General Motors Strike Shows Unions’ Strength Despite Years of Declining Membership

Nearly 50,000 United Automobile Workers refused to show up at work this morning at General Motors plants throughout the South and Midwest, marking the biggest labor strike at any American company since 2007. Still, the role of labor in American business remains in flux.

Approximately one in three Americans workers belonged to a union in the 1950s. Now, union membership is barely in the double digits, and is less than 7 percent among private-sector workers. Much of this decline was unavoidable as economies in Europe and Asia surged and the U.S. continued with non-protectionist trade policies. As global competition threatened profit margins, avoiding unionization was an effective way to manage labor costs and return more money to shareholders.

Still, news of labor’s demise may be premature, as both major political parties court organized labor in advance of the 2020 general election. At the same time, labor is working aggressively to counter the trend toward automation which stands to eliminate millions of jobs in just the next decade.

Employers Council maintains a thriving labor relations practice. Contact us for assistance with drafting a collective bargaining agreement, responding to an unfair labor practice charge, or avoiding unionization at your organization.