The State of Unions in the United States
JACK FIORITO* FloridaState University, Tallahassee, FL 32306
to develI assess the state of the unions in the United States with particular reference times for U.S. unions. Increased global competiopments since 1980-momentous to provide tion and domestic deregulation, among other economic factors, combined for change in bargaining and unions. The year 1980 also important external forces marked the beginning of a conservative turn in attitudes and national government, sandwiching the starting with Reagan's election and followed by two Bush regimes faced a more hosClinton administration. With the exception of the Clinton era, unions tile central government than at any time since the nineteenth century. union memThe effects of these forces were devastating. Although private sector roughly bership began a long-term decline as early as 1955, when unions represented in the early one-third of the U.S. workforce, this decline accelerated dramatically even stabi1980s. Somewhat belated union responses slowed the decline and perhaps at less than lized union membership density by the late 1990s or early 2000s, but sector workers. one-seventh of the workforce, and only one-twelfth among private weakened. Consequently, the state of the unions must be described as considerably "out" is another There is little room to doubt that unions are "down." Whether they are signs of life and matter. Despite abundant gloomy indicators on union vitality, there are sources of hope for the future of U.S. unions. II. Trends in Membership and Density, 1980-Present and density Official federal government statistics provide comparable membership at 20.1 percent in series only since 1983, pegging that year's membership density contract coverage contrast to a 2005 figure of 12.5 percent, with comparable figures for 2006b). of 23.3 percent and 13.7 percent, respectively (U.S. Department of Labor, for the official Unofficial estimates based on the same Current Population Survey used at 25.7 percent figures put 1980 union density at 23.0 percent and contract coverage coverage fell by (Hirsch and Macpherson, 2003, 2006). Thus, union density or contract are raw memroughly one-half from 1980 to 2005. Behind these overall percentages 20.1 milbership and employment figures. Union membership stood at approximately rose from lion in 1980, and declined to 15.7 million in 2005. Meanwhile, employment 87.5 million to 125.9 million.
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH Volume XXVII, Number 1 Winter 2007
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
With the exception of a private vs. public sector distinction, the aggregate density decline has been relatively uniform across industries and occupations, as illustrated in Table 1, which shows membership density for selected industry sectors in 1983 and 2005. Note, for example, that the ratio of membership density in 2005 to membership density in 1983 for each of the private sectors shown is .47 plus or minus .01. Disaggregation can reveal variations, to be sure. Trucking, for example, appeared to experience one of the more dramatic declines for a large industry, from about 37.7 percent density in 1983 to 10.9 percent in 2005, while density in air transportation increased from 42.7 percent to 49.4 percent. Overall, however, the uniformity of decline is more striking than the variation. Others have offered detailed analyses of the reasons for union decline. Fiorito and Maranto (1986) identified several possibilities, including the impact of illegal employer opposition that was emphasized by Freeman and Medoff (1984). A recent analysis by Flanagan (2005) concurred with most earlier studies in discounting the oft-cited "structural change" thesis (shifts in employment to traditionally less unionized occupations, industries, regions, workforce participants, etc.). But roughly 20 years of additional data and analyses led Flanagan to put more emphasis on declining employee demand for union representation due to increases in progressive human resource policies and increased government protection. Although not dismissing illegal employer opposition, noting that "Management opposition surely has something to do with lower union density..." (2005: 60), Flanagan questioned whether labor law reforms focused on illegal employer behavior would have a significant impact. Evidence is subject to conflicting interpretations, and the record on union decline offers bases for alternative views. Clearly union organizing effort as indicated by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certification elections declined during the
Membership Densityfor Selected U.S. Industries, 1983 and 2005 Industry Sector All Sectors Private Sector Manufacturing Construction Public Sector Federal (except Postal) Postal State Local Source: Hirsch and Macpherson (2006). Membership Density, 1983 20.1% 16.5% 27.8% 27.5% 36.7% 19.4% 74.2% 35.9% 51.0% Membership Density, 2005 12.5% 7.8% 13.0% 13.1% 36.5% 16.5% 64.4% 35.0% 45.8%
1980-2005 period, particularly during 1981-1982 when election activity fell from over 6,000 elections per year to under 3,600 (Chaison and Dhavale, 1990). Despite periodic upturns, the lower activity level has persisted, and fewer than 3,000 elections were held in 2004 or 2005 (Fiorito and Jarley, 2003; U.S. National Labor Relations Board, 2006). Unions pursued non-NLRB alternatives such as "card check elections," but these only mildly offset the NLRB election decline for most unions. Although Flanagan (2005) attributed union density decline largely to decreased worker demand for representation, evidence of a large and possibly growing "representation gap" between the numbers who have and want union representation contradicts that view (Freeman and Rogers, 1999; Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 2005). One can argue that a legal environment increasingly hostile to workers' exercise of their statutory rights (Block et al., 2006) has forced unions to focus organizing efforts on only the most "winnable" opportunities, and a mild upward trend in union win rates that accompanies the decline in election numbers aligns with that view. III. Trends in Industrialand Occupational Composition of the Labor Movement Despite the overall uniformity of union decline, even small differences can accumulate into large ones over extended periods, and differential rates of decline have produced some notable changes in the composition of union membership. Of course, the public vs. private sector contrast is a large difference and its effect on membership composition is huge. In 1983, public sector workers were 32.2 percent of union membership, but by 2005 they were 47 percent. An even larger change may have occurred for "management, professional, and related occupations" at 19 percent of 1983 union membership versus "managerial and professional specialty" occupations at about 36 percent of 2005 union membership. As the referenced job classes suggest, however, comparisons are complicated by changes in both occupational and industrial classification schemes over this time period, even for fairly broad classifications. Lesser comparability problems arise for pre-postsecondary teachers, however, a large part of the broader managerial-professional group. Such teachers comprised about 9 percent of union membership in 1983, but 15 percent in 2005. (See references to Gifford (2005) and Hirsch and Macpherson (2006) for the numbers used in this section.) A real change has occurred in the occupations held by union members. The change is toward professional jobs, as the figures for teachers show, despite classification changes that complicate comparisons for broader managerial and professional occupation groups. The aforementioned figures underscore the intertwined nature of membership composition change. The changes with regard to private vs. public sectors and increases in PreK-12 teachers within membership ranks are somewhat inseparable. This inseparability should be recalled in viewing any particular change as it may be related to other changes. As suggested somewhat by the changes in union density within industry sectors noted earlier, and the shift from private toward public sector membership, membership composition has changed with regard to industry more generally. The shift from pri-
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
vate sector membership came largely at the expense of manufacturing-based membership. In 1983, about 30 percent of union members were employed in manufacturing,
compared to only about 13 percent in 2005.
