Unionization Efforts Are Not As Widespread As You Think, Here’s Why
Unionization efforts are not as widespread as one may perceive due to an overall decline in union membership and many states having laws that make it difficult for employees to unionize.
The unionization of workers is often associated with events from the past, like factory sit-ins or strikes. While these activities are still relevant today, unionization efforts are not as widespread as many people think. This could be due to a variety of factors that have contributed to the decline in union membership across the US and other countries over the past decades.
In a recent article highlighting the decline of union efforts, NPR shared 2022 union data released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the numbers don’t look promising. According to the BLS, “Last year, the union membership rate fell by 0.2 percentage points to 10.1 percent—the lowest on record.” This was the second consecutive year that the unionization rate declined. In the 1950s, about one-third of American workers were union members, compared to less than one-tenth of American workers now.
So, what’s going on in 2023? For starters, many people don’t understand exactly how unions work and how they can benefit workers—or even their employers. Unions can provide better wages and benefits to their members and also help them to negotiate better working conditions and gain access to corporate decision-makers.
In addition, unions can act as a safeguard against unfair labor practices that might otherwise occur without proper oversight. Unfortunately, many potential union members do not understand what unions do or why they should join one, leading to a lack of interest in engaging in unionization efforts.
Globalization and the sending of jobs from developed countries to countries with cheaper labor markets are other things that have led to a drop in union membership. Companies have sought out lower costs by sending jobs overseas, where wages may be much lower than those found domestically, reducing the need for workers here at home to organize into unions for job protection or higher pay rates. This trend has been exacerbated by technology, which allows for more remote working arrangements, cutting down on traditional labor costs associated with having physical employees onsite.
Lastly, laws surrounding unions have become more restrictive over time, dampening enthusiasm among worker groups that might otherwise wish to organize themselves into a collective bargaining unit. States such as Wisconsin and Indiana have implemented so-called “right-to-work” laws that curtail an employee’s right to require all employees within their company to join a union in order for it to remain operational, while other states, such as Florida, recently passed legislation that makes it difficult for public sector employees (such as teachers) to form unions or gain collective bargaining rights altogether.
All of these measures make it harder for individuals or groups of employees wishing to engage in unionization efforts, thus contributing further to its decline over time. The result is fewer people involved with organized labor today compared to even five years ago, leading some folks to assume that there isn’t much interest in supporting unions anymore altogether (which isn’t true).
Despite this overall decline, there is still plenty of support out there from those who recognize the importance of strong unions when it comes to protecting employee rights and building a brighter future for our workforce overall. The key is getting more information out about what unions can offer so that potential members have a better understanding of its purpose before making decisions about whether or not joining one would be beneficial for them personally.