Thursday, January 29, 2009

Union Membership Up

After decades of decline, Union membership is slowly crawling back upwards:

The percentage of American workers belonging to a union jumped in 2008, the first statistically significant increase in the 25 years that the figure has been reported, reversing a long decline in union membership.

In 2008, union members represented 12.4 percent of employed workers, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued yesterday. Union membership had been falling since the 1950s, when members constituted as much as a third of the U.S. workforce.

"We saw what looked like a bottoming out last year, and this suggests that we might have turned the corner," said John Schmitt, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Naturally, major U.S. businesses are already plotting on how to put a damper on this trend (via Boing Boing):

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse.

"This is the demise of a civilization," said Marcus. "This is how a civilization disappears. I am sitting here as an elder statesman and I'm watching this happen and I don't believe it."

So if you follow that, financial institutions screw up in a colossal manner, dragging the nation's economy down with them, then workers who are losing their jobs by the tens of thousands race to join unions to protect themselves from the screwups of others, and this is how "civilization disappears." Imagine if you can what Mr. Marcus would have thought of the French Revolution, when people were really mad.

If you can stomach it, the audio is here (also via Boing Boing.)

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