Unions @ Work

The State of Unions: Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?

By Tim Murphy

The answer may depend on what you want to see.

I belong to CUE, an organization that promotes positive employee relations. Its members include union and non-union employers, large and small. Michael VanDervort is CUE’s Executive Director. Michael wrote this in last week’s CUE newsletter:

ANALYSIS: Five Metrics That Explain the State of the Unions

Bloomberg just published a long article with heavy data references that examines the current state of unions in the United States. It’s well worth a read.

“Labor’s headcount in the American workforce is shrinking … but its presence on the picket lines is growing. Labor’s organizing strength is up … but it’s also down. Labor’s bargaining power is waning … but it’s also gaining.”

My fellow Americans, the State of the Unions is Mixed.

On one hand, management-side observers can look at 2018’s year-end statistics and be cheered by:

  • the continued flight of workers from the ranks of organized labor,
  • a rock-bottom turnout in organizing elections,
  • an uptick in the use of lockouts as bargaining leverage, and
  • closing of the earnings gap between union and nonunion workers,

On the other, those on the labor side can take heart in . . . :

  • the near-record success rate in organizing drives,
  • decade-high gains in negotiated pay increases,
  • momentum-building increases in strike activity, and
  • historically low levels of internal strife.

This wrap-up draws from Bloomberg Law’s Labor Data to identify five major measurements of labor strength—membership, organizing, wages, unrest, and internal pressures—and analyze how unions fared in 2018 in relation to their past performance.

That’s all for this week. – Michael

There is a lot here worth unpacking. I already wrote about the uptick in strikes in our The Law @ Work blog (even before the Stop & Shop strike). I hope to tackle some of these other issues in Unions @ Work soon because Unions remain a force especially here in New England.

Twice a year, CUE members gather to learn and share ideas about best practices in positive employee relations. Next week I am attending CUE’s Spring Conference in Atlanta. I am giving a presentation on local labor laws there. CUE conferences are always full of interesting presentations and ideas. I hope to share some of that with you when I get back.

By the way, if you have any tips on where to get great southern cooking in Atlanta, drop me a line.

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