Europe Could Have the Secret to Saving America’s Unions
Labor unions in America are in crisis. In the mid-1950s, a third of Americans belonged to a labor union. Today only 10.7 percent do, including a minuscule 6.4 percent of private sector workers. The decline of union membership explains as much as a third of the increase in inequality in the US, caused voter turnout among low-income workers to crater, and weakened labor’s ability to check corporate influence in Washington, DC, and state capitals.
The future for traditional unions looks so bleak that a growing number of labor scholars and activists are coming to the conclusion that the US approach is dead and can’t be revived.
“In 2016, we had the most pro-labor president since the 1960s, the most pro-labor secretary of labor since [FDR’s Secretary] Frances Perkins, an economy with shrinking unemployment and rising wages — and yet we lost a quarter-million union members in the United States,” says David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, a local union representing home care workers in Washington and Montana. “We need to be trying everything.”