Relevance of Unions Today
The basic premise of unionization is that collective bargaining (representation of all employees) has a higher probability of negotiating an improved contract for employees than each worker could obtain through individual negotiations. Such a united front worked effectively in the 1930s when individual talents and competences made little difference in manufacturing enterprises as employers disregarded workers’ rights (Levs para. 8-11). However, modern industrial environments feature extensive and developed frameworks of employees’ rights, and employees show little enthusiasm towards unionization, instead preferring individualistic approaches in workplace contracts. A combination of government action and employees’ preferences against unionization has influenced significant losses for unions since the 2000s.
In 2012, membership and support for the American unions was already a fraction of its scale in the 1980s. Federal data showed that only 12% of employees were union members, contrasting with 20% in 1983, and the rate had dropped from 17% to 7% in the same period for the private sector (Levs para. 3). Worried that unionization poses a threat to productivity, and the ability to enforce sustainable budgetary and resource use plans, about half of the U.S. States have adopted right-to-work laws that curtail unions’ powers by removing the requirement for workers to be members of unions, and hence pay union dues, as a criterion for employment. The effects of this policy have been decreasing financial power among unions and reduced likelihood of employees choosing to organize (Levs para. 4-5). Despite protests against States’ actions to curtail unions’ influence, it is clear that unions no longer have popular support among the American employees.
Employees have realized that labor competition and globalization have limited the effectiveness of unions because firms find it easier to employ non-unionized workers from other nations to achieve sustainable growth (Levs para. 18). In the modern knowledge economy, collective representation makes little sense for workers, and focus on individual creativity and skills promotes employees’ choices not to unionize as they perceive unions’ insistence on equal pay despite individual differences in productivity as unfair (Sherk para. 3). Such recognition and individual employees’ assessments have influenced the diminishing relevance of unions today.
Levs, Josh. “Analysis: Why America’s Unions are losing Power.” CNN, December 12, 2012. Web.
Sherk, James. “Do Americans today still need Labor Unions?” Heritage.org, April 1, 2008. Web.