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A second explanation for the decline in the share of unionized workers looks at import competition. Starting in the 1960s, U.S. carmakers and steelmakers faced increasing competition from Japanese and European manufacturers. As sales of imported cars and steel rose, the number of jobs in U.S. auto manufacturing fell. This industry is heavily unionized. Not surprisingly, membership in the United Auto Workers, which was 975,000 in 1985, had fallen to roughly 390,000 by 2015. Import competition not only decreases the employment in sectors where unions were once strong, but also decreases the bargaining power of unions in those sectors. However, as we have seen, unions that organize public-sector workers, who are not threatened by import competition, have continued to see growth.

A third possible reason for the decline in the number of union workers is that citizens often call on their elected representatives to pass laws concerning work conditions, overtime, parental leave, regulation of pensions, and other issues. Unions offered strong political support for these laws aimed at protecting workers but, in an ironic twist, the passage of those laws then made many workers feel less need for unions.

These first three possible reasons for the decline of unions are all somewhat plausible, but they have a common problem. Most other developed economies have experienced similar economic and political trends, such as the shift from manufacturing to services, globalization, and increasing government social benefits and regulation of the workplace. Clearly there are cultural differences between countries as to their acceptance of unions in the workplace. The share of the population belonging to unions in other countries is very high compared with the share in the United States. [link] shows the proportion of workers in a number of the world’s high-income economies who belong to unions. The United States is near the bottom, along with France and Spain. The last column shows union coverage, defined as including those workers whose wages are determined by a union negotiation even if the workers do not officially belong to the union. In the United States, union membership is almost identical to union coverage. However, in many countries, the wages of many workers who do not officially belong to a union are still determined by collective bargaining between unions and firms.

(Source, CIA World Factbook, retrieved from www.cia.gov)
International comparisons of union membership and coverage in 2012
Country Union Density: Percentage of Workers Belonging to a Union Union Coverage: Percentage of Workers Whose Wages Are Determined by Union Bargaining
Austria 37% 99%
France 9% 95%
Germany 26% 63%
Japan 22% 23%
Netherlands 25% 82%
Spain 11.3% 81%
Sweden 82% 92%
United Kingdom 29% 35%
United States 11.1% 12.5%

These international differences in union membership suggest a fourth reason for the decline of union membership in the United States: perhaps U.S. laws are less friendly to the formation of unions than such laws in other countries. The close connection between union membership and a friendly legal environment is apparent in the history of U.S. unions. The great rise in union membership in the 1930s followed the passage of the National Labor-Management Relations Act of 1935, which specified that workers had a right to organize unions and that management had to give them a fair chance to do so. The U.S. government strongly encouraged the formation of unions during the early 1940s in the belief that unions would help to coordinate the all-out production efforts needed during World War II. However, after World War II came the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which gave states the power to allow workers to opt out of the union in their workplace if they so desired. This law made the legal climate less encouraging to those seeking to form unions, and union membership levels soon started declining.

The procedures for forming a union differ substantially from country to country. For example, the procedures in the United States and those in Canada are strikingly different. When a group of workers wish to form a union in the United States, they announce this fact and an election date is set when the employees at a firm will vote in a secret ballot on whether to form a union. Supporters of the union lobby for a “yes” vote, and the management of the firm lobbies for a “no” vote—often even hiring outside consultants for assistance in swaying workers to vote “no.” In Canada, by contrast, a union is formed when a sufficient proportion of workers (usually about 60%) sign an official card saying that they want a union. There is no separate “election date.” The management of Canadian firms is limited by law in its ability to lobby against the union. In addition, though it is illegal to discriminate and fire workers based on their union activity in the United States, the penalties are slight, making this a not so costly way of deterring union activity. In short, forming unions is easier in Canada—and in many other countries—than in the United States.

In summary, union membership in the United States is lower than in many other high-income countries, a difference that may be due to different legal environments and cultural attitudes toward unions.

Visit this website to read about recent protests regarding minimum wage for fast food employees.

Key concepts and summary

A labor union is an organization of workers that negotiates as a group with employers over compensation and work conditions. Union workers in the United States are paid more on average than other workers with comparable education and experience. Thus, either union workers must be more productive to match this higher pay or the higher pay will lead employers to find ways of hiring fewer union workers than they otherwise would. American union membership has been falling for decades. Some possible reasons include the shift of jobs to service industries; greater competition from globalization; the passage of worker-friendly legislation; and U.S. laws that are less favorable to organizing unions.


