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.

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