Less dramatic changes occurred for many other union membership characteristics. Reflecting an aging workforce, 94 percent of members were age 25 or older in 2005, versus 91 percent in 1983. The percent age 65 and older roughly doubled during this time, from 1 percent to 2 percent of total union membership. Gender composition of membership changed dramatically, at a time when gender composition of the workforce was relatively stable. Women's share of employed workers increased from 46 percent to 48 percent during 1983-2005, but their share of union membership increased from 34 percent to 43 percent. Ethnic/racial composition changed less strikingly from 1983 to 2005. White membership declined from 83 percent of the total to 80 percent; black membership held steady at 14 percent; and Hispanic membership rose from 7 percent to 11 percent. Asian-American membership, not disaggregated in the 1983 figures, was 4 percent of 2005 membership. Geographic changes in membership composition appear to have been modest overall. Taking six geographically diverse and relatively populous states as a sample, Florida and Texas each contained 2-3 percent of 1983 membership, and each contained about 3 percent of membership in 2005. Michigan held constant at about 6 percent, and New York rose slightly from 12 percent to 13 percent. California members increased their share of the total from 12 percent to 15 percent, while Pennsylvania members fell from 7 percent of total U.S. membership to 5 percent. For the most part, industry contraction and expansion, regional shifts in population and employment to southern states, and differing rates of unionization among states and regions have had little net effect on the geographic composition of membership. There have been offsetting influences. Florida, for example, increased its share of U.S. employment from 4.4 percent to 5.9 percent during this time, but its union density rate fell apace with national trends, leaving Florida with about the same number of union members in 2005 as in 1983. Because of union membership decline nationally, Florida's share of membership changed modestly from 2.2 percent to 2.6 percent. The classic U.S. union member image in 1980 was a blue-collar, middle-aged white male employed in manufacturing, construction, or transportation, and residing in the Northeast, Great Lakes region, or on the West Coast (Lipset and Schneider, 1983). As the details above suggest, that image needs updating. In relation to that 1980 archetype, the typical 2005 union member was a bit more likely to be Hispanic or AsianAmerican, a bit older, and more likely to reside in the South. All of these changes reflect more general changes in U.S. employment. The most dramatic changes, however, were that the typical 2005 union member was considerably more likely to be a female, a professional or manager, a public sector worker, and far less likely to work in manufacturing. "Joe Union, 1980" was a skilled or semi-skilled white male employed in manufacturing in California, the Northeast, or the Great Lakes region. His contem-
porary counterpart, "Chris Union, 2005" was more likely a teacher (male or female) in a public school and somewhat less likely to reside in traditional union strongholds. IV. Changes in Labor Law and Public Policy There were no major formal changes in labor relations law or public policy at the federal level, which dominates U.S. labor relations, during 1980-2005. The basic private sector law was passed in 1926 (Railway Labor Act) and 1935 (Wagner Act), substantially amended in 1947 (Taft-Hartley Act), and less substantially amended in 1959 (Landrum-Griffin Act), 1970 (postal service added to scope), and 1974 (not-for-profit health care added). Federal employees are subject to a relatively unchanged 1978 law (Civil Service Reform Act), and state and local public employees are subject to state laws that were mostly in place prior to 1980. That said, there have been substantial developments despite relatively stable legal frameworks. In terms of unions' "positive agenda," the late 1970s saw a failed attempt at private sector labor law reform intended to facilitate union organizing, as did the 1990s (in conjunction with a Clinton Presidential Commission's study and recommendations), and a similar effort was underway at this writing (proposed Employee Free Choice Act). A Bush veto is virtually assured if the bill passes Congress. What victories unions can claim during this period came mainly in terms of the "negative agenda," that is in stopping legislation and other public policy or administrative initiatives intended to weaken union and worker rights. There have been some defeats as well. For 1996-2002, Masters and Delaney (2005: 383) derive a 35 percent union success rate on selected federal legislation, with a notably higher 67 percent success rate on legislation more directly affecting unions. Setting the law and public policy stage for this era was President Reagan's 1980 election, signaling a general shift to the political right, and his 1981 firing of roughly 12,000 striking air traffic controllers (federal employees) for defying his return-towork ultimatum. The strike was illegal under federal law, but in view of Reagan's previous expressions of support for air traffic controllers and previous administrations' "softer" approaches to enforcement, the mass firings constituted a significant break with the past. It not only signaled a "get tough" policy on federal employees, but was widely seen as encouraging private employers to follow suit, and in particular to resort to their ultimate weapon of permanently replacing strikers who were involved in lawful strikes (Budd, 2005: 68). Such replacement is legal due to a 1938 Supreme Court decision. Yet this long-standing employer right was socially disapproved, and rarely exercised. Its use or at least its threatened use became commonplace in the wake of Reagan's mass firings. Federal administrations under Reagan and both Bush presidencies launched various anti-union initiatives, always under the guise of a more positive public policy goal. Privatization was touted as making government services more efficient, but it also meant shifting workers to coverage under private sector labor relations laws that seem less effective in protecting worker and union rights. In the name of efficient govern-
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
ment contracting, federal governments sought to weaken "prevailing wage" laws and project-wide union recognition agreements that help to limit incentives for private contractors to oppose unions in federally funded work (particularly on construction projects). In the name of protecting individual worker rights, federal Attorneys General have been directed to promote notices to workers regarding their rights to refunds of union dues not spent on collective bargaining ("Beck rights"), while putting no such priority on notice of worker rights to form or join unions. Reagan also formed a Presidential Commission on union corruption that cited four national unions, of roughly 150, as plagued by serious and persistent corruption. One of these, the Teamsters, was the focus of prosecution and a temporary government takeover under anti-racketeering law. Reviews on that are mixed, with some unionists feeling that this action was necessary to dislodge corrupt elements, and others seeing this as a dangerous and unnecessary precedent for government intrusion in internal union affairs. George W. Bush's administration has made explicit efforts to revoke collective bargaining rights for thousands of federal employees in the name of "homeland security" post-9/1 1, although the nexus between collective bargaining rights and threats to homeland security has never been persuasively articulated. In addition, Reagan and Bush administrations consistently backed legislation intended to weaken union political participation in the name of campaign spending reform. Conversely, the Clinton Administration made at least some efforts to advance unions' political agendas, most notably in forming the Presidential Commission on Worker and Management Rights chaired by John T. Dunlop. Even before 1994 midterm elections returned control of both houses of Congress to Republicans for the first time since 1946, the days of Taft-Hartley, however, Congress clearly had little appetite for one-sided reforms focused on facilitating union organizing. Dunlop steered the Commission toward a potentially viable compromise that would relax restrictions on employer-influenced employee participation mechanisms ("company unions" in their critics' views). By most accounts, the 1994 Republican election victories doomed any such compromise. The new Congress instead passed the "TEAM Act" loosening those restrictions with none of the organizing reform sought by unions. Clinton vetoed the Team Act. Clinton also attempted to use the President's executive powers to address striker replacement by issuing an executive order restricting federal contractors' ability to hire permanent striker replacements. This was struck down by the courts as treading improperly on subject matter regulated by statutes. Although this court decision symbolizes an anti-union drift in federal courts following numerous Republican/conservative court appointments during the Reagan and Bush years, the Supreme Court provided a notable victory for unions in the use of "salting," an organizing technique whereby union sympathizers or organizers obtain employment in nonunion firms for the purpose of organizing. Employers argued that these "salts" obtained employment under false pretenses, and thus could be discharged without violating federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of union activity. The Court held unanimously that as long as the salts did the work for which they
were hired, employers had no legitimate basis for claiming that firing such workers would not violate labor law. While federal law predominates in U.S. labor relations matters for federal and private sector employees, there was considerable activity on labor law and public policy in states affecting both private sector and state and local public sector employees. In some instances the basic framework for state and local employee labor relations was changed by legislation (e.g., Illinois in the early 1980s passed new laws embracing public sector bargaining) or by gubernatorial executive action (e.g., Kentucky in the early 2000s repealed bargaining rights). Mainly affecting private sector workers, between 1980 and 2005, two or three states passed "Right to Work" laws barring dues payment as a requirement of continued employment (known as a "union shop"). Several states saw battles over "paycheck protection," or as unions call it, "paycheck deception." These campaigns involve legislative or ballot initiatives restricting payroll deduction for union dues to bargaining activities. Of course, no brief treatment can do justice to the numerous and varied developments in 50-plus state-or-similar jurisdictions (e.g., District of Columbia) and countless narrower governmental bodies. For example, so far no mention has been made of local level union efforts to facilitate organizing by pushing for local government resolutions or ordinances using government purchasing as leverage (similar to Clinton's effort on striker replacement). A further sampling of the variety is provided by Florida's state universities, where de-unionization was attempted in the early 2000s by Governor Jeb Bush and his legislative allies as a convenient side effect of a reorganization plan, if not in fact a deliberate objective (Fiorito and Gallagher, 2006). A common thread in many such efforts is an attempt by Republican conservatives to undermine the power of unions that are often key supporters of their political opponents. If nothing else, these efforts distract unions from other potential battles including advancing their own agendas. In sum, while there have been no major formal changes in law or public policy on labor relations at the federal level from 1980-2005, this generalization conceals much relevant activity at various government levels. (A later section examines political orientation and activities in more detail.) There were substantial legislative and executive branch efforts to change public policy in both union-friendly and unionhostile directions depending on the party in power. A key part of the federal executive branch's power is manifested in its ability to appoint National Labor Relations Board members, and their ability to change somewhat ambiguous statutory law through decisions in particular cases (Gross, 1985). As Cooke et al. (1995) noted, political factors influence NLRB decisions. Most efforts to change statutes were unsuccessful, but there was a steady erosion of union rights as unions lost some defensive battles with few, if any, offsetting wins advancing union rights. V. Trends in Union Impacts on Wages and Other Economic Conditions The 1980-2005 period began with the publication of What Do Unions Do? (WDUD), one of the most comprehensive efforts ever to catalog union effects, and particularly