AFL-CIO. “Training and Apprenticeships.” http://www.aflcio.org/Learn-About-Unions/Training-and-Apprenticeships.

Central Intelligence Agency. “The World Factbook.” https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.

Clark, John Bates. Essentials of Economic Theory: As Applied to Modern Problems of Industry and Public Policy . New York: A. M. Kelley, 1907, 501.

United Auto Workers (UAW). “About: Who We Are.” http://www.uaw.org/page/who-we-are.

United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Economic News Release: Union Members Summary.” Last modified January 23, 2013. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm.

United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. “Economic News; Union Members Summary.” Accessed April 13, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm.

Questions & Answers

please rice and beans will be what type of demand but note we mostly cook it together
Oladosu Reply
complementary or joint demand
but did you know you can demand for rice without beans so how is it joint or complementary
what are the money value
Wisdom Reply
Nothing more than a purchase power, in other words, $100 now, must have the same value after 1 year.
what is Monopoly
Rebecca Reply
what is money
Lawal Reply
It can be define as a big transaction that can control any business for one place to another base.
money is recognisable note to accept both parties selling and buying
i don still understan
money is anything generally accepted as a medium of exchange
Money is anything generally accepted as a medium of exchange and for the settlement of goods and services .
hi good ppl, pls help out
discuss human and natural resources as develop strategies ro improving living condition of citizens in developing countries.
I don't understand the question.
it's a form of currency used for 2 or more individuals or parties in order to reach their amicable personal or business attainment. one must understand that money itself can manifest in multiple fashions for which the individuals or parties adheres.
are u trying to say we shld discuss ways in which human natural resources help in improving living condition of citizens in developing countries?
money is a legal thunder generally accepted as a medium of exchange for the payment of debt ,goods and services
money is a way of payment.
money is any thing that is generally accepted as a medium of exchange good for good and settlement of debt and means of payment
money is nothing but a object which is used for exchange of goods and services.
money is anything that is generally accepted as payment of goods and services and settlement of debt
what is demand
Melissa Reply
demand is where the customer is willing and able to buy goods and services during a given period of time
demand is the ability and willingness of an individual to buy goods and services at a given price in a particular period of time
demand is the ability to buy a specific quantities of goods and services at a given price and at a specific period of time
what are the rules of demand
Rosemary Nsebon, Do you mean laws of demand?
what are the rules of demand
the rule of demand is the higher the price the lower the quantity demanded and the lower the price the higher the quantity demanded
what is unemployment
unemployment is a scenario or a phenomenon in an economy whereby people are willing are able to work but cannot a job
Suppose you have a team of two workers: one is a baker and one is a chef. Explain why the kitchen can produce more meals in a given period of time if each worker specializes in what they do best than if each worker tries to do everything from appetizer to dessert. please I need a urgent answer
Oladosu Reply
Enables individuals and countries to consume a variety of goods and services
what is the meaning of competency
Oladosu Reply
competency is an ability and courage to do something perfectly
ability to perform some task
thanks 🙏 it is also the same with the core competency
A sufficient supply
Ebenezer you mean the (core competency) right?
what is mean,median and mode
Ikeh Reply
mean is the average number of a given data
median is the middle number of a given data
in a given data sorry
Pls am new here
what are development bank in Nigeria
Adedigba Reply
and cool
nice to meet everyone
hi how are dears
how can we development economic in our country
Payroll and​ 4p
Change management​ and​ cerrancy
Lawyer army and​ Lawyer​
animal husbandry essay
Rakuane Reply
what's the primary location of capital and money market respectively
what is bank
Nyakeh Reply
A bank is an institution set up purposely for the save keeping of money and other valuables
A bank is a financial institution which helps people to save their money
pls define the HRM and HRP
we have no money in bank....the bank owes us
When a supply curve start from the origin price elasticity of supply is unitory. Provide a simple proof
Felix Reply
please help someone should help me this question
what is price
Divine Reply
the perchesing amount of something is called price
OK pls tell me about economic elasticity of supply and demand
Mumtaz Reply
elasticity in economics is a measurement of the ratio of percentage change in quantity of a particular commodity to the percentage change in a factor that influence demand-price, consumer's income and price of another good
same with supply. How ever economics focus only on price elasticity of supply(PES)
using diagrams defferentiate between price ceiling and price floors
price ceiling lies below the equilibrium price and vice versa
what is population
Nyakeh Reply
total number of people in a given area or country
the total number of people at a given area or country

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