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Union Membership is Up, But Quality of Jobs Represented is Down...

With the ill-advised Employee Free Choice Act likely making a comeback in 2009, I feel obligated to revisit the topic of Union membership at least once a month to keep it on everyone's radar screen.

One thing you might have seen over the last couple of weeks is the fact that Union membershipUnion_card actually increased last year.  The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2007, the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 311,000 to 15.7 million.

From the Workforce analysis of the report:

"It represents part of the seismic shift in the makeup of America’s unionized workforce. Today, a union worker is more likely to be a low-skilled, low-paid service worker than a skilled, well-paid manufacturing employee.

“The future of the unions is the $8-an-hour home health care worker,” says David Gregory, professor of law at St. John’s University. The unions may have regained membership with lower-wage service workers, but they cannot regain the dues lost along with higher-paid jobs, Gregory says."

Seth Borden at the Union Free Employer took a look at the trend, the union's own organizing site, and came up with the following take:

"If a job cannot be done from Bangalore or Mexico City (outsourced outside of the U.S), it is in a sector likely to become a significant union organizing target in the next few years.  Health care, construction and education are examples.  We would add hospitality, food service and retail to that list; and, we suspect Mr. Hoffa would add transportation."

Solid analysis from Seth.  So the jobs at Ford and GM are out of reach, and organizing efforts at the new age automakers like Mercedes and Toyota have largely failed.  It makes sense that the growth (in quantity, if not in revenue) would come from lower-paid service jobs.  After all, frustration with wages, career pathing, etc. are going to be highest in those sectors.

Of course, if the EFCA comes back in 2009, it's likely that growth would come from sectors much higher up the food chain.

Educate yourself on the EFCA today if you haven't yet....



Also, take the time to educate yourself on the benefits unions deliver to their members (both real benefits *and* the benefits they advertise). If you already provide many of these benefits, your employees will be less tempted by the union membership drive. (If you are providing these benefits, make sure your employees know about this NOW - don't wait until a union enters into the equation to educate them.)

--Visit the union websites to see what they *say* they do.

--There's a large volume of research out there on what unions really do. "What Do Unions Do? A Twenty-Year Perspective" edited by James Bennett and Bruce Kaufman is fairly accessible and gives a good overview.

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