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Fortress Unionism By Rich Yesselson Essay

2677 words - 11 pages

Across the United States there has been a decline in union membership. Looking back as far to 1954 the union work force had peaked at 34.7% but has since been in decline. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of union members fell by 400,000 in 2012 to 14.3 million even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million (Greenhouse, 2013). In 2011 the percentage of union workers was 11.8% and in 2012 dropped to 11.3%, which is the lowest union membership has been since 1916. The percentage of private sector unions in 2012 was down to 6.6%, which left many labor specialists questioning whether private sector unions were sinking towards irrelevance (Greenhouse, 2013). What are the reasons for this decline? And what does this mean for the future of private sector unions? This essay will take a lot closer look at these two questions.
Rich Yeselson writes in his essay entitled “Fortress Unionism”, that the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 was the beginning of the end for private sector unions. He says that the Taft-Hartley act “stopped labor dead in its tracks at a point when unions were large, growing, and confident of their economic and political power.” He believes that without this law, that restricts the activities and power of labor unions, the U.S. would not have seen union density flatten and then make a dramatic decline, but rather would have seen Union membership continuing to thrive. “Taft-Hartley meant unions needed more and more lawyers to untangle the welter of laws, decisions and contract that now ensnared labor” (Yeselson, 2013). Another point the article makes was that the workers recent attempts to form new unions were not strong enough because it is harder to organize on a large scale today. Lastly, he has a theory that union membership only increases at rare points in history and that the union members need to realize this.
There are other theories as to why the U.S. as seen a decline in union membership. Many believe that it is due to “economic forces” such as plant closures, layoffs and slower growth in basic manufacturing industries and others believe that it is mainly due to increased management resistance to union organizing efforts (Dickens & Leonard, 1985). Labor specialists say one of the explanations is “new laws that rolled back the power of unions in Wisconsin, Indiana and other states” (Greenhouse, 2013). Gail McCallion agrees that laws have played a big part on the decline of unions. There is a reduced need for union representation due to labor management cooperation and increased government regulation due to labor protection of individual worker rights (McCallion, 1993). Majority of companies do not want to have a unionized work force, therefore management works hard to keep their employees engaged so that there is not a threat of union formation. Employees also do not need protection for many of the things unions were created for to protect. Thanks to the Fair...

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