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
their economic effects (Freeman and Medoff, 1984). Writing mainly on the basis of pre-1980 data, Freeman and Medoff concluded that union wage effects were on the order of 20-30 percent premiums, albeit with considerable variation by occupation, industry, and other factors (1984: 45-49). A general pattern was that unions raised wages most for those who were otherwise lowest paid, reducing wage dispersion. An exception was noted for women, for whom a lower union premium was estimated. Union benefit effects (controlling for higher wages) were somewhat higher at roughly 30 percent. Freeman and Medoff also briefly considered macroeconomic impacts, finding little basis for the common belief that unions contributed to costpush inflation or other aggregate economic ills. A notable goal of their book, however, was to broaden analyses beyond the neoclassical economist's overly simplistic monopoly unionism model and a focus on financial compensation. Thus, they also considered nonfinancial and social impacts. Importantly, Freeman and Medoff declared: Our most far-reaching conclusion is that, in addition to well-advertised effects on wages, unions alter nearly every other measurable aspect of the operation of workplaces and enterprises, from turnover to productivity to profitability to the composition of pay packages. The behavior of workers and firms and the outcomes of their interactions differ substantially between the organized and unorganized sectors. On balance, unionization appears to improve rather than to harm the social and economic system (1984: 19). The 1980-2005 period also began with a deep recession and a wave of "concession bargaining" in which many unions agreed to wage freezes, wage reductions, and other less favorable terms than in their previous contracts. This wave of "givebacks" was not lost on Freeman and Medoff, although it was not then reflected in most data sources. They noted that concessions were not unprecedented and speculated that most of their findings would hold in post-concessionary analyses, although they anticipated the union wage premium would return to a more historically familiar level (the 10- 15 percent range), citing an unusual confluence of circumstances in the 1970s that tended to insulate union wages from downward pressures emerging then. The twentieth anniversary of WDUD was marked by symposia dedicated to revisiting Freeman and Medoff's study and findings with the benefit of 20 years' hindsight and experience. Apart from these symposia, numerous studies have examined union effects independently or as explicit reexaminations relative to the 1984 book. Thus recent literature provides ample guidance regarding trends since the baseline established by the 1984 book. Most WDUD findings and conclusions have held up well (e.g., Blanchflower and Bryson (2004) on wage effects). As expected, union wage effect estimates have fallen closer to the seeming longterm estimate of 15 percent (Budd, 2005b: 58). "Clearly, unions have found it harder to maintain a wage [premium] since F&M wrote" (Blanchflower and Bryson, 2004: 390). Hirsch estimated the differential at 13 percent for 2001, but also noted that measurement problems systematically bias estimates downward (Hirsch, 2004). He con-
cluded that adjusting for these biases produces union wage effect estimates in excess of 20 percent. Hirsch noted that a relatively high union wage premium has long been suspected as a factor behind particularly intense managerial opposition to unions, and suggested that more accurate estimates of that premium could better account for that opposition. Union benefit effects appear to be more persistent, at least through the early 2000s. Budd (2005a) noted that estimates using 2004 data produced patterns quite similar to those from 1970s data, reflecting both monopoly (i.e., higher benefit levels) and voice effects (i.e., different benefit patterns). Furthermore, he noted that union-nonunion benefit differences widened in some cases during this time. While unions maintained and perhaps even expanded the union benefit premium for members over this period, however, declining union coverage meant fewer workers enjoyed such benefits. Budd (2004: 616) observed that both health coverage and pension coverage declines among workers in general during this era were partly attributable to union decline. Hirsch referred to firm performance as "perhaps the most contentious" WDUD topic (2004: 415). The areas where subsequent evidence has been least supportive involve union productivity effects, and for firm financial performance, employment growth, and investment-related behavior, the evidence seems to paint a darker, less benign picture than WDUD suggested (Hirsch 1991, 2004). Freeman and Medoff cautioned that productivity effects were sensitive to the industrial relations climate. The evidence as a whole post-WDUD is more mixed as compared to a WDUD view that productivity effects were generally positive but with possible exceptions. The subsequent evidence instead suggests that while there is indeed considerable variation by industry, overall union productivity effects are probably in the zero to mildly negative range. On a related point, Addison (1982) emphasized that productivity and efficiency are distinct, and this point is potentially critical to understanding management behaviors to avoid unions and shift R&D and investments out of union facilities even if unions have positive productivity impacts. Hirsch (1991) found that union facilities were decidedly less prone to invest in R&D and equipment, contributing to inevitable decline in unionization as nonunion facilities grew and union facilities contracted. Overall change in this area from 1980-2005 reflects not so much that the best estimates of the early 1980s were wrong, but that trends beyond the scope of union effects studies were not adequately anticipated. Competitive pressures in the economy markedly increased in the 1970s and 1980s due to deregulation, new nonunion firms, and globalization. These influences persisted and, perhaps in the case of globalization, intensified during the 1990s and early 2000s. From 1994-2004, U.S. exports doubled and imports tripled (Bach, 2005). The dramatic losses of manufacturing jobs and union membership noted earlier reflect this. Outsourcing is not limited entirely to manufacturing, of course; note the publicity associated with foreign call centers servicing the United States, for example. From 1986-2004, sales of services via exports and imports through cross-border trade each increased at annual rates just over 8 percent, so the levels of these sales roughly quadrupled during this time (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2006).
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
The discussion of union effects to this point has focused on compensation and firm performance, and even within these areas has neglected some important topics such as union effects on wage inequality. Card et al. reported that recent evidence corroborates the inequality-reducing union effect WDUD noted, although this effect holds clearly for men but not women, for unionized women workers tend to be at the higher end of the pay scale among women (2004: 555). Recall the earlier discussion on membership demographics and the archetypical unionized teacher in conjunction with this and note that more recent studies no longer find women to deviate from the pattern that unions raise wages most for the otherwise least well-paid. As the earlier quote from WDUD indicates, union effects go well beyond economic effects on compensation and firm performance. Mitchell and Erickson (2005) provided a WDUD-inspired retrospective on macroeconomic effects, and Addison and Belfield (2004) provided a similar review on union voice effects. Verma (2005) focused on human resource management practices and concluded that unions influence firms through both shock effects (unilateral management responses) and voice, and influence nonunion firms through spillover and threat effects (i.e., adoption of "unionlike" practices through imitation or to prevent unionization), although these effects may be eroding over time due to competitive pressures and declining unionization. Union firms tend toward formalization, or alternatively less flexible policies, and stronger voice mechanism, again with both effects transmitted somewhat to the nonunion firms (2005: 444-45). As Verma suggested, union decline raises doubts about the persistence of these influences, particularly in terms of threat effects. Yet while employers are sometimes heard asserting that "unions are no longer on the radar scope," they continue to sponsor new campaigns attacking unions (Greenhouse, 2006). Effects on individual worker attitudes have also been assessed from the vantage of a WDUD retrospective. A surprising WDUD finding was that despite considerable economic advantages, union workers expressed lower job satisfaction. Freeman and Medoff suggested that lower quit rates for union workers indicated that this apparent dissatisfaction among union workers was illusory, due to the fact that one of the things unions do is to raise expectations and thereby fan flames of discontent. Subsequent studies examined union-nonunion job satisfaction and other worker attitude differences more thoroughly. Hammer and Avgar (2005) concluded that the greater job dissatisfaction for union members was real, but that a more careful look at the various facets of job satisfaction, industrial relations climate, and theories of job satisfaction and turnover were needed to understand its nature. They emphasized that there are many reasons that dissatisfied workers will not quit jobs and thereby break psychological bonds with their work community and perhaps residential community. Thus they found the "exit-voice paradox" of less satisfied, but less likely to quit, union workers not so paradoxical. They also noted that cumulative studies on relations between job satisfaction and performance, humanistic concern about job satisfaction, and cumulative evidence on workers' aversion to conflictual workplace relations warranted greater concern for union effects on workers' psychological states.
