Union Density Continues Slip and Fall

New Orleans   I went by the gala reception on St. Charles Avenue last night to celebrate the fact that the SEIU International Executive Board was in town to see old friends and comrades.  Past the music, food and short speeches, it was hard to find much evidence of good news for unions and organizing even from the union that has been categorically the single biggest success story over recent decades.  The bloom is off the rose.

Part of the story is in the numbers which continue to slip and fall.

Bureau of Labor Statistics announced another slight drop last year of union membership compared to the overall non-farm workforce from 11.9 to 11.8%.   Steven Greenhouse in the Times reports that union membership is now 14,760,000.  The public sector percentage was 37% and about 7,560,000 and the private sector percentage is now only 6.9% with about 7,200,000.  Private sector membership is clearly heading towards 5%, unless something serious and drastic happens.

The numbers could have been worse.  There is speculation that the AFL-CIO is claiming 3,000,000 members from its Working America unit as part of their membership totals, which would be wild, since these are “canvassed” members rather than “real” dues paying members in local unions around the country.  There are still scars on the ears of AFL-CIO staffers from 2008 who did phonebanking to the call list with that group and heard in no uncertain terms from many of these “members” that they had no idea they were part of a union?!?   The BLS numbers come from the Current Population Survey of 60,000 households taken on a monthly basis so those are much more reliable indicators than those reported by unions themselves.

But, I’m grabbing at straws in saying that it could have been worse.  This is plenty bad, and there’s no sign of anything being done in the labor movement to make it much better.  Counting on the economy to make the numbers look a bit better is not a strategy!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Singing the Songs of Hard Jobs at Low Pay

Nimagesew Orleans Just like the next guy, I am a huge fan of anyone who agrees with me and sings verses of my songs, especially if by some total, blooming miracle it turns out to be on the op-ed page of the New York Times, but that is by god where Charles Blow rolls out his fact-based, math heavy opinions, and I love him for it.  Recently in a piece entitled “They, Too, Sing America,” he reminded people of the obvious, whether we like it or not, that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics half of the top 30 occupations likely to experience the largest job growth in coming years are low-wage or “very low-wage,” as he calls it.  Furthermore 7 of the top 10 are in fastest growing job are in that lowly wage category.
This is really not news, expect that people keep trying to act like it is not the case every time we talk about raising the minimum wage for the gazillion low wage workers in America or hunkering down more and dealing with informal and low wage workers as a key ingredient of the jobs market and economy recovery.
For example once again home health care aides are expected to add almost a half-million workers over the ten year period 2008-2018.  Home health care aides are virtually informal workers, as I have often argued, and these numbers may not reflect the real numbers in my view once you had family members, sitters, and folks doing the work for cash-on-the-barrelhead, but it turns out through some kind of BLS novelty, those workers are simply called “personal and home care aides” and add another 375000+ jobs at very low wages for the same period.  Over the last several decades home health care aides have always been in the top ten.  Nothing new and different about this.

The other lower wage jobs that Blow helpfully charts from the BLS numbers, while ranking their wages are the following:

Home health aides                            460,900 jobs        very low wages
Customer service representatives        399,500 jobs        low wages
Combined food prep & serving workers        394,300 jobs    very low (includes fast food)
Personal and home care aides            375,800 jobs        very low
Retail salespersons                               374,700 jobs        very low
Office clerks, general                           358,700 jobs        low
Nursing aides, orderlies, attendants        276,000 jobs        low
Construction laborers                           255,900 jobs        low
Landscaping & groundskeeping          217,100 jobs        low
Receptionists & information clerks     172,900 jobs        low
Medical assistants                                  163, 900 jobs        low
Security guards                                        152,000 jobs        low
Waiters and waitresses                          151,600 jobs        very low
Childcare workers                                  142,100 jobs        very low
Teacher assistants                                   134,900 jobs        low

Get a grip.  Your children’s education, your children’s day care, the food you eat, your safety, your yard and public space, the advice and help you need when shopping, and virtually everything about your personal health care in the prime of your life and totally as you age, is in the hands of workers hardly busting minimum wage.

There ought to be a law, but unfortunately, most of the laws protecting these workers don’t get much attention or are totally ignored.

You know it’s not right.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail