On Labor Day, Unions Struggle With Decline

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a day meant to celebrate working men and women, Minnesota union leaders have acknowledged the fact that tough times are ahead.

When it comes to unions, the numbers say an awful lot. In 1950, 36 percent of Americans who had private sector jobs were in unions. Today, that figure is 7 percent.

The only growth in unions over the decades has been in the public sector. While 7 percent of private sector workers are in unions, when you add in government workers, 12 percent of all Americans are in unions.

Republic victories, notably in Wisconsin, have led to massive changes in public employee union benefits, including roll backs in unions’ collective bargaining rights.

For unions, it was a new low, but it has also served as a rallying cry. In Madison, thousands of non-union members came to show support for unions.

“It’s possible that there is a sea tide of change in how the public looks at unions, and people in unions are aware of that and hopeful because of that,” said Peter Rachleff, a labor historian at Macalester College.

Unions are not about to surrender. At the annual Labor Day Parade at the State Fair, union members paraded with pride — and optimism.

“We feel there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Jobs are beginning to pick up. The light rail transit has helped us considerably,” said Brian Beedle of the Carpenters Union Local 322.

In Minnesota, union membership is actually higher than it is in the rest of the country. Sixteen percent of Minnesota workers are in unions compared to 12 percent nationwide.

More from Esme Murphy
  • T.Paw

    Unions are perfect for the overpaid,unproductive & unreliable worker that wouldn’t cut it elsewhere without the protection of the greedy bosses..Holding down a job simply on their work ethic would be impossible.

    • Vote Union YES!

      Just goes to show you how dumb the younger generation is.

      • The Dish

        I agree!!!!!! Unions made it possible for weekends, 40hr weeks, and overtime. This generation is based on “business” meaning “I sit my ass on a chair and get overpaid for what i may or may not like to tell other people to do because that’s what the international company wants me to do”…while union workers actually DO the work. It’s sad to me that this country is based on work done behind a desk instead of behind a machine. That’s why the US taxpayers will pay for my education via TAA because Mexico can do manual labor but we WILL not….(not CAN not).

  • g8bbgg

    Was in the grocery store the other day. Overheard a union worker training in a new worker, old him you get done what you get done, they can’t set any quotas for us, so don’t rush, the Union will back you if the boss says otherwise. Last time I shop at Rainbow.

  • 3rd party

    I was watching the republican version of Obama speak to the union crowd on TV today—feeding them with the promise of continued George W. tax cuts and creating new jobs by keeping taxes low and extending incentives to employers to benefit the middle class , blah blah blah. hahaha. Purple Obama must feel real blue. The craziest thing is, I never realized the leader of that union is James Hoffa! OMG. Hillarious.

  • Dean

    Your comment that in Madison “thousands of non-unions members came to show support for the unions”. Sorry, I won’t believe that until you prove it to me. Typical CBS REPORTING.

  • free to work

    nope, we just want their jobs when they strike–won’t even demand a union, just the job. tough time for unions when people don’t care about what a union can give or take away. just want a paycheck and if someone wants to strike, that means their paycheck is up for grabs.

  • http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2011/09/05/on-labor-day-unions-struggle-with-decline-2/ On Labor Day, Unions Struggle With Decline « CBS Minnesota

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  • The Dish

    did you get today (monday) off from work so you coulc enjoy your family/friends for another day? Thank a Union Member.

    • Sue J

      It is a Federal Holiday DA, it is to support all workers not just Unions?

      • IntheMidwest

        @Sue J. A Federal holiday to honor workers. Believe me when I say that holiday would not exist without unions help create it. Before unionization it was not uncommon for workers to work an 80-hour week at the whim of an employer. When workers unionized and showed strength through solidarity and even sacrificed their lives for the right to be in a union, government and management started respecting workers. Thus, the holiday. Union demands and benefits lifted all workers on a rising tide. Now all workers are being decimated by that same loss of unions. If you have health benefits, thank a union. If you have vacation time, sick leave time, an 8-hour day, overtime pay, holiday pay, thank a union. If you received on-the-job training, safety training and equipment, thank a union. If unfair management practices threatened your job and you had legal support, thank a union. When I get a house built, plumbing work, electrical work, mechanical work on my car, I can know a union provided for uniform work standards and training. I didn’t hire just anyone who SAID they could do the work. And there is more….just think before you post, Sue J.

        • Former Union Member

          Yep, and they have pushed jobs overseas! Cheaper wages, less benefits and longer hours. Please dont complain about jobs moving overseas if you are a Union member. You are one of the main reasons for the decline of the American workforce.
          Your overpaid, underworked status is showing up in our unemployment numbers and lack of manufacturing jobs in the USA.

          • G Dog

            Greedy CEOs pushed jobs overseas.

            • Former Union Member

              Call them greedy or smart. If you can reduce your cost of operation by 50% it seems like a no brainer. Unions have driven up wages and pushed jobs overseas. $50 per hour to place headlights in a new car? Give me a break!
              Do you buy 100% american made products? Doubt it if you shop at WalMart.

