Membership in Unions at 100-Year Low

In the midst of what some people are deigning to call an economic “recovery,” there is one group that is not gaining much traction: labor unions. They have posted their worst enrollment numbers in one hundred years. And there are numerous theories on why American workers are abandoning unions.

One of the most popular is that unions haven’t changed their tack since the 1930s, in spite of the fact that the job market has changed dramatically. It used to be the case that unions helped you to get and keep your job for long-term growth.

My father began working in the fabrication shop of a curtainwall fabricating company more than thirty years ago. He is now one of three majority owners at that same company. That is a rare story, and one that grows ever rarer. (Also, there were no unions at my father’s company.) The “core” employees of most businesses is a shrinking number of executives. The labor and intellectual force for most companies is becoming increasingly contract-based. In other words, we have largely shifted away from vertically integrated to horizontally integrated workforce models. And this has some benefits for workers, but far fewer for unions.

If companies aren’t hiring for longterm positions, and it favors workers to be competitive, unions become an untenable albatross. Furthermore, unions are little better than the mafia as far as the services they actually provide to individuals. I have only been a member of a union one time. I was forced to join when I started working at Rite Aid in California. I was a teenager, and I needed a job. Also, I didn’t know until after I had been hired that I would need to join a union in order to actually keep the job.

This is what the union actually did for me: they forced me to pay them a fairly large portion of my first paycheck for the privilege of having been forced to join their ranks. Then they took another chunk of one paycheck every month for union “dues.” Then they forced my employer to not give me a raise, even though he and I both thought I deserved one (I had worked fewer total hours than some of the other employees, who, incidentally, did almost nothing that wasn’t absolutely required—if even that). Then the union forced my employer to quit giving me every Sunday off (that was unequal treatment, apparently). Then the union protected the job of a homosexual man who kept sexually harassing me at work. I finally quit, thanks to the union, much to the chagrin of my employer.

So, all in all, unions have done very little for me. I imagine in most cases, they do little for anyone. They began in good faith to protect workers from being taken advantage of. They have long outgrown their usefulness. They don’t even look out for workers anymore. They look out for unions. Good riddance.