Labor unions see the future in white-collar workers

Rising job pressures are prompting more professionals to consider organizing, and that's not going unnoticed.

By Bruce Kennedy May 17, 2013 8:50AM

Office workers (© Digital Vision/Getty Images)As an overall trend, union membership rates in the U.S. are declining. The Department of Labor reports just 11.3% of America's wage and salary workers were union members last year, down from 11.8% in 2011. Compare that with 1983, the first year comparable data became available: The overall U.S. union membership rate was 20.1%.

The U.S. labor movement's roots were traditionally found in manufacturing, service and public-sector jobs. But as that factory work diminishes and the economy changes, more white-collar workers are looking at organizing.

According to the Los Angeles Times, professionals now make up 62% of the U.S. workforce, up from 15% in 1977. Given the still-challenging economy and the many companies demanding more time and effort from workers to keep profits up while demand is lackluster, a lot of professionals are unhappy.

"Employers have been downsizing, asking employees to take on larger roles, making them work more hours," Nicole Korkolis, a spokeswoman for the Office and Professional Employees International Union, told the Times. "People are feeling like they need an advocate."

Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University, says white-collar workers tend to see themselves as individuals who should be promoted for their accomplishments in the workplace -- and who tend to leave jobs when they don't like the situation rather than protest conditions. But that's changing.

"There is a great deal of unrest among professional workers, who don't have a history of union-joining behavior," Chaison told the newspaper. "They represent the frontiers of unionization in America."

Most big unions haven't given much thought to workplace professionals, preferring to concentrate their efforts on sectors that employ large numbers of workers, like hotels and fast-food restaurants. But some recent labor disputes are apparently drawing their attention.

Earlier this week, members of a union representing more than 200 attorneys, paralegals, secretaries and other professional voted to strike against their employer, Legal Services NYC, for the first time in nearly 20 years. That happened after the company called for cuts to health care and retirement benefits. And in California, professional health care workers at five University of California medical centers staged protests Wednesday, demanding increased staffing and higher pay.

Gordon Deane, the president of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, tells the L.A. Times he's seeing more interest in unions among professionals who are feeling pushed around at the office.

"People are aware of how management decisions are affecting their work life," he said. "They are taking a stand and saying enough is enough."

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May 17, 2013 2:06PM

We don`t want unions.We want to slave away until age 90 or we drop.$2 an hour is plenty.

How do you think Romney got so rich?Take the clock back to 1850.No benefits, no

retirement, crappy wages,no hope.Who needs hospitalization?We can all buy new cars

at $2 a day.Just work a few more decades.

May 19, 2013 12:10AM

NO UNIONS.  They are the reason why shops are closing and jobs are going offshore.  They have outlived their purpose and are now causing more harm than good.



May 17, 2013 10:58AM
May 17, 2013 10:58AM
One day Zombie Henry Frick will be back from the dead and this union threat can be dealt with the right way. Run unions run lol
Aug 6, 2013 6:24AM

Trade unions were started by Skilled Craftsmen and others like Cops and Firemen who organized for better wages and benefits otherwise known as the 40hr work week, company paid insurance, time and a half and double time. There was a time when cops, firemen, carpenters, plumbers, welders, aircraft mechanics ect could work a regular week and live a good, decent life.


Thanks to corruption on the both sides, big corporations/Washington busting the unions and the unions leaders themselves, it is getting harder and harder to make a living. Deregulation destroyed the airlines and union trashing people are talking out your **S. Plain old greed ruined everything. I took home more money at $13hr working at a union job than I have at a non union job making $25hr (I'm an aircraft mechanic) Insurance coverage is the biggest chunk out of my check and that is almost $1000 a month family coverage (Scam !!) 


White collar unions......what a joke. A scam by scammers to protect scammers. The regular workers will all be working 30 hour work weeks with 3 different companies (no benefits) and be paying for obamacare. The wages will be $7.00hr while the top 1% live like the robber barons of the 1800s. Workers will work until they die and the companies will hire 2 people at lesser wages to take their place.


Hopefully, I can get my social security that I worked my butt off to pay into (12 more years) and leave all this drama behind me. Corporations, Unions ect....!! 

May 17, 2013 9:57AM

The trust fund baby liberal governor in MN is trying again after a failed attempt to unionize daycare in the state.


Will probably work since they now have both house and senate.


Unions are demanding payback for getting these people elected, they wont stop until they get a cut from everyone's paycheck.



May 17, 2013 9:15AM
Let them unionize, it doesn't matter.  The future is small businesses that are incredibly nimble and flexible anyway.  This will be the only way to survive in the era of expanding laibilities, regulations, Obamacare, etc...  Instead of bragging that you started a company and grew it to a couple thousand employees and took it public, people will brag about starting 10 different businesses that each have 150 employees and keep them private.  If labor tries to unionize your office, close up shop and re-open under a different name and tax ID number.  If regulations make it cost prohibitive to have more than 50 employees, break up into 3 parts with 49 each.  If benefit packages become too costly for employees, lay them off and sub everything out.  There are ways around all of the madness that gov inevitably creates when they involve themselves in business.
May 17, 2013 10:43AM
Unions prefer to target uneducated and unskilled workers in hopes of gaining more membership. The educated and skilled workers dont need unions to make a decent wage. Unions are parasites. When they kill one host  ( UAW and Hostess ) they move onto another to feed the union bosses. i wont buy anything union made unless its on clearance.
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