Wednesday, January 23, 2013

US Union membership continues to decline

Re, my comments below, a reader points out correctly that I neglected to mention another very important aspect of the left and socialist groups and that is their refusal to offer an alternative to the class collaborationist policies of the present trade Union leadership.  In fact, as I have mentioned many times before (too many times according to some) most of the left act in one way or another as a left cover for the trade Union bureaucracy and their polices.  Any activist, worker, socialist or anti-capitalist that genuinely wants to fight for workers and strengthen and build our movement, especially those that are in Unions or are an adjunct to these bodies in one way or another, will inevitably be drawn in to conflict with the Labor hierarchy.  This has also contributed to the decline of workers' power and trade Unions in the US.

Years of class collaboration by the Labor officialdom through the Team Concept in the workplace and in the political arena through their support of the Democratic Party has led to lower unionization rates and Union membership in the US continues to decline.  We have all witnessed heroic struggles over the last 25-30 years that followed the crushing of PATCO by Reagan.  The two Greyhound strikes, the Hormel strike, Detroit Teamsters strike, Pittston Miners strike and the Staley battle in Decatur to name a few. 

While mistakes are inevitably made by leaders and workers at the head of these struggles, these are strikes were defeated primarily due to the role of the heads of organized Labor whose strategies comprise corporate campaigns and reliance on Democratic Party politicians rather than the independence and strength of workers' organizations and our communities.  As we have also pointed out on this blog, the left bears some responsibility for this decline, failing to build a left current and broad united front of action against the capitalist offensive, necessary factor made difficult by left sectarianism and competition between rival groups, putting the interests of individual groups ahead of the movement on the one hand and fluctuating between reformism and ultra-leftism on the other.  We have all been guilty of this.

Below we reprint some new statistics on unionization in the US that show the private sector declining further to just over 6% of the workforce.  The present assault on the public sector coming on the heels of the emasculating of the UAW with the help of Bob King and the leadership of that Union leaves the public sector as the last significant unionized sector in the US, a situation that will not be reversed until a mass movement below transforms the balance of class forces here in the US.  The public sector cuts are the reason for the recent decline, the result of a bosses' offensive that has not been challenged.

Richard Mellor

The piece is from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Union Membership, 2012 

Written by John Schmitt and Janelle Jones   
Thursday, 17 January 2013 13:00

On January 23, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its estimates of “Union Membership” for 2012. Using the same data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), we have compiled advance estimates for union membership and coverage for 2012 and find a large drop in unionization last year. Most of the losses occurred in the public sector, where union membership fell 1.0 percentage points or about 231,000 members. But, membership also fell about 0.3 percentage points, or about 175,000 members in the private sector.
By industry, the biggest gainers were: administrative and support services (up 51,000 members); arts, entertainment, and recreation (up 24,000); and machinery manufacturing (up 24,000).
But, by far, the industries experiencing the largest losses were concentrated in the public sector, with educational services (down 199,000 members) and public administration (down 92,000 members).
Construction (down 60,000), hospitals (down 51,000), primary metals and fabricated metal products (down 36,000), and food manufacturing (down 30,000) also took big hits.
The high concentration of women in teaching and public administration depressed the union membership rate for women (down 0.7 percentage points) more than it did for men (down 0.4 percentage points).
Our estimates are based on complete 2012 data and should be very close (within a tenth of a percentage point or two) of published membership and coverage rates. But, as of January 2011, the publicly available CPS data use a slightly different weighting scheme than the internal version of the data that are used at the BLS. So, our estimates of the numbers of unionized workers will likely differ slightly from the final published numbers.

Each table shows union membership (the share of employees who are members of a union) and union coverage (the share of employees who are covered by a union contract, since some workers are covered by a union contract but do not belong to the union). Some of the year-to-year changes are affected by rounding error.

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