            • free to work

              nope, the unions, EPA, and taxes did.

  • oNiSac

    “For unions, it was a new low, but it has also served as a rallying cry. In Madison, thousands of non-union members came to show support for unions”.

    It may be to late for the Unions to rebound. I remember when Unions and the economy were strong. The father was the bread winner, he could support the family and jobs were plentiful.

    And then the citizens slowly became brainwashed into believing that the Unions were the cause of our labor problems. The Union leaders paid no mind. They all thought the Union jobs would get stronger and stronger.

    But it wasn’t true. The Unions decline began back in 1973. It was after all the Unions that set the pace for wages the whole nation knows that. But it was never true the whole nation was becoming less and less Unionized. Hundreds and then thousands of workers were being laid off because the companies they worked for were going over seas or starting up under another name “just to break the Unions”. In the mean time there was a strong push to distroy the Unions, nation wide including large corperations were one by one buying into the idea that it was the Unions that were the cause of all of America’s problems,

    At this very moment there are people reading this that believe Unions caused all of America’s labor problems. But that was never true. If it were true then the problems would have declined as the Unions declined. But the problems never declined. Infact they got worse and worse. The article says that only 7% of America labor force is Unionized. That should decrease the problems considerably but instead America has been brought to its knees economicaly. The Unions had nothing to do with this decline they never did have anything to do with it. It was a fabracation to get labor to turn against the Unions. And it worked.

    Now what? What are we going to do? The wages so low its a dirty joke and there is no good jobs availible. Please don’t blame the labor unions for the poor shape of the economy. Because it isn’t the Unions fault. Its greedy CEO’s and Wall Street investors, and criminal bankers that are the cause. People whom make more money in a day than most people do in a life time. We’ve allowed them to have that much power. Indeed it maybe too little too late.

  • don andrews

    t-paw probably never worked a real day in his life!! poured some concrete,rocked a wall, even fixed a sink. typical career politician. have you ever been in a 30 -40 story building? took an elevator? how about drove over a bridge? thank a union member, the last of the middle class

  • lance

    You want to see what unions do to a business, look at the post office. 200,000 workers not needed but cannot lay off because of union. Now they want a bail out from government.

  • IntheMidwest

    @lance. The Post Office is one very integral part of the face of the U.S. Government. Many of the jobs in the Post Office are pork barrel jobs–rewards to military service members for retiring from active duty. Jobs that boost local economies. The Post Office budget is highly energy dependent–dependent on the price of gasoline to deliver mail, and dependent on businesses producing 2nd class mail. First class mail is lucrative, but is minor since people are using e-mail. Laying off 200,000 workers will hurt main street economies as well as stifle jobs for returning military veterans. Unions really have a very small role to play in the Post Office’s problems. Flogging the union is getting to be an old ploy, and plenty of people are seeing that if the unions were the cause of the problems, with the dwindling influence of the unions, those problems should be almost gone. Guess what? Those problems are getting bigger than ever. Unions are not the cause, lance.

    • Carl

      And who is going to fix the $5.5 Billion dollar gap in the pension they mismanaged?
      It will be the main street business that have lived within their means and are still in business.
      Anything run by a Hoffa should be questioned!

    • Lance

      you have no idea what you are talking about and its sad to listen to someone like you that acually believe what your saying.

      • going downhill

        @Lance. I was a 30 year postal employee and union member. The union is as much to blame for the mess as is mgmt.

      • Flower child

        @Lance. Watch the slavery start when the unions are gone. So, laying off 200,000 workers won’t hurt purchasing on Main Street? Main Street doesn’t need the 200,000 consumers?

        • dan

          And why do you think we will resort to “work slavery” once unions are dissolved? Over 95% of business run without Union representation and they seem to be doing just fine without many worker complaints.

          • G Dog

            Worker complaints? How about, Where are the jobs rich folks?? You’ve gotten nothing but tax breaks for 10 years and I don’t have a job.

            • answer

              all the tax breaks are temporary and the regulations being pumped out of Washington are a stifle. offering small business owners and large corporations nothing but fear about any ability to hire long term. there is a looming double dip which a lot of owners think is just a continuation of the same with nothing but more bad news to follow. in order to preserve their current employees and business they tread lightly. election years are always bad for business and this extended election period has been horrible.

        • Lance

          not when your paying them out of your pocket. don’t you get it, they are over a billion in debt and need a tax payer bailout. Taxes pay for it so all you are doing is paying a billion and getting back a million in taxes. what are you a math major?

          • free to work

            Lance, you’re conversating with a bunch of old foggies here. They love regulation and all things that look like it. They are a brainwashed lost cause that will defend this last 7% standing until the end. My, how have we even survived with such a drop in numbers from such an out dated enterprise? Change is hard for some but believe me–they all will be dumb enough to vote for that hope and changey prez again.

  • http://www.4yourhealthandpersonalcare.info Nina Coury

    Major thanks for the blog.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

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