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