The State of the [Labor] Union


In 2013 there were 14.5 million members in the U.S., compared with 17.7 million in 1983. In 2013, the percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or total labor union “density”) was 11.3%, compared to 20.1% in 1983.[1] From a global perspective, the density in 2010 was 11.4% in the U.S., 18.4% in Germany, 27.5% in Canada, and 70% in Finland.[2] Union membership in the private sector has fallen under 7%[3] — levels not seen since 1932.

In the 21st century the most prominent unions are among public sector employees such as city employees, government workers, teachers and police. Members of unions are disproportionately older, male, and residents of the Northeast, the Midwest, and California.[4] Union workers average 10-30% higher pay than non-union in the United States after controlling for individual, job, and labor market characteristics.[5] (Wikipedia)

Here’s a graph:

Union membership in us 1930 2010

So, OK, a day off over something that affects 1 in 10 people in the US is as good a reason to take a day as any, I guess. Really, the only real news concerning organized labor since the 50s is the steady decline of private sector membership, and the rise of public sector.

Mind you, I’m no more opposed on principle grounds to employees organizing in solidarity, one with another, for collective bargaining than I am for individuals and companies to pool capital in order to better their perceived chances. So long as it’s all voluntary, all the way around, have at it (of course, the reality is far from that, but I’m talking in principles, per se).

That does not apply to public sector unions, however; which are, ironically, very non-democratic qua institution (in terms of democratic regimes). My objection is more one of state monopoly than it is in the way the monopoly organizes its affairs, however. I’m just pointing out the contradictory nature of public unions vis-a-vis the stated democratic principles of said institution.

For two decent critiques of public sector labor-organization—as distinct from private-sector organization—see Bainbridge and Disalvo. You might be surprised to learn that public-sector organization was widely opposed by Democrats, including pro-labor FDR. They used words like “unthinkable.”

Otherwise, enjoy the BBQ and beer, or adult beverage of choice. Consider that what we really ought be celebrating is Division of Labor Day; and in that vein, raise a toast to cooks and bartenders as you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor—”organized” or otherwise—by means of outside grilling and drinking.

Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. The cost of two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance the travel to write, photo, and film from interesting places and share the experiences with you.


    • Richard Nikoley on September 7, 2015 at 20:27

      Tee, the geography of birth is a meaningless distinction.

      What you, in essence, are telling me is that the comfy club is having serious problems.

      May they continue in earnest.

      Hopefully, we’ll see Armani suits in soup lines before this is over, and all the brown folk will be serving up the soup. Thanks, I love it.

      Live, or die. Stop your fucking whining and sniveling. For fuck’s sake, already.

      You thought you could vote your way out of this, and now you want to go that way of 1930s Europe. Good luck with that, it’ll never work and with any luck, America will be reduced to what it deserves…a Euro-syled, pathetic socialist state and I for one can not wait to laf about it. Taunt, about it.

  1. Remnant on September 7, 2015 at 20:28

    John Derbyshire has also written some good polemics against public sector unions, including the following column which argues that public sector workers should not have the vote (at least with regard to matters affecting them)

    • Richard Nikoley on September 7, 2015 at 20:38

      I’ll have to check that out. Sucker for the Derbmeister’s writing. Almost as much as Hitch.

  2. Woodchuck Pirate on September 8, 2015 at 06:11

    Thanks for the post. The wheels turn slow but they do turn. The revenge is self inflicted as the economics reveal a correlation of betrayal which is well deserved. The GEU system postures as a bargaining collective, in setting down to table with elected politicians whom accept campaign donations (bribes) today, in exchange for impossible to fund promises of pensions and healthcare benefits in future years. It does not matter that rules are in place to steer general fund cash flow to pay those benefits when the law of exponents depletes what little real assets are available for liquidation. The general fund cash flow depletes lockstep under the same environment. The dream is over.

    Time to put the old Pink Floyd “Animals” LP on, and watch the dogs move the sheep down into the valley of death. The GEU’s will soon discover they’re no more enlightened than the prison gang who ruled the courtyard, before the facility was emptied to make room for a more controllable herd of livestock.

    Woodchuck Pirate
    aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA

  3. Darius Demopoulos on September 8, 2015 at 18:02

    Adam Smith said:
    “The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. ”
    – The Wealth of Nations

    The division of labor has given me this computer to type on but I am not sure if life is better overall. I think division of labor will work best for the robots when their time comes.

    “The more the division of labor and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together.”

    Real wages continue to stagnate in the USA. Finland is probably better.

    Smith on Unions:
    “We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate…Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy till the moment of execution; and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people” In contrast, when workers combine, “the masters..never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers, and journeymen.” – The Wealth of Nations

    Revealed: Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies —

    Anyway, not so simple.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 8, 2015 at 18:23

      Yea whatever.

      When I see someone attempt to critique division of labor I roll my eyes, understand I’m dealing with an idealistic ignoramus, and move on.


      Keep typing on your computer that is an impossibility without massive division of labor, and to a microscopic extent.

      And go fuck off, while you’re at it.

    • Woodchuck Pirate on September 8, 2015 at 18:26

      It’s very simple:

      The mixed economy model is socialism, not capitalism.

      Cognitive dissonance is not shelter.

      Woodchuck Pirate
      aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA

    • Darius Demopoulos on September 9, 2015 at 12:56

      An “idealistic ignoramus” is an ideal that exists only in your mind. “Understanding” that you’re “dealing with an idealistic ignoramus” is a fantasy of a higher order that still exists only in your mind. Like most of your writing, this provides no information except for the fantasies in your head and perhaps a glimpse at how you think.

      Yea whatever.

      This article demonstrates this also. “Division of labor” is a fictional concept, a story told to billions to make them feel better about meaningless empty work. It is effective and I am not saying otherwise. Christianity is an effective story too. To my amusement you wish to worship this story so much that you would give it a holiday. Is Division of Labor Day your Christmas?

      “When someone attempt to critique division of labor I roll my eyes…” Yes. You’ve always been a religious NUT, why stop now?

      Happy Division of Labor Day!

      Division of Labor at its finest:

      The computers I’m not typing on:

      It’s worth it for sure!!! No dissenting views needed!!!

      But this wouldn’t happen in Anarchotopia!!!! Yes, yes, tell us more of your fantasies…Free the Fantasy.

      Yea whatever.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 9, 2015 at 13:45

      You’re too stupid to have a discussion with.

      Go away, bye.

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