“A concerted effort to destroy the labor movement,” not Obsolescence, is Cause of Union Membership Decline

By Sahid Fawaz

Yes, union membership has dropped over the decades. 

Conservatives, however, argue that the decline is because unions are allegedly outdated.

A new report sheds light on what is really going on.

Vice.com reports:

“A report released last month by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, points out just how relevant the labor movement remains. The decline of unions—which now represent just over one in ten US workers, down from one in five from 1983—has been less about their value for workers than the result of a concerted effort to destroy the labor movement.

The EPI report details the tactics companies use to stop unions. In many cases, they use temp agencies, franchise arrangements, or other techniques to avoid taking legal responsibility for their workers. Labor laws that date back more than a half century aren’t equipped to help workers negotiate with companies that do their employing through third parties while retaining all real, practical power over workers.

Similarly, companies ranging from Uber to local construction firms and beauty parlors try to classify workers as independent contractors, avoiding the traditional responsibilities employers have for employees under labor law.

Most blatantly, when faced with unionization efforts, three-quarters of private employers hire consultants to help them quash them. Marni von Wilpert, one of the authors of the EPI report, said a good example is Nissan’s recent defeat of a Mississippi union drive by the United Auto Workers. In a campaign clearly organized by professionals, the factory’s managers wore ‘vote no on the union’ shirts, and businesses all over town hung up anti-union signs.

During another high-profile union drive, this one at a South Carolina Boeing plant, the company put together a break room display of goods like diapers to demonstrate how much union dues would cost.

But von Wilpert said the most effective anti-union tactic may be simply firing pro-union workers. That’s illegal, but the EPI report finds that between one in five and one in seven union organizers gets the boot for their organizing activity. Even when companies get punished for breaking the law, penalties are minimal and the damage to the union is already done.

‘It just sends a chill through the entire factory floor or office,’ von Wilpert said.”

For the full story, check out the entire piece at Vice.com.


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