Why I Think Unions Are Doomed


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.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate