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The Truth About Union Organizing: It's Much Better Than You Think

January 30, 2015 in Blogs

By Paul Booth, The American Prospect

The labor movement has been growing while shrinking. Growing through organizing.

The union movement is 3.5 million members smaller than 40 years ago, and the forces that brought that about are as energetically engaged and powerful as they have ever been.

From that undeniable fact, it has been wrongly concluded:

  • Union organizing is impossible, futile, or a thing of the past
  • The labor movement is dead, or dying
  • The best hope for workers is through something different from trade unions and collective bargaining.

These conclusions are very disconcerting to this organizer. I am upset that there’s so little acknowledgement of the millions of workers who have risked much to try to unionize.  Thousands are doing it today. 

And so little acknowledgement of those who have done it and succeeded. They number a million and a half.

How do I know that?  I know it from my own experience; it’s the work with which I have been immersed for those 40 years. And I know it by virtue of simple arithmetic. The 3.5 million members by which labor has shrunk is net. I simply added the net shrinkage of union membership, industry by industry, as shown in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ admittedly imprecise annual surveys of union membership. Those lines add up to 5 million; 5 million minus 3.5 yields a million and a half workers who organized unions at the same time others were driven out of them.

The labor movement has been growing while shrinking. Growing through organizing.

In those years, workers were driven out of unions, not by choice, but by:

  • offshoring of what were union jobs;
  • deunionization of major industries;
  • the rise of relentlessly anti-union companies to industry dominance;
  • the thwarting of the promise of the labor law by the general adoption of the union-busting playbook by employers;
  • and the spread of casualization, irregular part-time and temporary work, and all the forms by which the employer-employee legal nexus has been undermined. 

But, in the face of all that, workers continued to organize, and unions continued to support them.  Workers took risks, and unions did too.

For the first 20 of those 40 years, public workers …read more


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