Union Members Decline
- Word count: 779
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During the last forty years, union membership as a percentage of the United States labor force has declined from approximately 34 percent to 13 percent. This is a matter that public policy should address because of the role that unions have played in the past in shaping employees. Moreover the choice of a worker to choose if they want to belong to a union depends mostly on how they perceive the benefits of belonging to a union. This implies that policies need to be made that will empower the unions so that they can be more serve the purposes that are intended to hence benefit employees who will be encouraged to become members.
Trade unions have been used to collectively bargain for members better terms of working such as better wages, good working conditions in terms of safety and health, fair organization regulations and policies used to discipline, promote and hire employees amongst other employee issues (Panitch & Swartz pp. 12-22). Trade unions have provided platforms through which employees could raise their concerns without facing the threat of being victimized by the employers (Panitch & Swartz pp. 12-22). The basically provide a means of communication between the employer and the employees on issues that concern their work hence their significance should not be ignored.
As much as every employee has the right of choosing whether they want to belong to unions or not, the sharp decrease of membership by the unions that is being experienced should not be ignored. Americans and the United States’ government need to ask themselves the reasons why this is happening and make the needed adjustments that will solve this problem (The Heritage Foundation para.1). American workers understand the role of unions and the advantages of being members but they still are pulling out. Why is this? Some of the identified reasons are the lack of transparency and accountability of the union leadership to the members.
There has been an increase of corruption cases amongst most trade unions which has discouraged workers from joining and others pulling out. Another dilemma facing these unions is changing conditions in today’s world that make the unions contracts signed decades ago inefficient and not able to meet the members needs ( About.com para.1). Changes in the economy and increased competition make it hard for some of the union roles and responsibilities to be carried out. An example of unions’ roles that have been affected by such changes is the demand and bargaining for higher salaries, wages and benefits. This has not been possible and in the event that trade unions walked out on the employers, workers bribe to keep their jobs as they can not survive without them due to the economic conditions. This implies that trade unions have lost their power and relevance resulting to employees pulling out as they do not see the unions’ importance any more.
After identifying the above reasons and many others that have reduction in union membership, changes and reforms need to be made in the existing public policies and others be implemented to address these problems. The government through its labour agency needs to come up with policies that will enhance transparency and ensure accountability of the unions to their members whom they owe their mandate to (The Heritage Foundation para.2). Policies that will completely stump out corruption should also be made. Policies should also be made that will enable the unions to reclaim the powers they once had. There also seems to be a decline unions’ power Passage of the employee free choice act should also be made so as to empower employees (Reuters para.2).
Trade unions have played a vital role both politically and economically benefiting everyone (both the employees, the employers, the government and the society as a whole) and hence should not be left to diminish into thin air because of reasons that can be addressed. As much as workers have the choice against collective bargaining representation this decline in union membership is a matter that should be addressed by public policies so as to bring back the powerful independent unions that advocated for everyone’s rights.
About.com: Economics. The Decline of Union Power. Retrieved 1st May 2009
The Heritage Foundation. Unions in Decline and Under Review. Retrieved 1st May 2009. <http://www.heritage.org/research/labor/wm1202.cfm>.
Panitch, Leo & Swartz, Donald. From Consent to Coercion: The assault on Trade Union Freedoms, Third Edition. Ontario, Garamound Press. (2003)
Reuters. Union Membership Decline Resumes in 2006. Retrieved 1st may 2009.