Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Waning Power of Private Unions in the U.S.

In 2009, there were only five major strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers, the lowest number since the major work stoppages series began in 1947, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today (see chart above). The prior low for major work stoppages beginning in a calendar year was 14 in 2003. The decline in work stoppages over the last sixty years coincides with the ongoing decline in union membership as a share of all workers, from a high of 32.5% of all workers in 1953 (almost 1 in 3) to 12.3% in 2009 (fewer than 1 in 8).

See related links at Economix and The Economist.

17 Comments:

At 2/13/2010 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could it be that unions have become so powerful in those industries where they still exist that they essentially get their way and there is no need to strike anymore? Heck, look at the Beg (Big) 3 auto companies! The unions tell management what they will and will not do (work rules), they dictate their pay and benefits (maximized to just shy of the point of driving their companies to bankruptcy), and become owners through gov't and bankruptcy actions when they overplay their hands.

 
At 2/13/2010 11:12 AM, Blogger LoneSnark said...

Well, there is free wealth produced whenever a strike is avoided. As such, America is wealthier overall when unions cease to cause trouble, whatever the cause.

I would prefer such gains to accrue to consumers. If Anonymous is right, then those gains (and various rents) accrue to the unionized workers. But I suspect he is wrong, as the big 3 still have strikes.

 
At 2/13/2010 11:35 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I don't think you can measure unions' influence by how many people belong to unions. How do you account for the phenomenon of the union threat? Do you suppose Toyota and Honda would be paying above market wages without the UAW barking at their heels? I doubt it. In fact, the workers there should be paying union dues for their premium pay.

I’ll leave it to each person to decide if he or she believes unions are good or bad because that is as difficult an argument as abortion. Unions, however, will still be influential and very relevant as long as any continue to exist. And according to the NLRA, they are legal despite an illegal campaign against them during most organizing drives.

 
At 2/13/2010 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to wikipedia, union membership by private and public sector.

Percentage of workforce
▪ Total - 12.4%
▪ Public sector - 36.8%
▪ Private sector - 7.6%

Unions in the competitive marketplace are disappearing, as they should. In the public sector, where bureaucrats negotiate with other people's money and no profit motive exists, unions continue to thrive. Members pull down pay and benefits well in excess of their market value, all at the expense of taxpayers and the overall US economy.

 
At 2/13/2010 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anecdotally, as state and local (and possible federal) budgets get squeezed by recession (meaning less revenue), state and local governments are, in currently tiny steps, starting to get tough with public employee unions.

 
At 2/13/2010 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you suppose Toyota and Honda would be paying above market wages without the UAW barking at their heels? I doubt it. In fact, the workers there should be paying union dues for their premium pay.

Toyota and Honda are thriving while paying "above market rates" while UAW infested companies have attached themselves to the American taxpayer like a bloodsucking parasite. The unions have "influence" because they buy it, almost exclusively from Democrat politicians, using the money they appropriate in dues. If the unions are so wonderful for workers, why am I, as a taxpayer, asked to ensure their health care, pensions and the survival of the companies they work for?

You can get up on the table, like Norma Rae, and lecture us about the value of unions when they take their filthy hands out of our pockets and stand on their own two feet.

 
At 2/13/2010 7:00 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Are Toyota and Honda really paying "above market wages"? What exactly does that term mean?

 
At 2/13/2010 8:19 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


I’ll leave it to each person to decide if he or she believes unions are good or bad because that is as difficult an argument as abortion. Unions, however, will still be influential and very relevant as long as any continue to exist. And according to the NLRA, they are legal despite an illegal campaign against them during most organizing drives.

Those are words of wisdom, especially with the last sentence.


Toyota and Honda are thriving while paying "above market rates" while UAW infested companies have attached themselves to the American taxpayer like a bloodsucking parasite. The unions have "influence" because they buy it, almost exclusively from Democrat politicians, using the money they appropriate in dues.

Well, they tried Republicans, and were rewarded w/ PATCO(and the precedent that it set). When those "break the union" Republicans are gone, then they might try again.

The foreign transplant companies pander to the South for its willingness to consider certain old traditions not tolerated in the North with regards to business. When they start building in the North on a large scale to the North's laws(read: no "RTW" laws), you will have a valid point. Otherwise you're just saying that the South has a parasitical relationship with non-US interests(in the name of "business friendliness").



Besides, aren't some(if not more) of the rank/file in Toyota factories not officially employed with Toyota?

 
At 2/14/2010 7:18 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Well, they tried Republicans, and were rewarded w/ PATCO(and the precedent that it set). When those "break the union" Republicans are gone, then they might try again"...

Ahhh sethstorm, any chance you get to embarrass yourself you take...

Try a dose of the Aug 7, 1981 issue of the Nashua Telegraph...

 
At 2/15/2010 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing no one can duspute is that without unions, both public and private, Michigan wouldn't be where it is today. Of course, without politicians, both Republican and Democrat, our country wouldn't be where it is today either. Isn't that great? Isn't that sad? I'm just happy that unions and politicians are there for each other. However, I'm not a politician and I'm not a union member. I'm just a loyal American who is happy to pay more and more of my hard earned money for wasteful government spending that furthers the unions agendas.

 
At 2/15/2010 6:58 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

anonymous,

Using your logic, you would similarly have to give credit to labor unions for the U.S. still being the greatest country in the world.

In addition to hiding behind your anonymous status, you are a bit short on facts. You sound like a drunk sitting in a bar complaining that everything wrong in his life is because of his wife.

