WASHINGTON -- Union membership grew slightly last year, giving labor leaders hope that a period of steep declines has finally bottomed out.
"The devastating losses from 2009 and 2010 have stopped and that's got to be good news for the labor movement," said John Schmitt, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
Union membership has declined steadily from its peak of about a third of all workers in the 1950s, and about 20 percent in 1983. The losses have been especially steep in private industry with the loss of manufacturing jobs that traditionally are heavily unionized.
"It is telling that as our country begins to recover the jobs lost during the Great Recession, good union jobs are beginning to come back," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
As private sector union membership eroded, labor leaders turned increasingly toward workers in state and local governments, where there was often less resistance to organizing.
But future public sector growth in union membership is in doubt.
States and municipalities laid off tens of thousands of workers to balance their budgets after tax revenues plummeted because of the recession. Public sector unions also have faced growing hostility from GOP legislatures in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states that have tried to curb collective bargaining rights.
Among full-time wage and salary workers, the median weekly earnings of union members was $938, compared to $729 for nonunion workers.
Why are unions good for our country and society in general? The following is a list of some of the things that we should be thankful to Unions for, many of them now law through union efforts:
- All Breaks at Work, including your Lunch Breaks
- Paid Vacation
- Sick Leave
- Social Security
- Minimum Wage
- Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
- 8-Hour Work Day
- Overtime Pay
- Child Labor Laws
- Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
- 40 Hour Work Week
- Worker's Compensation (Worker's Comp)
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workplace Safety Standards and Regulations
- Employer Health Care Insurance
- Collective Bargaining Rights for Employees
- Wrongful Termination Laws
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Whistle blower Protection Laws
- Employee Polygraph Protect Act (Prohibits Employer from using a lie detector test on an employee)
- Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS)
- Compensation increases and Evaluations (Raises)
- Sexual Harassment Laws
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Holiday Pay
- Employer Dental, Life, and Vision Insurance
- Privacy Rights
- Pregnancy and Parental Leave
- Military Leave
- The Right to Strike
- Public Education for Children
- Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
- Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States
I am not against people putting their nose to the grindstone, investing their own time and sweat, their own money, and then enjoying the rewards of their own hard work, that's capitalism, that's good.
What I am against is people making money off the the sweat, toil and hardship of another human being.
That is why I am a union advocate.
The following lyrics are from a song which says it better than I, I Don't Want Your Millions Mister.
I don't want your pleasure yacht.
All I wants just food for my babies,
Give to me my old job back.
While you enjoyed a life of ease.
You've stolen all that we built, Mister,
Now our children starve and freeze.