Although WDUD largely ignored what public sector unions do, several subsequent studies addressed this question. In re-examining and updating WDUD's wage effect estimates, Blanchflower and Bryson (2004) extended the analysis to public sector workers and comparisons of 1983-1988 with 1996-2001. They found that while the wage premium fell from 22 percent to 17 percent for private sector workers, it rose from 13 percent to 15 percent for public sector workers. In general, patterns for subgroups within each sector were similar, but whereas private sector men enjoyed a larger wage premium than women (17 percent vs. 13 percent) in the most recent data, public sector women enjoyed a larger wage premium than men ( 16 percent vs. 10 percent). In a more general assessment of union impacts in the public sector, Gunderson (2005) emphasized that beyond the two union faces of monopoly and voice stressed in the WDUD framework, one should consider two forms of voice as notable in the public sector. In addition to the workplace level voice that is for the most part a positive influence, Gunderson called attention to the political or external voice of unions. Although union political activity can affect private sector employers-as unions are attempting to do with Wal-Mart (Spence, 2005), for example-the political voice is potentially far more powerful in the public sector where politicians seek union backing and market pressures to constrain union demands are more subdued. Furthermore, from an economic efficiency perspective at least, the political voice is likely to be negative, according to Gunderson. Variations in union effects will persist as different occupations and industries hold different comparative advantages and differential insulation from global competition. Also, different union strategies, tactics, and structures may foster diverse effects. In the aggregate, however, Freeman and Medoff's forecast of diminished union wage effects post-WDUD probably understates a general decline in union effects stemming from increased competitive pressures, particularly pressures associated with globalization. Although Freeman and Medoff referred to "slow strangulation of private sector unionism" (1984: 221-45), the pace was steady if not quickened subsequent to WDUD. As Budd said of the early 2000s, "[P]rivate sector unions are struggling to maintain the viability of collective bargaining in the face of the pressure of globalization" (2005b: 429). Moreover, while somewhat insulated, many public sector unions, notably through privatization and the threat of privatization, have also faced increasingly difficult environments for bargaining. Juravich and Bronfenbrenner asserted that public sector "insulation from anti-union initiatives is no longer assured: [A] kind of open season has been declared on public sector employees and their unions" (1998: 263). VI. Trends in Strikes, Other Disputes, and Other Dispute Resolution Methods The 1980-2005 period marked a decidedly downward trend in strike activity. From 1981-1990, the annual number of major work stoppages (involving 1,000 or more workers) averaged 72, versus 27 for 1996-2005 (U.S. Department of Labor, 2006a). Comparing the same periods, estimated lost work time from major stoppages (reflecting strike frequency, volume, and scope) dropped from about 0.04 percent to about
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
0.01 percent. For some recent years, rounding to two decimal places produces estimated lost time values of zero. Strikes have become exceedingly rare. The obvious causal suspects in this development include maturation and skill development among negotiators, declining union density, declining bargaining unit size (larger units are more strike-prone), and declining strike effectiveness. Some of these played a minor role, but clearly union decline and decreasing strike effectiveness were the critical factors. Nonunion worker strikes are not unheard of, but they are extremely rare. Thus a 50 percent drop in union density almost automatically implies a 50 percent drop in strike activity, other things equal. The stability of public sector union density did not offset or dampen this trend since the vast majority of public sector workers do not have strike rights. Other things have not been equal, of course. As earlier discussion showed, the 1980-2005 period witnessed central governments that were mostly hostile to unions. Through judicial and regulatory agency (e.g., National Labor Relations Board) appointments and through example (e.g., the Air Traffic Controllers firing in 1981), Reagan and Bush administrations created and fostered a climate that made strikes highrisk affairs for unions. Employers were emboldened to use or at least threaten permanent striker replacement, and at times seemed to dare unions to exercise strike rights in order to counter with striker replacement rights and the likely prospect of operating nonunion in the aftermath. "In many situations, the strike has actually become the strongest weapon in the employer's arsenal. If an employer is intent upon busting a union, the strike becomes an integral part of this effort. Union-busters commonly advise employers to create strike situations as a means of creating a 'union free environment"' (Balanoff, 1985: 7). Despite Balanoff's generalization, technological change probably increased union strike leverage in some circumstances, notably in companies that adopted just-in-time style inventory systems, making them more vulnerable to disruptions. Technological advances also weakened strike weapons in some industries, as massively complex computer-controlled systems seem able to function for long periods with little human intervention, e.g., in telecommunications. Globalization and a more competitive environment are part of the story as well, providing the heightened employer motivation to resist union strike threats, but more importantly the threat to both parties that a strike could mean business failure or at least permanent market share losses. In the familiar strike metaphor, the economic climate changed such that the "pie" was greatly at risk of shrinking rapidly or even disappearing altogether if the parties failed to reach agreement. Thus in addition to declining union density, the "withering of the strike weapon" reflects a power shift to employers and growing mutual employer-union incentives to reduce conflict and in particular avoid strikes. With regard to the power shift, unions have developed alternative strategies and tactics to pressure employers (e.g., Labor Research Review, 1985). One example is "in plant" strategies, somewhat analogous to sit-down strikes in which tactics such as work slowdowns or "working to rule" ("excessively" following rules) results in reduced effi-
ciency without a formal strike and ensuing increased exposure to striker replacement. Although some such tactics are, like sit-down strikes, illegal, enforcement can be difficult. Another tactic is "union days," in which workers provide increased efficiency to demonstrate to management the potential value of more cooperative relations. In addition to in-plant strategies, unions have employed new external pressure tactics, often referred to as "corporate campaigns" or "comprehensive campaigns" (Jarley and Maranto, 1990). The basic idea in these strategies is to exert pressure through demonstrations, advertisements, exercising stockholder rights, and in other ways generating negative publicity for employers that leads to pressure on employers from consumers or those having business relationships with the employer. (Note that U.S. labor law generally prohibits "secondary" pressures whereby a union can leverage its strength in one employment relationship to exert pressure against another employer.) Two recent examples involving farm workers illustrate this. In one instance adverse publicity was directed at the fast food chain Taco Bell, leading it to pressure growers to increase the pay of tomato pickers. McDonald's restaurants have been the more recent target for a similar campaign. Some unions have established new offices devoted to developing and implementing strike-alternative, pressure-campaign strategies and tactics, and some have employed consultants for this purpose. With regard to growing mutual incentives to avoid overt conflict, to minimize the "shrinking or disappearing pie problem," various approaches to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) have gained favor. In part ADR explorations were fueled simply by growing costs of traditional dispute resolution (e.g., strikes, grievance arbitration). ADR almost certainly received a very substantial boost, however, from growing competitive pressures stemming from nonunion firms, deregulation, and globalization. A final factor spurring this trend might be growing perceptions of conflict's disutility. In the case of unions, research has identified conflict avoidance desires among workers that enhance their aversion to union representation (Freeman and Rogers, 1999: 56). As Lewin (2005: 210) noted, an alternate to pluralists' "functional conflict" perspective is the view that unions exacerbate dysfunctional conflict. In "rights disputes," those arising over the interpretation or application of an existing collective bargaining agreement, ADR explorations have involved grievance mediation and expedited arbitration (Feuille, 1999). (Recall that the United States has no specialized labor court or tribunal system.) The overall picture from 1980-2005 in unionized firms appears to be one of stability, however, with some simplification of procedures (Eaton and Keefe, 1999). In nonunion firms, there was considerable experimentation, much of it adopting union-esque provisions, perhaps in part to stem an explosion of nonunion employment dispute litigation in the courts (Eaton and Keefe, 1999). More interesting in relation to declining strike activity, given that strike activity arises mainly in "interest disputes" over what the terms will be in new or renewed collective bargaining agreements, are trends toward more cooperative bargaining approaches that are championed under various banners including mutual gains bargaining, interest-based bargaining, win-win bargaining, and the like. Virtually all of
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