 
At 2/15/2010 7:14 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H:

The Bureau of Labor statistics has the average manufacturing wage. That's what I was using to make my statement that Toyota and Honda pay above market wage. The automakers themselves say they pay more than the wages in the areas their factories are located, and they are trying to change that. There was a leaked memo on the subject (I think it was from Toyota).

There are basically two successful ways to keep unions out: 1) Employ strike breakers and intimidation so employees will not vote for a union, or 2) treat the employees exceptionally well so the employees do not think they need a union. What does the leaked memo tell you about Toyota’s future strategy?

Ask yourselves this question:

Over 50% of employees say they want a labor union when they were polled in a respected survey, but only about 12% have one. Assuming the 50% figure is legitimate: Why do we have a 38% gap?

 
At 2/15/2010 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Walt G,

I don't know anyone named Walt G so as far as I'm concerned you are anonymous as well. I didn't quote facts, there are plenty here. Perhaps the problem lies in how we interpret facts. My point was that the impact of unions has been both positive and negative. At the start of my career I was a union rep. and I negotiated several labor contracts. Later in life I owned my own business so I understand things from an owners perspective as well. I would say I am well qualified to opine should I choose to do so. I don't drink but perhaps I will choose to spend more time in a bar in order to formulate a better self-understanding. My comments were made to inspire (or provoke) a response. Either positive or negative. I will leave you with a story from the start of my career. After working a 10 hour shift as a union employee in a factory, I played golf and had a soda in the bar afterwards. I was speaking to the man next to me when he suddenly stood up and said he had to get back to work to punch out. I said: "You must work for GM" My question is this: Do you think he was a supervisor or an hourly union employee?

I don't know the exact numbers but heard there were once over 80,000 GM employees in and around Flint. Is that number now below 15,000? What caused it? Was it poor management & corporate greed? Was it union greed and some (not all)union employees taking advantage of the system? Perhaps it was both! All I know is there is a nice parking lot for sale near Averill and Dort!

 
At 2/15/2010 10:30 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Try a dose of the Aug 7, 1981 issue of the Nashua Telegraph...

Read it, came to the same conclusion. Kill the relevant provision in Taft-Hartley, and keep the provision from rising again.

It shows that being a federal employee isn't exactly the sinecure that some think government work is. What the article didn't show is the precedent that the PATCO firings set over the long term.

Was that a random selection of PATCO articles of the time, or was this a specific one you looked up for your point? It would be more helpful if you gave the query that was behind it (if you selected it out of multiple relevant PATCO-related stories of the time).



There are basically two successful ways to keep unions out: 1) Employ strike breakers and intimidation so employees will not vote for a union, or 2) treat the employees exceptionally well so the employees do not think they need a union.

Unfortunately 1) is used a bit too more often versus 2). If you actually treated the employees with enough respect to not want to unionize, it might be viewed as leaving money on the table.

Would it be wrong to say that such preference was driven in some part by the PATCO firings? That event essentially said that it's OK to disrespect your employees.


What does the leaked memo tell you about Toyota’s future strategy?

Would it be wrong to ask as to which memo that was leaked? I'd wonder if there is some effort to break the South in that respect.

Not that I can't blame them, but this isn't Japan where some of their practices on unions are still 19th Century.

 
At 2/15/2010 11:31 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

sethstorm:

I found it in a couple of seconds with a search (here's an excerpt from one of the sources):

Leaked Toyota Memo, Firings Infuriate U.S. Workers
By Mark Durham April 2, 2007 | 9:04 am | Categories: Miscellaneous


As the UAW pushes to organize Toyota’s U.S. workers, a leaked memo from Toyota’s head of North American engineering and manufacturing says Toyota’s U.S. wages are growing faster than its profits and that $300 million in wage cuts are needed for fiscal 2011. Meanwhile, two fired Toyota workers have denied leaking the embarrassing memo.

It’s easy to see why Toyota wanted the 2006 memo kept under wraps. UAW organizers have pounced on the memo — which was authored by Seiichi Sudo, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America — saying it means more temporary workers taking jobs from full-time $25-an-hour workers at Toyota’s North American plants. Not that it needed to be said — it isn’t hard to imagine the conversations on the shop floor at Toyota factories across the U.S.

Read More http://www.wired.com/autopia/2007/04/leaked_memo_and/#ixzz0fcfUl1TM

 
At 2/16/2010 12:49 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

I found it in a couple of seconds with a search (here's an excerpt from one of the sources):

Ok. It looks like the same thing I was looking at. Thanks for pulling it up, though.

 
At 2/16/2010 6:21 PM, Blogger juandos said...

sethstorm says: "Read it, came to the same conclusion. Kill the relevant provision in Taft-Hartley, and keep the provision from rising again"...

That didn't happen though did it?

The FAA employees signed onto the job knowing ahead of time what the conditions were...

"What the article didn't show is the precedent that the PATCO firings set over the long term"...

Well of course not, the precedent was already in the terms of work that the employee signed onto...

"Was that a random selection of PATCO articles of the time, or was this a specific one you looked up for your point?"...

Obviously you didn't read it otherwise you'd have noted it was an AP article picked up by the Telegraph...

"Would it be wrong to say that such preference was driven in some part by the PATCO firings? That event essentially said that it's OK to disrespect your employees"...

Only to those who's grip on reality is tenuous at best...

No one forced those people to work for the FAA or to continue to work for the FAA if they didn't like the conditions...

People can still make choices freely...

Game, set, & match old son...

 

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