Changing Landscape of Unions
Labor unions were established in the United States as early as the 1800’s. Until the around the 1950’s union membership was largely dominated by blue collar employees who worked in manufacturing sectors. The second half of the 20th century there was a decline of labor union members, this decline lead unions to seek new strategies in order to survive. Currently only about 40% of union membership is in the manufacturing sector, as unions have moved to expand membership beyond this sector. I will discuss the evolution of some of the strategies the unions have adapted to keep up with the changing landscape. I will make two reform recommendations unions should consider to broaden their membership. The earliest unions established in the United States were “trade unions – individually encompassing printers, carpenters, tailors, and similar skill levels” (Sloane, 2010 p.52). These unions were surprisingly successful at bargaining wages. They were aggressive and willing to strike to support their demands, and they were able to put pressure on employers. The unions struggled with several economic challenges in the 1800’s at times there were all but extinct. There was an economic decline which lasted from 1819 through 1822 and another from 1836 - 1850. Under the circumstances, “the worker cry was “Every man for himself,” rather than “In union there is strength,” and virtually no union could, or did, survive mass desertion.”(Sloane, 2010 p.52) When the health of the economy returned so did the unions. By the 1850’s unions began to gain ground again. They focused their attention on higher wages, shorter workdays, increased job security which helped them attract many former members. (Sloane, 2010). Between the late 1980’s and to mid 1900’s most of the union membership is manufacturing as it was the main activity in this country during this period. Up until the mid 1900’s unions were generally accepted as they brought reforms to...
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