these "newer" bargaining approaches are rooted in the "integrative bargaining" concepts articulated long ago by Walton and McKersie (1965). The central emphasis is a mutual problem-solving (win-win) approach stressing interests as opposed to traditional "distributive" (win-lose) bargaining stressing positions. Of course, real conflicts of interest exist in union-management bargaining, and many mixed situations of both common and conflicting interests are presented in a single issue. What was new, or at least increasingly popular over the 1980-2005 period in interest dispute resolution was perhaps increasing sensitivity to the shrinking or disappearing pie phenomenon in the face of more intense competitive pressures. This apparently led to greater interest in and adoption of integrative bargaining approaches under various labels. Deery and Iverson noted for example, "Although some companies have openly sought to challenge the bargaining role of unions and unilaterally introduced changed work practices, others have sought to move toward 'mutualgains bargaining'..."(2005: 588, emphasis added). There is evidence that union-management bargainers can achieve real performance advantages through some cooperative programs, not only relative to other bargaining pairs, but also relative to nonunion firms, including those with high employee involvement (Cooke, 1992, 1994). Promoting "interest-based bargaining" became a much stronger emphasis of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service during this time, as compared to its traditional emphasis on providing mediators to assist bargaining pairs while taking the parties' bargaining approach as largely given. Even during the relatively short span of 19961999, Cutcher-Gershenfeld and Kochan (2004) detected a notable increase in interestbased bargaining. Furthermore, they observed that strike or lockout threats were seen "asa major factor driving negotiations" in only 10 percent of negotiations (2004: 12). In sum, overt conflict in the form of strikes declined dramatically during 19802005. Principal factors underlying this trend were declining union density, decreasing effectiveness of strikes as a union weapon, and growing mutual union-management concerns about strike costs. Declining strike effectiveness fostered union explorations of strike alternatives including in-plant strategies and corporate campaigns. Mutual strike cost concerns encouraged the parties to explore and experiment with more cooperative approaches to bargaining. VII. Changes in PoliticalOrientationand Regulation of Unions There were no dramatic shifts in the political orientation or regulation of unions during the 1980-2005 period. U.S. unions have traditionally been characterized as relatively apolitical, but have nearly always relied on political means to help achieve their economic ends, and beneath the surface may not be very different from European unions that are regarded as more politically oriented (Delaney et al., 1999; Wilson, 1979). Although formally nonpartisan, unions maintained a relatively close alliance with the Democratic Party. Unions consistently directed 90 percent or more of their Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions to Democrats (Masters and Delaney, 2005: 379). PACs are critical in the United States since they are the principal means of combining member contributions for political action. Using member dues for political con-
tributions is prohibited, although dues can be used to support some nominally nonpartisan political efforts such as candidate forums. Based on arguments that unions needed to use political means to defend worker and union rights against increased conservative political attacks, there were calls in the 1980s and 1990s for unions to become more active politically and some notable efforts to do so (Delaney et al., 1999: 277; Fiorito, 1987: 273). Unions took a more prominent role in Presidential politics. Although traditionally endorsing candidates, unions typically waited for primary elections to determine party nominees. By some accounts, an early endorsement strategy in 1984 backfired, with Republicans charging that "Big Labor" unduly influenced the Democratic Party's choice, making its candidate, Walter Mondale, a candidate of "narrow special interests." Unions also encouraged members to run for public office, announcing in the 1990s a goal of electing 2,000 members by the year 2000. Unions also provided "muscle" (mobilization, e.g., door-to-door get-out-thevote drives, volunteer phone banks), and union members consistently favored Democrats although less overwhelmingly than in PAC or mobilization efforts. In Congressional voting over 11 biennial cycles from 1980-2000, the percent of unionaffiliated voters favoring Democrats averaged about ten percentage points higher than for voters generally (Masters and Delaney, 2005: 382). Note the considerable variance in this percentage during these 11 cycles, however-a low of four percent in 1986 and a high of 16 percent in 2000. Despite the persistence of a limited union voting "bloc," its impact was weakened by the diminishing base of union households in the wake of declining union density (Masters and Delaney, 2005: 381). Overall political activity as indicated by the level of per-member PAC contributions remained relatively constant in inflation-adjusted terms (Masters and Delaney, 2005: 377), at less than $2 per member per biennial election cycle (federal election campaigns only). The typical union member pays annual dues of roughly $400-500. Thus, despite the sometimes high profile of union political activities in popular media, traditional characterizations of unions as relatively apolitical cannot be dismissed entirely. As a further point of reference, union political spending has substantially lagged growth in business-related political activity. In terms of PAC contributions to House and Senate candidates, corporate PACs outspent labor PACs by a 1.4:1 ratio in 1979-1980, and by a 2.8:1 ratio in 2003-2004 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Including trade association PACs with corporate PACs would raise the figures to 2.6:1 and 4.4:1, respectively. Looking at broader indices, Masters and Delaney estimated that businessaffiliated groups and individuals outspent their union counterparts by roughly an 8:1 margin in both 1991-1992 and 2001-2002 election cycles (2005: 380). Beneath the relatively calm surface of persistent (but not universal) union support for Democratic Party candidates were various controversies. Union political activists and members periodically expressed frustration with their Democrat allies, charging that union allegiance and support were taken for granted and not reciprocated, e.g., with many Democrats joining Republicans to loosen trade restrictions seen as counter to union member interests. There were occasional threats of taking more of a "litmus
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
test" approach with an issue such as trade legislation or union joining rights as a critical test, and throwing union support behind a clearly labor-oriented third party, and at least one new labor party was founded in 1996 (Delaney et al., 1999: 277). Labor party impulses were apparently muted once again by events such as the 2000 Presidential election, where Ralph Nader's labor-friendly Green Party candidacy drew nearly 100,000 Florida votes (nearly three million nationally) when George W. Bush infamously won Florida's decisive Electoral College votes by fewer than 600 popular votes. Perhaps in part a telling comment on voter pragmatism, Nader drew fewer than 500,000 votes nationally in 2004. (Nader supporters point out that Gore's loss in 2000 could as easily be attributed to his failure to win his home state of Tennessee, where the Nader vote was inconsequential.) Some have argued that unions need to reach out to Republicans and face political realities of conservative ascendancy in U.S. politics. There are some moderate Republicans with whom this is possible, but Republicans generally have moved to an "openly hostile attitude toward unions" (Masters and Delaney, 2005: 374), making such efforts by unions virtually impossible. In terms of political issue orientation, unions maintained a strong emphasis on union rights and workers' rights to form unions. A secondary, but still strong, emphasis was on other worker rights (e.g., minimum wage, workplace safety, privacy vs. drug testing) and more general social and economic rights such as health care and voting rights among the "have nots" (e.g., minorities, immigrants, pensioners, and unemployed workers as well as the working poor). There were notable changes in union political orientation on three broad public policy issues in the 1980-2005 era. First, unions became more supportive of immigrant rights, recognizing that employers often use illegal immigrant workers' vulnerabilities to divide and conquer, and to suppress organizing efforts by calling in immigration authorities to deport "illegals" who threatened unionization. Second, the 1980s roughly marked the end of an era in which union foreign policy stances centered on anti-communism. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant the end of its support for communist labor unions and their perceived threat to "free" unions that long concerned U.S. unions. Finally, union political orientations shifted from outright opposition to trade liberalization, after repeated defeats, to an emphasis on "fair trade," trying to ensure that trade agreements included meaningful labor provisions to protect U.S. workers from foreign competition that exploited foreign workers and hastened a "race to the bottom." As noted in the earlier section on laws and public policy, unions mostly fought various defensive battles during 1980-2005. Masters and Delaney (2005: 383) noted that unions fared better on "union issues" (e.g., paycheck protection/deception) than in broader issues (e.g., trade), contrary to patterns identified circa 1980 by Freeman and Medoff (1984). They attributed this difference to changes in the political agenda, controlled largely by Republican conservatives since 1980. Related to this, the earlier discussion on prevailing wage laws and paycheck protection/deception noted union defensive efforts to stave off Republican-led attacks on unions, including efforts to restrict union political activities in the name of advancing individual worker rights or reforming political campaign finances.
