Union Workforce versus Private Sector

In 1983 there were 17.7 million union members, making up 20.1 percent of America’s workforce. That would leave the private sector workforce at 79.9 percent. In 2010 union membership dropped to 11.9 percent or 14.1 million workers. Even with a current unemployment rate of 9.1% as of the end of August 2011, which includes both union and private sector unemployment benefits, the rate of private sector employees far exceeds that of unions.

Out of the 11.9% of union workers at the end of 2010, 36.2 percent were in the public sector while a mere 6.9 percent were private sector unions. That’s only 6.9% of the private sector using unions in their workforce; less than the current unemployment rate.

The highest rate of public sector union workers, at 37.1 percent, was in education, training, and library occupations, with police officers and firefighters making up the remainder of the 42.3 percent of total government public union workers.

So out of the 36.2 percent of public sector union workers, 42.3 percent is from the government, with only 15.2 percent being those that protect and save our lives, and the remaining being those who are not held accountable while educating our children and young adults.

[Union data received via “Union Members Summary” released January 21, 2011 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

In contrast to public sector unions, private sector unions are not established on the taxpayer dollar, nor are their retirement plans, many of whom receive far less on their retirement than public sector union members.

All unions work on a contract basis with contracts being negotiated and signed by both the unions and the employers. In the case of the public sector, the employers, being the everyday American taxpayer, the government signs those contracts on our behalf. In the private sector, where workers are employed, via a union hiring hall, with a company who hires union workers, or with a company whose workers voted to establish a union within the workplace, the contracts are signed, and therefore agreed upon, by the private employer.

Unions are not the only workers signing workplace contracts. Private sector companies and corporations also establish a contract with an individual prior to their employment complete with a compensation, 401K, and severance package. Other individuals, such as well-known radio personalities as an example, also set specific terms for their employment rates such as salary, benefits, and severance pay, by contract. Wherefore, any private sector individual that signs a contract for employment is doing exactly what unions do for a group of individuals.

There are many in the private sector that do not have contracts at all. These workers are our store clerks and gas attendants (both with some larger chain exceptions), waiters and waitresses, mechanics, housecleaning, carpet installers, etc. These jobs, while not likely to become unionized labor forces, are also less likely to be harmed, by way of job security, by the union debate that is prevalent amongst the campaign trailers.

Contrary to what we hear from those keeping the baseline aroused with a ground fight, which is keeping America divided, that it’s unions (Democrats) versus non-unions (Republicans), the real argument should be public unions versus private unions. Something not noted in the main stream media, both sides, for they continue to lump all unions together under one umbrella. Guaranteed it is not difficult to surmise as much when James Hoffa, Jr., attorney, labor leader, and the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, referring to his backing Obama against the Tea Party, is making such statements as “[w]e are your army. Let’s take these sons of bitches out!” In that, both sides are misleading the people in their reporting. Mr. Hoffa is lumping ‘all’ unions into one basket as siding with President Obama, the conservatives are lumping ‘all’ unions into one basket as being anti-American and taxpayer usurpers. Neither are taking into account that not all union workers vote Democrat, nor are all union workers getting paid on the taxpayer dime, nor are unions the only ones that barter for a workplace contract.

The fight should not be between unions and private sector workforces, but between what works and what doesn’t. What works is for employees to be held accountable for their job performance while receiving equitable pay for the job performed. If it works, don’t fix it. If it is broken, either fix it or junk it. No amount of warring with words of ‘unions are bad’ or ‘unions are good’ is going to fix the problem, for both are right and wrong.

This post is a follow-up to previous entries titled “Verizon Wireless Debacle: Union vs. Corporation” and “Common Sense Unions



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