor movement' I suggest people bone up on that subject. Fox , likes of Drudge, Hannity, Rush call labor unions ' thugs' so corps win the low wage low benefits game. Anti middle class GOP are master manipulators . Their masters are Corps & billionaires..not the middle class who once thrived, before the days of Reaganomics , 1981 deregulation, 1986 total amnesty , anti US trade policies. . We must focus on the Big picture Supreme Court judges , avoiding more wars, womens family planning rights & equal pay.

GOP rules did NOT allow women to sue employer unless done within 6 months of a Co paying her less for same work . So in 2009 Obama passed ' Letty Ledbetter Act ' giving women time to sue that employer. Bravo

Gary Reber's picture
Gary Reber 9 years 47 weeks ago

The labor union movement should transform to a producers’ ownership union movement and embrace and fight for individual worker ownership of the non-human capital assets of the companies they are employed by. They should play the part that they have always aspired to––that is, a better and easier life through participation in the nation’s economic growth and progress. As a result, labor unions will be able to broaden their functions, revitalize their constituency, and reverse their decline.

Unions must adopt a sound strategy that conforms to the economic facts of life. If under free-market conditions, 90 percent of the goods and services are produced by capital input, then 90 percent of the earnings of working people must flow to them as wages of their capital and the remainder as wages of their labor work...If there are in reality two ways for people to participate in production and earn income, then tomorrow’s producers’ union must take cognizance of both...The question is only whether the labor union will help lead this movement or, refusing to learn, to change, and to innovate, become irrelevant.

historywriter's picture
historywriter 9 years 47 weeks ago

Unions could help employees form employee owned companies. Minneapolis Star Trib had an article in this morning's paper about Christensen group, that has become very successful in the last 15 or so years as an employee owned company. I think that's one way that workers can share in the benefits of their work more equitably.

I don't know if that's the same as a cooperative, but they work too.

So do unions. We have to get rid of the elected people who keep trying to destroy unions. The gap only keeps increasing.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 9 years 47 weeks ago

All unions have to go? We can't afford union [ good paying ] jobs in a world economy? So why does everyone keep saying we need to bring back good paying jobs to get America back on track? What ever happened to that trickle down program that all those politicians said would save our economy. Now they have changed it's name to "Transfer of Wealth." Now all of a sudden they say that transfer of wealth [ formally trickle down ] is a bad greedy thing. I guess it's what ever suit"s them. They keep tripping over themselves trying to convince us that living on the edge of poverty is the American thing to do, and that they are powerless to do anything about changing it. God Bless America. Now be a good soldier and suck it up.

SHFabian's picture
SHFabian 9 years 47 weeks ago

Adapt, period. The last welfare check was issued back in 1996.

SHFabian's picture
SHFabian 9 years 47 weeks ago

Unions have been getting phased out for years. A huge chunk of those family-supporting union jobs are gone, and there's noithing we can do about it. If word gets out that you are talking to co-workers about unionizing, expect a pink slip. Can you risk that, when there's nothing to fall back on? We have an abundance of qualified people who are desperate for any job, any wage.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 47 weeks ago

That should be "less than 12 percent", not "fewer than 12 percent".

"Fewer" would be appropriate if the percentages could only come in whole numbers.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 47 weeks ago

Very funny Kend, you think the problem is the greed of the working man, not the greed of the relative few who control most of the wealth and thus the power. I'll check back for a honest answer after widespread violence erupts do to this unrestrained economic inequality. I assure you, there is an ugly breaking point to the out of control madness.

Unions basically are the only power the working class has left in this current Tea-Fascist country....maybe our only hope as well.

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 47 weeks ago

I hope you are wrong 10K. Things are going to get better soon and everything wil be all right. I usually takes about 10 years to start pulling out of a recession. Maybe longer with this President But not much. He had a tuff start.

I am not far off. If wages and benefits where reasonable No one would have to out source. look at oil companies. They pay great with good benefits. You never see them out source. they send there employees all over the world to work. I have two freinds working over seas right now. they export more than they import.

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 47 weeks ago

Sorry SHF, I am Canadian We still have welfare. No one goes without here. Some get by without working a day in there life. What do you do for the poor there?