Masters and Delaney estimated a 67 percent union win rate for unions on union issues before Congress for 1996-2002 (2005: 383). Given unions' defensive posture on most issues, such a record has meant that during 1980-2005, regulation of union activities including union political activities did not change sharply, but rather worsened slightly. Unions are still free to endorse candidates, set up PACs to combine members' contributions for maximum impact, mobilize voters, use union funds (including dues) to sponsor candidate forums and in other ways support candidates indirectly, and conduct independent issue-oriented campaigns that can work to a preferred candidate's advantage, pointing out for example that a particular candidate supports union-favored positions. Continuing limitations on union political activity were illustrated in a prominent campaign finance scandal. Teamsters union-reformer-turned-President Ron Carey was barred from union office for campaign finance violations during his term, specifically the use of Teamster treasury funds (mainly members' dues) to support Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election bid, in a contribution swap whereby Clinton allies would support Carey's re-election bid. Carey was ultimately acquitted, but others in his administration were convicted, and Carey's reformist leadership gave way to James P. Hoffa's presidency. While describing union political achievements as "at best disappointing," Masters and Delaney (2005: 386) argued that unions cannot choose to disengage. Things could have been much worse, in effect. A case study of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) seems to echo this point, arguing that the CWA's political efforts formed part of a coherent strategy including organizing and bargaining activities (Katz et al., 2003). Unions made progress during this time in harnessing information technology for political activity, e.g., in providing detailed maps for door-to-door voter mobilization efforts, facilitating mass e-mail campaigns, etc. They've done less well on "message." With union density at 13 percent and falling, unions clearly need many allies to achieve political goals, as well as a strong turnout from union households. Unions have made efforts to reach out to potential allies with some success, but as Masters and Delaney concluded, unions have failed the "critical test" of crafting a political message that inspires, championing ideas that stir passion among nonunion voters as well as those from union households (2005: 387). This section has reviewed union political orientation and regulation in aggregate, with only brief mention of individual unions to illustrate aggregate trends. National unions exercise considerable autonomy in the United States, sometimes endorsing and supporting opposing candidates, and varying in their political activity levels as well. The next section provides further discussion on union differences. Political orientation, however, as one of many areas of differences, will receive only summary treatment. It is appropriate here then to note these differences in the broadest terms, and to note that political orientation, and particularly political activity level, was one of the key issues underlying the AFL-CIO secessions of 2005, arguably one of the biggest developments in U.S. unions of the 1980-2005 era.
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
VIII. Interorganizational Trans-NationalUnion Alliances and Formulations and U.S. unions consist of tens of thousands of locals that are mostly subordinate bodies within national unions traditionally delineated along craft or industry lines, but increasingly general unions in many cases. National unions are historically the power centers or sovereign bodies, with strong traditions of autonomy and exclusive jurisdiction for workers of a particular craft or industry. Although national unions are typically affiliated with a central federation, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), affiliation is voluntary. Furthermore, affiliation fees are fairly modest in relation to union dues, less than $1 per member per month, tangibly underscoring that national unions are the real power centers. Thus, the issue of interorganizational union alliances is very salient, for in fact the organized labor entity that may be best known to most Americans and the world is an interorganizational union alliance, the AFL-CIO. The vast majority of national unions were affiliated with the AFL-CIO during 1980-2005, and some notable former-independents (e.g., the Teamsters) affiliated or reaffiliated during this time, creating a more united "house of labor" than in many times past (e.g., during most of the 1930s-1950s the AFL and CIO were rivals). Also, membership was increasingly concentrated in smaller numbers of national unions due to mergers and absorptions (Chaison, 1996). The Bureau of Labor Statistics identified 166 national labor unions (not counting professional and state employee associations) including 102 AFL-CIO affiliates, in its 1979 Directory (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1980). The 2005 directory identified approximately 130 national unions, and only about 60 AFL-CIO affiliates (Gifford, 2005). As of 2000, all major national unions other than the National Education Association (NEA; claiming roughly 2.5 million members) were affiliated, and the NEA was partially merged with an AFL-CIO affiliate, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In 1979, AFL-CIO unions claimed 65 percent of 21.0 million union members (U.S. Department of Labor, 1980). As of 2001, affiliated unions claimed 81 percent of 16.3 million members (Gifford, 2005). Thus the fracturing of the central labor body that began in the early 2000s with the Carpenters' exit and culminated in the secession of several large national unions and their creation of the rival Change to Win Federation (CWF) in 2005 was quite dramatic. The seven CWF unions in early 2006 claimed six million members, or close to 40 percent of total 2005 membership. This rebellion was as some assert the "biggest labor story in years," and should certainly be considered among the top ten (or fewer) developments during 1980-2005. What was this momentous fracture about? Unsurprisingly, leaders of the AFLCIO and CWF gave somewhat conflicting accounts. A notable part of the context is that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU; one of the few that grew in the 1970s-1980s), achieved his position through an earlier rebellion within the federation. In 1995 Sweeney forced the first contested AFL-CIO presidential election in its history, charging that the previous long-term incumbent, Lane Kirkland, and his former Secretary-Treasurer and then
recently elevated incumbent Tom Donahue, were doing too little to stem labor's continuing membership shrinkage. Donahue had led or been a key player in significant internal reform efforts, including the creation of the Organizing Institute to train union organizers for affiliates, and the restructuring of the former Organizing and Field Services division to create an AFL-CIO body with a clear organizing focus. Unprecedented self-study and outside consultants from academe were enlisted to diagnose labor's ills and formulate solutions. New membership forms, strategic plans, corporate campaigns, organizing tactics, encouragement of mergers, and centrally coordinated organizing campaigns were also among initiatives formed or at least promoted by the Kirkland-Donahue administration. Nevertheless, Donahue's association with Kirkland and years of continued union decline left him highly vulnerable to "Too little, too late!" perceptions. Sweeney seemed to offer more energetic leadership that would clearly focus the federation and its affiliates on organizing and political action to restore labor's vitality. It did not happen. Sweeney may have succeeded in nudging the federation's affiliates in the intended direction, but it seems doubtful that many affiliates ever approached his suggested goal of spending 30 percent of their budgets on organizing. There is no clear evidence that organizing efforts were consistently and substantially increased during Sweeney's pre-secession tenure, or if they were (but undetectable in available data), that those efforts succeeded in arresting decline more than briefly (Fiorito and Jarley, 2003). The news was hardly better on the political front. Unions did seem to step up their political activity, but legislative defeats in Congress and electoral defeats for labor-backed candidates at the polls mounted, most notably in the Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 (Masters and Delaney, 2005). Whether Sweeney underestimated the difficulty of managing the interorganizational alliances that constitute the AFL-CIO, i.e., of moving its affiliates toward a goal, or whether his success in those efforts was simply overwhelmed by opposing forces in the environment (e.g., massive manufacturing job cuts in the early 2000s) is not clear. It may be some of both. These were the most obvious fault lines in the fractures culminating in the new federation's foundation in 2005. Rebel (now CWF) union leaders, notably Andy Stern, also from the SEIU (like Sweeney and Donahue, coincidentally?) faulted the federation's organizing and political record, but also said the dual emphasis was misguided, that unions needed to focus clearly on organizing first, noting that shrinking membership almost necessarily eroded political effectiveness. Sweeney's forces countered, similar to Masters and Delaney's (2005) conclusion, that unions cannot disengage from politics despite repeated bruisings, for the consequences of withdrawal could be far worse. There were subtexts as well. One involved the role of large affiliates in federation governance. CWF unions were mostly from among the relatively small number of large unions that claimed the vast majority of affiliates' membership. They argued that the AFL-CIO needed to take a stronger hand in pushing smaller affiliates to merge to create stronger unions, and that the larger unions had too little say in federation governance on such matters as jurisdictional conflicts. Most CWF unions share other char-
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
