Essay On Trade Union Decline

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Public-sector unions scarcely existed before the Sixties, when private-sector workers accounted for the bulk of the organized third of the American workforce.

Now 34.4 percent of public-sector workers are unionized, more than five times the rate of their private-sector counterparts.* Public-sector unions make convenient targets for whipped-up envy, cast as parasites “living off the rest of us,” a role once filled by “welfare cheats.” That most of their members are women and many are women of color probably makes the transference easier.

Gorsuch dismissed Ginsburg’s objections as “apocalyptic.” I don’t mind an apocalypse as long as the angels win. Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I have been talking to people in and around the labor movement, going on the premise that American workers may soon be engaged in a virtual Armageddon with capital.

While the working class has hardly lost all ground, it has seen enough of its victories reversed to warrant such a prediction.

The jobs are harder to outsource, and thus the unions are harder to break.

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They also make up the more densely organized sector.

“The people who drop out of the union lose the right to vote.

So you’re losing the most middle-of-the-road members, and certainly the most conservative members, who object to collective power.

Afraid I may be misreading the writing on the wall, I submit my premonitions to Cohen’s more seasoned judgment.

“I grew up with the assumption that there was labor and there was management,” I tell him, “and they’d always be locked in this struggle, and sometimes labor would win, and sometimes, probably most of the time, management would win, but they’d be wrestling back and forth, and that’s how it would go on, and in some ways that would be how society progressed.

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