|Labor Pains Followed By Rebirth of Unions?|
|Key Words||Union membership, organizing, budgets, layoffs, private sector, public sector|
Union membership rose by 265,000 in 1999 to a level of 16.5 million (13.9 percent of the workforce). Now, private sector membership stands at 9.4 million (9.4 percent of private employees), and public sector membership is 7.1 million workers (37.3 percent of public employees). This increase comes after decades of decline: union membership has declined by one-fourth since 1980 and by 40 percent since the mid-1950s.
The primary causes appear to be twofold. First, the new leaders of the AFL-CIO have made union organizing a priority. They have encouraged member unions to increase the percentage of their budgets that they spend on organizing: the Service Employees International Union spent 47 percent of its budget on organizing and attracted 155,000 workers mostly in health care in 1999. Second, many unionized employers increased their workforces in the face of a booming economy, offsetting the layoffs seen in some unionized firms.
Still, it will take a long time to reverse labor's decline. One observer compared it to turning an oil tanker around.
(Updated March 1, 2000)
|Source||Steven Greenhouse, "Growth in Unions' Membership in 1999 Was the Best in Two Decades," The New York Times, January 20, 2000.|
Return to the Labor Markets Index
©1998 South-Western College Publishing. All Rights Reserved webmaster | DISCLAIMER