State of the Unions: Organized Labor Has Seen Much Better Days

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State of the Unions: Organized Labor Has Seen Much Better Days State of the Unions: Organized Labor Has Seen Much Better Days
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State of the Unions: Organized Labor Has Seen Much Better Days

by Dave Burdick

September 4, 2012

Lest we forget why we've got a three-day weekend, Labor Day is a recognition of American workers and what they've done for the country. Minyanville writes that the labor movement has seen significant decline in recent years, and checks in on a few specific labor unions. Here's an excerpt from the section on public sector workers: 

Last year the state of Wisconsin was ground zero for what many believe was the decline of American labor unions. The battle over collective bargaining between Wisconsin public sector workers and Governor Scott Walker that resulted in the passage of his anti-union “Wisconsin budget repair bill” last March didn’t just hit national headlines, it took the conversation of collective bargaining to the national stage and climaxed in the June 5 failed recall election of the governor.

The failed recall was seen by many as the beginning of the end for labor unions. On the same day, pension reforms for public sector workers were overwhelmingly favored in elections in San Jose and San Diego, supporting evidence from polls showing that public approval of unions was dropping. A 2009 Gallup poll found that only 48% of the public supported unions compared to 72% of Americans approving of unions in a 1936 Gallup poll.

Earlier this week, Business Insider's Henry Blodget posted this timely column titled "Dear American Companies: Here's How To Fix The Economy:"

In short, instead of viewing "shareholders" and "customers" as the only two corporate constituencies that matter, Ford introduced the idea that great companies should also serve a third constituency:

Employees.

And because one company's employees are another company's customers, Ford's decision (to dramatically increase wages) helped spread the country's wealth to more citizens and expand the purchasing power of the country as a whole. And, in so doing, it helped the overall economy.

So hey, while you're enjoying the weekend, remember that what you're celebrating is a major economic engine in the country, both past and present, and one that is facing quite a bit of tumult. Here's a brief primer on the history of Labor Day itself. Got any favorite labor-related reading? Share some recommendations in the comments—a few of us might celebrate by reading under a tree on Monday.

Photo, "Glass Works. Midnight," via Library of Congress

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