acteristics (see Jarley et al. (2000) for cluster analysis results that grouped most of the CWF unions together), tending to be mostly private sector-based unions in local product markets with particular union governance elements. These characteristics likely influence their perceptions about political disengagement as an option. One final subtext involved charges of inflated egos and personality conflicts. With the CWF's formation in 2005, evaluating its impact in any depth would be premature. The two federations and their affiliates are still sorting things out. There is a tense, but mostly peaceful, coexistence. There have been no major raiding wars, yet, and no dramatic policy changes within the AFL-CIO, although there were staff cuts and reorganizations to adjust to lost CWF union affiliation fees. There have not yet been sharp policy differences between the two federations. In early May 2006, the federations issued a joint statement announcing an agreement to coordinate member mobilization efforts for the 2006 elections (AFL-CIO, 2006). There is some irony surrounding the topic of transnational union alliances from the perspective of U.S. unions. Several U.S.-based national unions, including the Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers have long been truly transnational, encompassing the United States and Canada. Aside from this, however, most U.S. unions historically operated in a relatively closed economy, until fairly recently. Although the AFL-CIO long participated in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and its affiliates generally participated in its corresponding international trade secretariats, transnational unionism was not a key issue for most U.S. unions. During the 1980-2005 period, if not starting earlier, circumstances clearly changed as reflected in the trade figures cited earlier. Cooke observed that "Since the early 1980s there has been an eightfold increase in the number of multinational companies (MNCs) worldwide and a twelve-fold increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) stock.... MNCs have widely used their control over FDI to avoid and pit unions against each other as competitors for investment and jobs, and otherwise minimise union leverage at home and abroad" (2005: 283). The level of transnational union activity for U.S. unions, at least in terms of international contacts and information sharing, appeared to increase, particularly with English-speaking nations and to a lesser extent with some other major trading partners, such as Japan. In a few instances, U.S. unions and their counterparts abroad worked closely together in particular union-employer disputes. Generally, however, these efforts lagged far behind the pace of globalization. Cooke noted that "unions have yet to mount sufficient transnational leverage to negotiate effectively with MNCs" (2005: 284), and that even in the case of Europe, where economic integration policies provide structures that virtually invite transnational unionism, few unions have developed "even minimal alliances" (2005: 285). The Internet's expansion clearly increased the potential for transnational union coordination (Lee, 1997). Here too, however, the potential far exceeds the realization thus far. Taira (1980-1981) long ago analyzed the potential for transnational union collaboration, and his conclusions still seem pertinent. Essentially, Taira argued that
transnational unionism involving U.S. unions was unlikely due to huge differentials between compensation of U.S. workers and workers in countries that pose the greatest competitive threat to U.S. workers, e.g., China or India. He argued that it was unrealistic for workers with such different living standards to find common cause and a strong sense of like-consciousness. Those "wedge factors" are less relevant for U.S. and Western European workers, but Western European workers are also not a major competitive threat to U.S. workers. There may be a bit of a paradox here in that transnational cooperation may be most difficult where the economic incentives are greatest (under the greatest competitive threat). There are additional factors, as Cooke noted, including differing strategic orientations and identities, structures, governance systems, customs, "and perhaps as a product of these differences and the political democratic nature of independent unions, unions typically have deep-rooted desires for maintaining autonomy and national identity" (2005: 284-285). The notion that union structures are strongly influenced by market structures is nearly as old as the study of unions. Commons (1913) predicted eventual globalization of markets and, consequently, unions. This is an oversimplification, of course, as all markets are not equally prone to globalization, and markets are not the only factors driving union structures. Nonetheless, trends toward stronger transnational alliances still seem inevitable, even if the record to date calls more attention to obstacles than progress. IX. Concluding Remarks At the start of this paper U.S. unions were described as "down" but not necessarily "out." The basis for the "down" characterization is readily apparent, and perhaps summarized most clearly by union density decline. The past is often prologue, and it would be easy to predict continued decline. That is indeed a likely scenario. But there are others, or as suggested earlier, signs of life and sources of hope for union revitalization. First, considering the environment, while unions have been weakened, they have survived 25-plus years of intensifying competitive pressure in a largely hostile political climate. This attests to strength and resilience. The economic environment will likely remain harsh. Politics, however, do tend to be cyclical. From today's vantage point it may seem almost inconceivable that in the late 1960s and early 1970s the Republican Party seemed in danger of losing its status as the strong opposition to the Democratic Party. In 1965 Democrats outnumbered Republicans by better than a 2:1 margin in both branches of Congress, and held a better than 2:1 margin in the House of Representatives as recently as 1977 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Granted, many Southern Democrats were and are conservatives, but the main point is that things can change. A more stable favorable factor in the environment is the public's support for unionism principles. Even though Americans are often critical of particular unions, union leaders, or unions generally, a strong majority of the American public has remained firm in its belief that workers should have a say about their jobs and that the United States is better off with unions than without them. The general public's responses to a long-
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
running Gallup Poll question on approval vs. disapproval of unions have consistently favored labor by roughly a 2:1 margin or better. Moreover, polls of nonunion workers since the late 1970s have consistently reported that a sizeable, and possibly increasing, proportion of nonunion workers would vote for union representation if given the chance. Such "hypotheticals" are quite different from joining or forming a union in the face of vigorous employer opposition. Nevertheless, these polls tend to consistently yield prounion responses from 30 percent or more of nonunion workers, and in a 2005 poll from 53 percent of nonmanagerial nonunion workers (Peter D. Hart Research Associates, 2005). There is clearly an untapped well of latent demand. There are also sources of potential optimism in unions themselves. First, there is sheer size. With over 15 million members, U.S. unions are still a powerful force, with substantial resources that may yet be marshaled for a turnaround. Again, the point is that potential exists. Even in the relatively dismal union record on organizing, there are some bright spots, including research findings that indicate union strategies and characteristics are an important influence on organizing outcomes (Bronfenbrenner, 1997; Fiorito et al., 1995). Such findings underscore that unions have some control over their futures, a possibility of adopting reforms that can make a difference. As Masters and Delaney (2005) noted, some unions have made considerable progress in adapting information technology to political activities, and corroborating evidence exists on organizing outcomes (Fiorito et al., 2002). Also notable within unions is the considerable experimentation underway in various directions. A long-running debate on the "organizing model" versus the "servicing model" of unionism has raised important questions about the nature of unions, or as Budd put it, about the "soul" of unions (2004: 137-57). Many unions have taken away from this debate the notion that they must put greater emphasis on mobilizing their membership rather than allowing members to rely passively on paid staff. A separate, but possibly related, debate has involved "business unionism" versus "social unionism," with the latter placing more emphasis on a broad focus for unions going well beyond improving the well-being of their members at work, and more emphasis on alliances with other groups in society (Budd, 2004). This may relate to poll results showing that most nonunion workers in a recent poll opine that unions "mostly hurt" nonunion workers (Kiefer, 2006), and to Masters and Delaney's (2005) concern about unions developing an inspiring message. The question of union organizing commitment has also been raised, most obviously by Sweeney's candidacy and the CWF unions' challenge to his leadership. To some extent that question has been put in very tangible terms by the CWF unions' secession and the greater potential for competing models that now exists. Although none of these debates or experiments has yet produced a breakthrough, the mere fact that unions are considering, debating, and experimenting with alternatives is a sign of life and reason to think that unions may find a way forward. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Whether or not that's a good definition of insanity, it does seem to say something about U.S. unions' steady decline, and a more open atmos-
phere for experimentation with alternatives allows room for optimism about the future state of the unions in the United States.
Friedman, and Daniel *Useful comments on an earlier draft were provided by William N. Cooke, Sheldon and the AFL-CIO for making available the Hart polling data referG. Gallagher. I thank Sheldon Friedman enced in this paper.
(Spring 1982): 125-38. Addison, John T. "Are Unions Good for Productivity?" Journalof Labor Research 3 and Clive Belfield. "Union Voice." Journalof Labor Research 25 (Fall 2004): 563-96. Efforts." May 6, 2006 Press AFL-CIO. "AFL-CIO and Change to Win Agree to Coordinate0 Election Year 50 9 2 0 0 6 .cfm>. release posted at <www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr Survey of Current Bach, Christopher L. "Annual Revision of the U.S. International Accounts, 1991-2004." Business 85 (July 2005): 54-67. 7 (1985): 5-32. Balanoff, Tom. "The Cement Workers' Experience." Labor Research Review No. Wages Now and Would FreeBlanchflower, David G. and Alex Bryson. "What Effects Do Unions Have on 383-414. man and Medoff Be Surprised?" Journalof Labor Research 25 (Summer 2004): Justice on the Job. KalaBlock, Richard N., Sheldon Friedman, Michelle Kaminski, and Andy Levin, eds. mazoo, MN: W.E. Upjohn Institute, 2006. Elections." Industrial and Bronfenbrenner, Kate B. "The Role of Union Strategies in NLRB Certification Labor Relations Review 50 (January 1997): 196-212. Expenditure Results." Budd, John W. "The Effect of Unions on Employee Benefits: Updated Employer Research 26 (Fall 2005a): 669-76. Journalof Labor Employment with a Human Face. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 2004. Labor Relations: Striking a Balance. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2005b. 597-622. "Nonwage Forms of Compensation." Journal of Labor Research 25 (Fall 2004): Press, 1996. Chaison, Gary N. Union Mergers in Hard Times. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University in Union Organizing Activity." and Dileep G. Dhavale. "A Note on the Severity of the Decline Industrialand Labor Relations Review 43 (April 1990): 366-73. and Company PerforCooke, William N. "Employee Participation Programs, Group-Based Incentives, and Labor Relations Review 47 (July 1994): mance: A Union-Nonunion Comparison." Industrial 594-609. "."Exercising Power in a Prisoner's Dilemma: Transnational Collective Bargaining in an Era of Corporate Globilisation." Industrial Relations Journal36 (July 2005): 283-302. and Quality Improvement Through Employee Participation: The Effects of Unionization and Labor Relations Review 46 (October 1992): Joint Union-Management Administration." Industrial 119-34.
