Why I Think Unions Are Doomed

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Harold Meyerson asks today, “Are American unions history?” In the private sector, which is what really matters, I think the unfortunate answer is yes. Private sector union density has already declined to about 7 percent, which is well below the level at which unions have any serious political power, and I see no chance of that number rising significantly. In the simplest possible terms, here’s why I think that:

  1. Manufacturing accounts for only about 10 percent of the workers in America.
  2. Thus, the only way for private-sector unionization rates to rise substantially is to organize big swaths of the service sector.
  3. Under current law, it’s all but impossible to organize new industries.
  4. Except at the margins, current law won’t change as long as Republicans and conservative Democrats control at least 40 votes in the Senate.
  5. Republicans and conservative Democrats will control at least 40 votes in the Senate approximately forever.

I’m curious: wishful thinking aside, is there anything wrong with this argument? I’d very much like something to be wrong with it. But I can’t think of anything. Comments are open if you have any ideas.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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