Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Future of Unions

On July 17, 2012, the NY Times ran an interesting story about the future of Unions, available here. The point of the article is that Unions need to change and that the Union of the future may be different from the Union of today. As the article states:    

                The future labor movement may have to give up organizing work site by work site. Its                 biggest political fight in the last few years — pushing a law to make it easier to organize a                 workplace — may be irrelevant. And fighting to create new barriers to foreign competition is                 probably a lost cause. Instead of negotiating for their members only, unions might do better                 pulling for better wages and conditions for all workers.

                Some scholars, like the economist Richard B. Freeman of the National Bureau of Economic                 Research, suggest the labor movement could take a page from the AARP’s playbook and                 become a lobbying group. German-like worker councils could discuss workplace issues with                 management, without negotiating over pay.

                Maybe unions don’t have to entirely give up collective bargaining but broaden it. A model                 might be the alliance between the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Domestic Workers Alliance of New                 York City to push for a bill of rights for nonunionized nannies and maids.

                In any event, 80 years from now, labor organizations will probably look as different as our                 current unions look when compared with the guilds of 80 years ago. Today’s strongest unions                 — of autoworkers and airline pilots — could easily be the weakest, decimated by international                 competition. Unions may well be strongest in hospitals, hotels and other businesses not                 exposed to international trade.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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