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH -, Aneil K. Mishra, Gretchen Spreitzer, and Mary Tschirhart. "The Determinants of NLRB Deci-
sion-Making Revisited." Industrialand Labor Relations Review 48 (January 1995): 237-57. Century." Industrialand Labor Relations Review 58 (October 2004): 3-26.
Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Joel and Thomas Kochan. "Taking Stock: Collective Bargaining at the Turn of the Deery, Stephen J. and Roderick D. Iverson. "Labor-Management Cooperation: Antecedents and Impact on
Organizational Performance." Industrial and LaborRelations Review 58 (July 2005): 588-609.
Delaney, John T., Jack Fiorito, and Paul Jarley. "Evolutionary Politics? Union Differences and Political Activities in the 1990s." Journal of LaborResearch 20 (Summer 1999): 277-95. Delaney, John T., Jack Fiorito, and Marick F. Masters. "The Effects of Union Organizational and Environmental Characteristics on Union Political Action." American Journal of PoliticalScience 32 (August 1988): 616-42. Eaton, Adrienne E. and Jeffrey H. Keefe "Introduction and Overview." In Adrienne E. Eaton and Jeffrey tions Research Association, 1999, pp. 1-26. Feuille, Peter. "Grievance Mediation." In Adrienne E. Eaton and Jeffrey H. Keefe, eds. Employment Dispute Resolution and Worker Rights. Champaign, IL: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1999, pp. 187-217. Fiorito, Jack. "Political Instrumentality Perceptions and Desires for Union Representation." Journal of Labor Research 8 (Summer 1987): 271-89. -Labor Studies Journal, 31 (Fall 2006): 39-64. H. Keefe, eds. Employment Dispute Resolution and Worker Rights. Champaign, IL: Industrial Rela-
and Vickie Coleman Gallagher. "Renewal in the United Faculty of Florida: Class War in Paradise?"
Fiorito, Jack, Paul Jarley, and John Thomas Delaney. "Information Technology, Union Organizing, and
Union Effectiveness." British Journalof Industrial Relations 40 (December 2002): 627-58.
Relations Review 48 (July 1995): 613-35. icy Issues 5 (July 1987): 12-27.
Union Effectiveness in Organizing: Measures and Influences." Industrial and Labor
Fiorito, Jack and Cheryl L. Maranto. "The Contemporary Decline of Union Strength." Contemporary PolFlanagan, Robert. "Has Management Strangled U.S. Unions?" Journal of Labor Research 26 (Winter 2005): 33-63. Freeman, Richard B. and James L. Medoff. What Do Unions Do? New York: Basic Books, 1984. Freeman, Richard B. and Joel Rogers. What Do Workers Want? Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Gifford, Court, ed. Directoryof U.S. Labor Organizations, 2005 Edition. Washington, DC: Bureau of
National Affairs, 2005 and various earlier issues. Greenhouse, Stephen. "Group Starts Anti-Union Campaign." New York Times, February 14, 2006, <www.nytimes.com>. Gross, James A. "Conflicting Statutory Purposes: Another Look at Fifty Years of NLRB Law Making."
Industrial and Labor Relations Review 39 (October 1985): 7-18.
Gunderson, Morley. "Two Faces of Union Voice in the Public Sector." Journalof Labor Research 26 (Summer 2005): 393-413. Hammer, Tove Helland and Ariel Avgar. "The Impact of Unions on Job Satisfaction, Organizational Commitment, and Turnover." Journalof Labor Research 26 (Spring 2005): 241-66.
MI: Upjohn Institute, Hirsch, Barry T. Labor Unions and the Economic Performance of Firms. Kalmazoo, 1991. 2004): - "What Do Unions Do for Economic Performance?" Journalof Labor Research 25 (Summer 415-55. -and David A. Macpherson, "Union Membership and Coverage Database from the Current Popula349-54. tion Survey: Note." Industrial and Labor Relations Review 56 (January 2003): . "UnionStats.com," <www.unionstats.com>, 2006. Empirically Grounded Systems Jarley, Paul, Jack Fiorito, and John T. Delaney. "Union Governance: An of Labor Research 21 (Spring 2000): 227-46. Approach." Journal Industrial and Labor Jarley, Paul and Cheryl Maranto. "Union Corporate Campaigns: An Assessment." 505-24. Relations Review 43 (July 1990): Staying Organized in the Juravich, Tom and Kate Bronfenbrenner. "Preparing for the worst: Organizing and Richard W. Hurd, Rudolph A. Oswald, and Public Sector." In Kate Bronfenbrenner, Sheldon Friedman, 1998, pp. 262-82. Ronald L. Seeber, eds. Organizing to Win. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Kiefer, Heather Mason. "Public Remains Positive About Unions." <poll.gallup.com/content/default.aspx?ci =18481>, 2006. Journalof Labor Masters, Marick F. and John T. Delaney. "Organized Labor's Political Scorecard." Research 26 (Summer 2005): 365-92. Performance: What FreeMitchell, Daniel J.B. and Christopher L. Erickson. "De-Unionization and Macro 183-208. man and Medoff Didn't Do." Journal of Labor Research 26 (Spring 2005): Labor Research Review. "New Tactics for Labor." No. 7 (1985). London: Pluto Press, 1997. Lee, Eric. The Labour Movement and the Internet: The New Internationalism. Collective Voice and Its ConLewin, David. "Unionism and Employment Conflict Resolution: Rethinking 2005): 209-39. sequences." Journalof Labor Research 26 (Spring Business, Labor, and Government Lipset, Seymour Martin and William Schneider. The Confidence Gap: in the Public Mind. New York: Free Press, 1983. #7518), Unpublished study, Peter D. Hart Research Associates. AFL-CIO Union Message Survey (Study 2005. Chronicle online, <www Spence, Timothy. "Campaign to Unionize Wal-Mart 'Waking Up.'" Houston .chron.com>, April 23, 2005. Will Workers of the World Taira, Koji. "Labor and Business in a New International Economic Order: 68-87. Unite?" Hokudai Economic Papers 10 (1980-1981): U.S. Markets Through CrossU.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "Table B. Sales of Services to Foreign and 2006. Border Trade and Through Affiliates." <www.bea.govfbea/di/1001 serv/1004serv/tabB.xls>, 2006 and U.S. Census Bureau. Statistical Abstract of the United States. <www.census.gov/statab/www/>, various earlier issues. Act, and Related Issues." U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Labor Unions, the National Labor Relations 2006. <www.uschamber.com/issues/index/labor/nlra.htm>, Unions and Employee AssociU.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Director' of National DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980. ations, 1979. (Bulletin 2079). Washington, "Major Work Stoppages in 2005." <www.bls.gov>, 2006a.
JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH
*'Union Membership in 2005." <www.bls.gov>, 2006b. U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Seventieth Annual Report of the National Labor Relations Board. <www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/shared-files/brochures/Annual percent 2 0Reports/Entire2005Annual.pdf>, 2006. Verma, Anil. "What Do Unions Do to the Workplace?" Journal of Labor Research 26 (Summer 2005): 415-49. Walton, Richard E. and Robert B. McKersie. A Behavioral Theory of Labor Negotiations. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965. Wilson, Graham K. Unions in American National Politics.New York: St. Martin's, 1979.
TITLE: The State of Unions in the United States SOURCE: J Labor Res 28 no1 Wint 2007 WN: 0734902296007 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher: http://www.gmu.edu/
Copyright 1982-2007 The H.W. Wilson Company.
All rights reserved.