Category Archives: Future of Unions

Labor Organizing Among Mexican-born Workers in the United States: Recent Trends and Future Prospects

Source: Ruth Milkman, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007
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This article surveys unionization patterns and other workplace-oriented organizing among Mexican-born workers since the mid-1990s. Although the number of Mexican-born union members grew during that decade, the unionized proportion declined, especially among noncitizens. The decline reflects the large proportion of new immigrants in the Mexican-born population and the increased geographic dispersion of immigration in recent years away from highly unionized states such as Illinois and California. Another factor is that recent Mexican immigrants are underrepresented in the most unionized sectors (such as government employment). However, unions, especially in California, have effectively mobilized Mexican immigrants into electoral politics in the 1990s, and new community-based organizations with a focus on economic justice have also recruited low-wage Mexican immigrant workers in occupations such as day labor and domestic service, in which conventional unionism is rare.

Steel Magnolias: Labor Allies With the Environmental Movement

Source: David Foster, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

The Donora disaster was the root cause of the USW’s subsequent embrace of environmental issues that led eventually to the founding on June 7, 2006 of a new Strategic Alliance between North America’s largest private sector manufacturing union, and the Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grass-roots environmental organization. While the decision to align the USW and the Sierra Club originated in their shared history of supporting environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, the new Alliance was sparked by the accelerating pace of globalization and the seismic social shifts accompanying it. Both organizations realized that for the first time in human history any meaningful improvement in the economic well-being of the world’s population was dependent on the sustainable management of our planted and its resources.

The 2006 Immigrant Uprising: Origins and Future

Source: Victor Narro, Kent Wong, and Janna Shadduck-Hernández, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

For three months between March 10 and May 1, 2006, five million mostly Latino Immigrants and their supporters demonstrated in over one hundred cities throughout the United States. The marches and rallies demanded full rights for immigrants, and opposed the anti-immigrant legislation pending in Congress. Immigrant families – women and men, grandparents and grandchildren – came out of the shadows of society to demand justice and equality.

Global Unions: A Solution the Labor’s Worldwide Decline

Source: Stephen Lerner, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

At no time in history has there been a greater urgency or opportunity to form real global unions whose goal is to organize tens of millions of workers to win economic and social justice by counterbalancing global corporations on the world stage even as the power of the state declines.

The Changing Face of Public Employee Unionism

Source: Norma M. Riccucci, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27 no. 1, March 2007
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This article provides a brief picture of the various unions that currently represent state and local government employees in the United States, including teachers and professors. It reviews the factors that have contributed to union decline in the private sector, and those factors explaining union growth in the public sector. Its purpose is purely descriptive, seeking to illustrate the ability of unions to seize opportunities to organize public employees, thereby increasing their “strength in numbers.”

A New Look at Long-Term Labor Force Projections to 2050

Source: Mitra Toossi, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 129 no. 11, November 2006

Among the factors affecting the size, composition, and growth of the labor force over the next 50 years are the aging of the baby-boom generation, the stabilization of women’s labor force participation rates, and increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the workforce. The 2005-50 period is projected to witness the massive exit of the baby-boom generation out of the labor force, bringing to an end one of the major drivers of labor force growth over the post-World War II period.

The State of the Unions in the United States

Source: Jack Fiorito, Journal of Labor Studies, Vol. 28 no. 1, Winter 2007

Increased global competition and domestic deregulation, among other economic factors, combined to provide important external forces for change in bargaining and unions. The year 1980 also marked the beginning of a conservative turn in attitudes and national government starting with Regan’s election and followed by two Bush regimes sandwiching the Clinton administration. With the exception of the Clinton era, unions faced a more hostile central government than at any time since the nineteenth century.

The Past as Prologue? A Brief History of the Labor Movement in the United States

Source: Joseph Adler, Public Personnel Management, Winter 2006, Volume 35, no. 4

Of the approximately 20 million public employees in the United States, more than eight million are either members of or represented by labor unions—a penetration rate of just over 40 percent. What is remarkable about this phenomenal growth is that most of the expansion of union activity in government has occurred within the last 40 years, and almost mirrors the decline of union strength in the private sector.

The rise and fall of labor in the private sector is a backdrop to the growth of public sector collective bargaining. Explanations for the dramatic increase in government union activity can be explored from a number of different perspectives. Current public policy efforts to reform civil service and allow managers greater flexibility are seen by some researchers as having the potential to impact the ability of public sector unions to represent their members effectively.

Unions Facing the Future: Questions and Possibilities

Source: Peter Fairbrother, Glynne Williams, Ruth Barton, Enrico Gibellieri, and Andrea Tropeoli, Labor Studies Journal, Winter 2007, Volume 31, no. 4

The current circumstances of trade unions are subject to extensive debate. As a contribution to these debates, three sets of issues are addressed: how unions organize and operate in relation to members, how unions reposition and rebuild themselves against changing forms of ownership and different managerial practices, and how unions attempt to face the challenges of multinational capital. Unions have sought to renew and revitalize themselves by changing organizational practices or changing aims and ambitions, as well as by recomposing past relationships, especially between unions and state bodies. These themes are addressed via three case studies chosen to exemplify particular aspects of union organization and activity. The study concludes with a comparative evaluation of the three cases in terms of the principles of union renewal.