Union Trends and Data

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri Jan 26 08:35:31 MST 2001


>From Labor Research Association

Union Trends and Data
Union Statistics

Union Organizing Gains in 2000 Were Outpaced by Layoffs and Retirements (Jan. 25, 2001)

Following a notable gain in 1999, the number of union members in the United States
fell by 219,000 workers in 2000, according to data tracked by the Labor Department.

The drop in union membership, combined with heavy growth in non-union industries,
pushed the overall percentage of unionized workers (the union density rate) down 0.4%
to 13.5%. see table of current data; historical data

For a labor movement committed to rebuilding its strength, these numbers were not
cause for celebration. Instead, they highlight the need for unions to develop an even
more aggressive approach to organizing new members.

According to the AFL-CIO's "Work in Progress" organizing report, more than 160,000
workers joined unions last year. (The actual number of members organized is probably
higher, but official estimates are not available.)

But with the heavy job losses in manufacturing and the thousands of older union
members retiring each year, current union organizing activity is not enough to cover
the losses. For example, in the first half of 2000, unions won just over half (52.4%)
of all NLRB-supervised union representation elections, resulting in a gain of 45,788
new members (Source: Bureau of National Affairs).

To turn this situation around, unions will need to organize at least one million new
members annually.

How will unions do this?

The obvious answer is to continue committing more energy to organizing and developing
better strategies for leveraging existing resources.

"Unions at the national, regional, and local level must put organzing first, in actual
deeds, not simply words or wishful thinking," said LRA Executive Director Greg
Tarpinian.

Getting serious about organizing means:

evaluating all union resources and staff commitments in terms of how they affect the
process of organizing new members;

establishing long- and short-term strategic organizing programs with concrete goals;

focusing on the training of organizers and lead organizers;

assessing the union's capacity to leverage existing assets to reduce employer
resistance.
Developing an effective organinzing program is the first step toward union growth. But
as Tarpinian explained, implementing a program will also require unions to tackle
boader, structural questions.

"Is the union capable of dramatic growth with its current structure? This is one of
the toughest things for any union to address, since it means a lot of heavy internal
political lifting," said Tarpinian.

"Unions that do not have the capacities to grow must be ready to develop them or be
ready to align or merge with unions that do—if they want to be part of a future labor
movement that sets the agenda and wins real improvements for working people in the
United States," said Tarpinian.

"The truth is, however, that there is no easy road to membership growth. But unions
that have taken the challenge are the ones that are growing today," said Tarpinian.


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