While researching this paper I came across a very interesting article. In the November 2000 issue of Reason magazine, Michael McMenamin leads with the following paragraph:
Organized labor was a one-century phenomenon. Look it up. Union members were only 9.5% of the private sector work force in 1999, down from a peak of 37% 40 years earlier. The last time union membership was so low was in 1902, when the union members were 9.3% of the private sector work force… The current union leaders, led by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, have no realistic plans to change course. They are presiding over the final, terminal stage of organized labor. And they like things just the way they are. (McMenamin 2000)
This paper will attempt to answer the following question. What are the unions doing to combat this decline in membership? It will also discuss the various reasons for the decline in membership.
The rise of labor can be attributed to fundamental change in the economy, labor force, and political conditions. Around the turn of the 20th century unions were organized around skilled trades and crafts: bricklayers, plumbers, and carpenters. After Samuel Gompers took over as head of the AFL, the unions quickly began mobilizing the workers in markets that had been created by the recent industrialization. Coal, lumber, and autoworkers were soon under the umbrella of organized labor. These non-skilled factory workers were largely comprised of a diverse mix of immigrants, native, male and female, along with ethnic and racial diversity.
Unionization proliferated during the 1930s aided by the passage of the Wagner Act of 1935. The Wagner Act establishes the current system of unionization in which the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) supervises closed-ballot, elections held at the work place for workers deciding whether of not to unionize. According to the NLRB, by the late 1940s the AFL and CIO were winning close to three fourths of their u...