OldGent's picture
OldGent 9 years 47 weeks ago

As much as I believe in Unions and their protection, I must also state that Unions must police themselves of corruption within. I feel that is what tore at the inner core of Unions. Strong Unions are only strong with the integrity of their people to that solidarity of people and process. I look forward to the return of the Union process that protected me and my son now.

OldGent's picture
OldGent 9 years 47 weeks ago

The statement made that "we forget" the history of the labor movement is so true. Even more true is that youth has not been exposed to it and the problems without. possibly our apathy of not highlighting those problems to out youth, not relating how hard it was to obtain and the sacrifices made, is our greater failure. Much like African American youth who hear but cannot relate the struggles for Civil Rights, they lean to the GOP failed promises. Wealth has a stronger appeal with no sight of the struggles to relate with. Hearing is not feeling. Making that happen is an equally important task to gather in that youth for their protection. We can't do it for them but we can try.

MMmmNACHOS's picture
MMmmNACHOS 9 years 47 weeks ago

KEND...How do you make it through the day???No offense, but does someone take you by the hand when crossing the street? Do you have someone to tie your shoes, or do you wear slip-ons that have an L and a R to tell you which foot to put them on?
Do you even understand what you just said? "If wages and benefits were reasonable no one would have to out source." Do you get that the reason that wages are no longer in tune (reasonable as you put it) with the basic cost of living is becasue for the past 30 years (starting with Reagan) Unions have been underminded by this Corporate high jacked Government.
The comparison of todays min. wage has less value than it did back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's.
FUCK oil companies...they are no different than any other global corporations...Hiding billions in off shore accounts, threatining to lay-off thousands of employees if they do not receive their tax breaks, or if "loop holes" are closed, or if the minimum wage is raised to meet the basic cost of living...They are Frauds! They only care about the board members financle interests.
You do get that Unions were started because shrued business owners would not ensure that workers would be paid a fair (and reasonable) wage, that workers would receive adiquate breaks, and/or would have safe working conditions. Unions also helped define certain work ethics and in many cases assured legal representation for workers.
That being said I do not deny that as time moved on it isn't so much that Unions became too powerful, as much as they got abusive with their power...Much like how the majority of todays Corporations are abusive with their power. It's natural, especially when you alow a capitalist system to opperate at hay-wire.

I encourage you to have someone read to you about the Ludlow Massacre of 1914

MMmmNACHOS's picture
MMmmNACHOS 9 years 47 weeks ago

...and that "desperation" is also part of the problem. People are willing to sell-out and work for less and less...Diminishing expectations! They will work longer and harder for less even though their efforts are worth more. Some don't even receive their checks as promised per the hirering process.
We could probabley make some change happen if 100k or more workers, (of any industry), were to organize and form a general union that helped define and oversaw and encouraged enforcment of fruitful labor policies that guarunteed workers living wages, bennefits, and safe and healthy work conditions.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 47 weeks ago

Hey Chuck,

'IF' my aunt had balls, she be my uncle:))

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 47 weeks ago
Quote Kend:I am not far off. If wages and benefits where reasonable No one would have to out source. look at oil companies. They pay great with good benefits. You never see them out source.

Kend ~ Of course, Kend. You might be out there; but, you're never far off. First, oil companies don't really produce anything. They rape the Earth and bottle it. You don't need a lot of laborers to do that, just a few specially trained workers and machine operators. It's cheaper to send them everywhere to rape the earth than to train the locals.

Secondly, thanks to the US ban on HEMP, together with the multi national corporate monopoly on the energy source, the oil industry doesn't really have any competition. Why risk losing well train employees trying to skim profits off of their labor when the product makes all the real profit? You cannot compare the oil industry to any other business in that respect. It is a unique filthy freak show a world apart from anything else.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 47 weeks ago

OU -- If your aunt wants to be an uncle, why don't you pay for the operation (or at least vote for her)?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 47 weeks ago

DAM -- Have you been able to track down any farmers who are now raising hemp in the US? Since American farmers were cheering Obama when he re-characterized hemp, I would think there would be some indicator around.

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