Union membership is down. The labor movement has split in two. Conservatives control the White House, the Supreme Court and, until last year, Congress.The initial assertions are true, aside from public sector unions, like govnerment workers, transit unions and teachers unions, union membership has been in a decline, if not a freefall, in America largely due to a shift away from traditional manufacturing jobs to an information economy.
Yet AFL-CIO leaders say things are looking up as the nation's largest labor federation heads toward the 2008 presidential elections.
"We're stronger in many ways," said AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, in Chicago for the federation's executive council meeting and Tuesday forum with the Democratic presidential primary candidates.
Organized labor played a large role in Democrats taking over Congress in the midterm elections, Sweeney said, and is trying to hold on to that momentum going into 2008.
However, I have to disagree with Mr. Sweeney's assertion of a "large role" in the Democratic takeover of Congress. Unions are still massive turnout machines, but the union members they turn out are not nearly as monolithic as they would tell you or as their senior leadership would indicate. In any large organization (and unions are large organizations), the rank and file are not nearly as unanimous in opinion as Sweeney and other labor leaders would have you think.
Union household make up less than 15 percent of the voting public, which while a sizeable bloc of voters, they are not the huge bloc that can sway the vote one way or the other. The movement away from unions is affecting their membership, with only die-hards remaining in the ranks and that means they will have less and less of a chance to alter the elctoral vote, simply on a matter of numbers.