Union Membership Falls — Again

James Sherk, Senior Policy Analyst with the Heritage Foundation, explains why unions do not speak for their members, and consequently continue to lose members.  The story is on National Review Online.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday that unions lost 400,000 members in 2012. Union membership fell from 11.8 to 11.3 percent of all workers — a new post-war low. A smaller proportion of Americans belong to unions today than when President Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. 

Unions developed their collective-bargaining model for the industrial economy of the 1930s. It has remained almost unchanged since then. A collective-bargaining agreement still covers every worker under one contract — ignoring individual contributions. That approach was workable when everyone performed essentially the same task on the assembly line. In today’s economy where most employers see employees as valuable “human resources” it often holds workers back.

Union members at the Giant Eagle grocery store in Edinboro, Pa., learned this the hard way. The store gave two dozen industrious employees raises above their union pay scales. . .The union took the store to court.

Last November the District Court sided with Local 23 and ordered Giant Eagle to cut the workers’ pay. As the Judge noted: “The net result of the Union’s dispute is that some of its members will have their raises rescinded — in other words, the action of the Union in the arbitration will have the effect of taking away raises of certain members, thereby causing harm to its own members.”