Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner criticized the poll, accusing it of over-sampling union and public employee households. Public approval of unions climbed during the 1980s much as it did in other industrialized nations, but declined to below new tecumseth 50% for the first time in 2009 during the Great Recession. It is not clear if this is a long-term trend or a function of a high unemployment rate which historically correlates with lower public approval of labor unions. On the question of whether or not unions should have more influence or less influence, Gallup has found the public consistently split since Gallup first posed the question in 2000, with no majority favoring either more influence or less influence. In August 2018, 39 percent wanted unions to have more influence, 29 percent less influence, with 26 percent wanting the influence of labor unions to remain about the same. Labor unions use the term jurisdiction to refer to their claims to represent workers who perform a certain type of work and the right of their members to perform such work.

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In 1983 more than two-thirds of union members were in the private sector (67.2 percent). By 2004, the private sector’s share was down to just over a half (52.6 percent)—47.4 percent of unionized labor worked for government or other public sector agencies (e.g., public schools). Regardless of the actual impact of market integration on union density or on workers themselves, organized labor has been engaged in a variety of strategies to limit the agenda of globalization and to promote labor regulations in an international context. Labor rights had failed to be included in international trade negotiations in Geneva in 1948 and in Tokyo in 1978. But they eventually were brought up by the US in the Uruguay Round in 1994 and were decidedly left to the jurisdiction of the International Labor Organization.

  • Firms that move from having 20 percent of their workers belonging to unions to 50 percent decrease R&D spending by 40 percent relative to average R&D spending levels.
  • The Connally Hot Oil Act of 1935 saved the oil industry from itself by prohibiting the shipment of oil in excess of quotas set by individual states .
  • The National Labor Board would supervise a secret election by workers to determine whether or not they wished to have a union as their representative.
  • If employees join a union, then they do not come as an individual but as group, which will help them to become powerful.
  • 1972 – Gainesville riots, May 12, 1972, Gainesville, Florida, anti-war protesters and police clashed for several hours.

This policy successfully kept wages high for workers with jobs during the Depression. However, it prolonged and extended the Depression and accounts for more than half of the loss in economic output in the 1930s. The resumption of anti-trust enforcement mechanisms and measures that weaken union power in the 1940s explains the post-war recovery.

How Labor Unions Work

Union organizers also were handicapped by the fact that they were under the jurisdiction of numerous craft unions that, in keeping with the principles that had led to the original success of the AFL, had little interest in organizing the growing number of industrial workers. Moreover, conflict between the farmer-business alliance and the liberal-farm labor coalition was not limited to the South and California. There was also an increasing use of wageworkers in the Southwest, Midwest, and even to some extent in the Northeast because farms had expanded in size throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In 1935, when 3% of the farms were hiring 40% of the roughly 2.5 to 3 million farm laborers, the largest 184,000 farms employed 1.1 million workers for some part of the year (Majka and Majka 1982, p. 104; McWilliams 1942, p. 353).

Reasons Why Unions Are Bad?

Union and management leaders sit down together on a regular basis to fine-tune the deal and make sure it still works for everyone. But suppose you get all the workers at the factory to go to the boss as a group and demand better wages and working conditions. You announce that if you don’t get what you want, you’ll go on strike — that is, you’ll all stop working at once, grinding production to a halt. Now the tables are turned; it’s the workers who have the upper hand in the negotiation. You’re on your feet for hours at a time in a building that’s too hot in summer and too cold in winter, and you’re barely earning a living wage.

Neither of those numbers added up to enough to beat the conservative coalition in the House or the Senate, and the new Republican president, Gerald Ford, was an anti-union conservative with a veto power that would be tough to override. This renewed emphasis on defeating unions occurred just as Richard M. Nixon prepared to assume the presidency, thanks to a narrow victory over Hubert Humphrey in the popular vote by a 43.4 to 42.7% margin, which lead to a 301 to 191 victory in the Electoral College. His strong support in 1968 in two highly populated Midwestern industrial states, Ohio (where he had 11.8% of the vote) and Illinois (where he had 8.5%), may have contributed to Nixon’s narrow victory in them. All that said, Nixon’s victory probably owed even more to the white Democrats who cast their votes for him instead of Humphrey. Whether they turned to Wallace or Nixon, the white vote for the Democratic ticket plunged by nineteen percentage points between 1964 and 1968 in many industrialized Northern cities. As a case in point, “Half of the voters in UAW areas i.e., city neighborhoods or suburban communities had cast their ballots for conservative candidates, a profound change for a union whose members had been among the Democrats’ most loyal supporters” (Boyle 1995, p. 256).


Keyserling is often given too much credit for the substance of the act, which he gladly accepted, but that’s a separate story. However, from my point of view, the credit he is given is further evidence about how little some authors really know about the origins of the act; it shows they have not bothered to read the definitive work on the matter by James A. Gross decades ago. The BAC members on the Industrial Advisory Board of the NRA therefore hosted a private meeting with the Labor Advisory Board of the NRA on August , which included Lewis of the mine workers, Hillman of the garment workers, and Green of the AFL as its key members. BAC minutes reveal that Teagle opened the meeting by suggesting a “truce” (this war-derived metaphor suggests that Teagle believed that there was a class struggle going on) until the NRA could establish the numerous codes that would set price, hours, and wages in a wide variety of industries. According to notes from the meeting, he emphasized that he had no complaint with labor’s efforts.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Labor Unions

Labor leaders therefore advocated their Employee Free Choice Act, which would instruct corporations to recognize and bargain with unions if a majority of their employees signed a card expressing their desire to be represented by a union . As a senator, President Obama had voted for a similar proposal in 2007, and he expressed his support for the Employee Free Choice Act during his 2008 presidential campaign. As it turned out, and as mentioned earlier in this account, Standard Oil of New Jersey and several other Standard Oil companies were among the relative handful of companies that were able to maintain their employee representation plans at least into the 1960s.

The first relevant set of factors relate to the receptiveness of unions’ institutional environments. For example, the presence of a Ghent system and of centralized collective bargaining have both been shown to give unions more bargaining power and to correlate positively to higher rates of union density. The majority of Americans believed labor unions mostly hurt workers who are not members of unions by a margin. The majority of Republicans and Independents believed labor unions would further weaken by a 58% and 57% percentage margin respectively. A Gallup poll released on March 9, 2011, showed that Americans were more likely to support limiting the collective bargaining powers of state employee unions to balance a state’s budget (49%) than disapprove of such a measure (45%), while 6% had no opinion. 66% of Republicans approved of such a measure as did 51% of independents.

Suddenly, the bill was not only seen as threatening to most members of the conservative coalition, but to government executives as well. Organized labor, on the other hand, greeted the proposed legislation with enthusiasm, hoping to organize workers at the federal level, and then turn to state and municipal employees in the parts of the country in which union organizing had failed. With the NAM openly attacking unions, and Rockefeller trying to woo workers away from them through employee representation plans, there were only two bright spots for organized labor in the 12 years of Republican rule from 1920 to 1932. The Railway Labor Act of 1926, which proved to be an important precedent for the National Labor Relations Act nine years later, showed the leverage skilled workers could generate in the most critical means of freight and passenger transportation between the 1850s and 1950s.