Research Paper on Union Membership Declines in United States Labor Since 1935

Published: 2021-07-21
651 words
3 pages
6 min to read
University of Richmond
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Union membership is a menace that has significantly increased in United States labor force for the last couple of decades. Since 1935 when signed the President Roosevelt national labor relations Act (Weir, 2013), the number of members joining the labor unions especially from the private sectors has constantly been declining. It is thus worth noting some of the impediment to the uptrend and their predicament to the economy of the states in general.

Under normal circumstances, no employee would wish to work for an employer who promotes on a seniority basis and at times ignores individual contributions. This understanding to some extent, explains the chronic union membership trend. The United States labor force on the unionized companies has typically been promoting their staff based on seniority and not on individual merits (United States Commission on Civil Rights, 1982). Collective bargaining by the unions does not often reflect the will of individual and thus denying self-contributions. Unions for the industrial economy designed this system back in the 1930s. Notably, the system marks the genesis of the decline in the membership, which the fight on its revival has been an uphill task.

However, in the modern economy, things are somehow changing. In the recent days, there has been introduction of computers that have led to the automation of the former rote task of the past ages. The realization of the individual skills and abilities rather than interchangeable cogs is a trend worth noting. Amidst the trend of individual recognition in terms of work and promotion, there still exist the collective contracts that still pose a great challenge to unions. For example, in 2011 some United Food Commercial Workers sued their employer arguing that the contract they were being imposed on (requiring them to get the same amount of remunerations despite the work done) prevented them from a getting individual pay increases. A number of unions are still sharing this act across the states. Sen. Marco Rubio is in record of introducing legislation that allowed all the unionized employers to reward their employees based on performance. Despite the gist, the unions denounced the proposal. They argued that the bill would result in increased union wage bills. This attitude has up to today, alienated a number of potential union members. Polls show that approximately one out of ten non-union workers is positive on joining labor unions. (United States Commission on Civil Rights, 1982).It is also worth noting that once unions are formed, they remain certified without provisions for re-election. The new members are thus compelled to accept the union representation without their vote. For example, no one who is teaching in New York public schools voted in the union organizing elections of 1961 despite the fact that United Federation of Teachers (Gaffney, 2007) represents all the teachers in the region up to today. This system of representation has therefore affected the number of people joining the unions on private sectors because there is no individual power of expression. It has thus left unions to thrive in government sectors.

It is therefore important for a worker to vote for a union either in the workplace or not because it may affect them in the future. In regards to this, a union movement should strive to offer services such as job training and networking opportunities. By that, unions would give more support to their members rather than the former scenarios of unions going to court to block a pay rise for their members, which has led to lack of relevance. Concisely, the unions need to replace old-fashioned collective bargaining model and adapt to the 21st-century model that focuses on creating value for employees.


Gaffney, D. (2007). Teachers United: The Rise of New York State United Teachers. Ithaca: the State University of New York Press

United States Commission on Civil Rights. (1982). Nonreferral unions and equal employment opportunity: A report. Washington, D.C: The Commission

Weir, R. E. (2013). Workers in America: A historical encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.

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