The AFL-CIO (America's major trade union confederation) is meeting for its annual convention in Chicago, and it's getting attention in the media for the first time in years. Why? Controversy. Four unions are boycotting the confederation meeting - these represent mostly low skilled workers such as service workers, hotel workers but also include the Teamsters.
The dispute is about how much of the budgets should be spent on recruiting new members. The percentage of workers in the US that are members of unions (or the union "density") is between 10% and 20% and dropping. Compare this to desnsity rates in Scandinavia and several other European countries approaching or exceeding 90%. The boycotting unions want the AFL-CIO to dramatically increase recruitment. The AFL-CIO leadership wants to maintain the current balance between recruitment and political lobbying.
Academic research on union strategies given particular density rates (in particular by Dr. Michael Wallerstein), have shown that as density decreases the incentives to spend on lobbying as opposed to recruitment increase. Other researchers (notably Dr. Geoff Garret) have shown strong unions' effect on national economic performance is positive when the government is friendly to labor but negative when the government is generally hostile to labor. America's frequently divide government is typically hostile or at best ambivolent with regard to organized labor. These researchers' findings suggest that increasing union density in the US would not be the most effecient strategy for the union to increase its strength and even if were successful, it would have a negative impact on our over all national economic performance. Of course the economic effect would change if American government became more positively disposed towards organized labor but changing that is a matter of lobbying.
I know we have some visitors who have extensive experience with unions. I'd love to see their thoughts about the events in Chicago.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Posted by Raised By Republicans at 5:17 AM